MYSTERY OF THE NILE
On April 28, 2004, two intrepid explorers-expedition leader Pasquale Scaturro and his partner Gordon Brown-became the first in history to conquer all 3,260 miles of the world's greatest river in a single descent from its source in the Ethiopian highlands to the Mediterranean Sea. For 114 days, the explorers and their crew faced extreme challenges - crocodiles, the world's most dangerous rapids, armed bandits, blinding sandstorms and windstorms, and the relentless heat of the fierce desert sun - as they made their way down the Blue Nile and Nile river in two rafts and a kayak, traversing three countries in some of the world's remotest regions.
Review by Louise Keller:
Although the title implies we are about to delve into the ancient past to discover the mysteries of the Nile, this IMAX big screen documentary is more of a combo of extreme sports with but a splash of history. The film does use the full impact of the medium, as it documents the first completed expedition down the River Nile that begins at the source (Ethiopia) and ends at the sea (Mediterranean).
Geologist Pasquale Scaturro leads the expedition, which includes expert kayaker Gordon Brown, as well as an Egyptologist and a Spanish journalist, who journey 3,000 miles down the Blue Nile and its tributaries in canvas rafts. The sensation of soaring above the river on the wings of the camera is the closest we get to being there, although we can almost feel the spray splashing us when the rafts capsize. Dangers include man-eating crocodiles and hippos that look like large rocks (albeit with bulging eyes). I enjoyed the colour of the camel market in Sudan and the vast sand dunes that look like a chiselled ochre-coloured canvas moulded by the wind gods. The most interesting moments are those which take us into the Valley of the Queens in Luxor, where we are in awe of the massive stone sculptures and pyramids that stand as a reminder of the history of the Egyptian civilisation thousands of years ago.
With its striking cinematography and appropriate African music with a Middle Eastern touch, it is an interesting trip. Although, I must admit, I would have preferred less about the records the adventurers were trying to set during their four month trip, and more about the ancient civilizations - the true mysteries of the Nile. Nonetheless, the film does whet our appetites for an intriguing part of the world.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The Nile is a fabulous subject for an adventure story such as this, yet the enormity of the challenge is, ironically, dwarfed by the enormity of the IMAX format. The problem isn't the spectacularly large images, it's the restricted amount of time that IMAX films must conform to. This 114 day journey seems to be told rather summarily, with much detail overlooked and many episodes undocumented or under reported.
The trade off for the imagery is a great loss, because the story is in fact bigger than the large format cinema. A standard camera would have been just as effective, and the story could have been fully told in, say, 90 minutes - twice the time.
The extremes of the trip are well captured, though, and the narration helps skip us through, even though we sense there is more to see and to be told. The interaction between the expedition members, for instance, is only fleetingly referred to, and this would certainly have been good ballast for the movie. But even their purpose or motive for making the trip is left unexplained and considering one is a journalist (Saskia Lange) another an archaeologist (Myriam Seco), these are gaping omissions.
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MYSTERY OF THE NILE (G)
CAST: Documentary featuring Pasquale Scaturro, Gordon Brown, Saskia Lange, Myriam Seco, Michel L'Hullier
PRODUCER: Jordi Llompart, Greg MacGillivray
DIRECTOR: Jordi Llompart
SCRIPT: Jordi Llompart
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Reed Smoot
EDITOR: Stephen Judson
MUSIC: David Giró, Steve Wood
PRODUCTION DESIGN: n/a
RUNNING TIME: 48 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Imax
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 26, 2006 (Sydney); April 19, 2007 (Melbourne)
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