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GREECE: SECRETS OF THE PAST: DVD

SYNOPSIS:
Narrated by Nia Vardalos, this documentary takes us through some of the triumphs of Greek art and architecture, from Bronze Age cities to the temples of the classical period. Through computer simulation, the filmmakers imagine what these monuments might have looked like at their peak. They recreate one of the largest volcanic explosions in history, on the island of Santorini - and explore its lasting effects. On the island is a sealed, miniature city, perfectly preserved beneath the volcanic ash.

Review by Lesley Chow:
Any documentary about wonders needs to let us feel properly intimidated by them; the problem with this movie is that it strives to make us comfortable from the start. It begins with a rather folksy narration: a welcome to "my country", followed by the revelation that "we are all sons and daughters of ancient Greece."

The trouble with this approach is that it makes history far too relatable for us to have any serious curiosity about it. The restoration of Bronze Age artworks looks intriguing, until we hear that putting a painting together is like "getting to know someone," or that sculptures show us the "truth about how we move."

We never get to feel stunned by the monuments themselves: even the greatest temples are shot using time-lapse photography, with clouds and suns racing over them. If the filmmakers wanted real awe, they would have done better to keep the camera still, and let us soak in some of the atmosphere for ourselves. The film's best moments aren't over-hyped, either by the camera or the voiceover: the close-ups of hieroglyphs are genuinely fascinating.

The scene in which the Parthenon is restored using digital modelling should be enthralling: I was looking forward to seeing the white columns blazing at the top of the hill. Instead, we circle the statues reverently, as if they were exhibits at an institution. A touchscreen at a museum might be almost as involving.

DVD special features include making of documentary, video montage and soundtrack, film trivia quiz, About MacGillivray Freeman Films, Greek Timeline, Trailer and director biography.

Published May 14, 2009

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CRITICAL COUNT
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Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

GREECE: SECRETS OF THE PAST: DVD (G)
(US, 2006)

CAST: Documentary

NARRATION: Nia Vardalos

PRODUCER: Greg MacGillivray, Alec Lorimore

DIRECTOR: Greg MacGillivray

SCRIPT: Stephen Judson, Jon Boorstin

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Brad Ohlund

EDITOR: Stephen Judson

MUSIC: Steve Wood

RUNNING TIME: 40 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: IMAX

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Melb: June 8, 2006; Syd: June 29, 2006

PRESENTATION: 16:9

SPECIAL FEATURES: making of documentary, video montage and soundtrack, film trivia quiz, About MacGillivray Freeman Films, Greek Timeline, Trailer and director biography

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Umbrella

DVD RELEASE: March 1, 2009







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