Mystery of the Nile (NR)

Documentary 45 February 18, 2005
By John Behling
Though it delivers the visual uppercuts expected of an IMAX head-trip--the gasp-inducing camera swoops that nearly touch treetops, the majestic pans across limitless waterfalls--this extreme travelogue is also a tribute to the ancient civilizations that were inspired by the titular force of nature to make their own grand displays of power. Veteran river-runner Pasquale Scaturro led a group of scientists, archeologists, and photographers--plus one seriously gung-ho kayaker--on the first successful trek down the entire length of the Blue Nile, from its source in the Ethiopian Highlands of Lake Tana to the Mediterranean sea some 4,000 miles north. Though Scaturro and company battle rapids, crocs, gun-toting bandits, and sudden storms, the most exciting detours occur on land. The group witnesses a ritual held outside an ancient Ethiopian Church (carved 40-feet deep into a single stone slab!), visits the amazingly well-preserved and largely unknown ruins of a Nubian city, and bids unsuccessfully at a camel auction in wartorn Sudan. It's these glimpses of the great civilizations that rose, prospered, and declined along the ancient riverbed that ultimately make the trip worthwhile. And yet the historical facts somehow carry even more weight than the outstanding visuals. For example, consider this tidbit about the survival of Christianity in Africa: Archeologist Saskia Lange explains that thousands of years ago, Christians in Ethiopia threatened Egypt with damming the Nile if they purged members of their faith from the predominantly Muslim population. It worked. (John Behling)
Jordi Llompart Pasquale Scaturro, Gordon Brown Jordi Llompart Jordi Llompart, Greg MacGillivray MacGillivray Freeman Films

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