GIANT FIGHTING LIZARDS! And a Lot More
According to press materials, the Archaeology Channel’s International Film and Video Festival is “the only juried competition for cultural heritage films in the western hemisphere.” From the 100 entries for this year’s festival (submitted by 32 countries), 19 films and videos were selected to show at the Hult Center’s Soreng Theater over the course of the five-day festival.
Many of the works shown during the festival are hour-long documentaries — just enough to give you a taste of the subject without immersing you in it entirely. Lost Nation: The Ioway is a quiet look at the history of the Ioway tribe, from their existence before European settlers through a major treaty signing and on to today, where elders work to retain the culture and language of the tribe. On the opposite side of the world is Death of the Megabeasts, an Australian doc that grabs you immediately with GIANT FIGHTING (computer generated) LIZARDS. then backs off to explain its purpose: figuring out why Australia’s megafauna, which included a marsupial lion and giant kangaroo, died out.
The Future of Mud is a look at the masons of Djenne, Mali, that’s part documentary and part fiction; as is explained at the end, some of the film’s subjects are playing themselves, while others are improvising fictional characters — which helps explain why the film’s look at the coexistence of ancient masonry and modern ideas and technology feels a little too pat.
Longer films at the festival include Standing With Stones, which follows Rupert Soskin as he tours the U.K., exploring some of the British Isles’ many stone circles, barrows and other ancient structures, and When the Egyptians Sailed on the Red Sea, in which a team of archaeologists and shipbuilders strive to recreate a ship shown in a bas-relief. The ship was sent by Hatshepsut to the land of Punt; the replica doesn’t go quite so far (and no one’s entirely sure where Punt was), but once the film gets through the background and on to the shipbuilding, it’s fascinating. The shipbuilders mostly use the same tools that’ve been used for thousands of years; the ship, which “wallows like a pig,” is both beautiful and ungainly on the water.
The Archaeology Channel’s International Film and Video Festival runs May 18-22 at the Hult Center. Tickets are $12 per day (or per session on Saturday), $25 on Friday (including awards reception) or $70 for the whole shebang. See www.archaeologychannel.org for the full schedule. — Molly Templeton