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Festival Preview: 2018 TAC International Film Festival

Written by: FFT Webmaster | March 27th, 2018

The Archaeology Channel International Film Festival
The Archaeology Channel International Film Festival

The fifteenth annual edition of The Archaeology Channel International Film Festival premiers this May 3rd-6th in downtown Eugene, Oregon. TAC Festival is the longest running film festival in Lane County and it attracts filmmakers and archaeologists from around the globe to participate in one of only two juried competitions in this hemisphere and one of the leading events of its kind in the world.  This time around, we accepted 176 film entries from 45 countries, out of about 800 films submitted (these are all record numbers!), from which we selected 30 films to screen. An awards ceremony gala will follow the film screenings Sunday evening, with film clips, acceptance speeches, and enveloped cards announcing the winners – just like the Academy Awards! Oh–and don’t forget the Saturday Social with live music!

From Thursday through Saturday, our TAC Conference on Cultural Heritage Media takes place at the Hilton Eugene and Conference Center.  The Conference brings together filmmakers and others from many US states and other countries to discuss the making and uses of cultural heritage media.  Over the years the Conference has featured speakers from Algeria, Armenia, Australia, Canada, China, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Greece, Iran, Italy, Japan, Macedonia, Pakistan, and the UK, as well as many US states.  These are just a few of the distributors, educators, filmmakers, archaeologists, anthropologists, historians, journalists, historic preservationists, environmentalists, geographers, and others who have interest in new ideas and approaches to employ video and audio media for the common good of all humanity.  This year we also include a special symposium on the search for Amelia Earhart, featuring participants in last summer’s expedition to Nikumaroro, which most likely was Earhart’s final stop. Our video bar will be available for individual viewing of all the Festival films at the Hilton and the USDA Forest Service plans at least one guided tour, to Cascadia Cave, and possibly more.

Our keynote speaker, Dr. Fred Hiebert, archaeologist and National Geographic Fellow, will appear as our Keynote Speaker at the Festival Banquet on Wednesday, speaking about opening the tomb of Jesus in Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and may give other presentations during the Festival as well.  Fred holds positions with the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, the Institute for Nautical Archaeology, and Robert Ballard’s Institute for Exploration. Among other honors, he has received the Chairman’s Award from the National Geographic Committee for Research and Exploration.  He was also on the boat to Nikumaroro.

This year’s crop of films is the best group we have ever assembled, and possible the finest lineup of cultural heritage films ever put together anywhere:

Bonaparte: The Egyptian Campaign, Episode 1: The Conquest

This docudrama details the incredible adventure of an unprecedented expedition. In 1798, a vast armada left the French port of Toulon on a mysterious military expedition. Some 50,000 soldiers and sailors were accompanied by 167 mostly young scholars recruited by the brilliant 29-year-old general, Napoleon Bonaparte. One week after they sailed, their destination finally was revealed: Egypt, land of the pharaohs, which had captivated Europe’s imagination during the Enlightenment. Napoleon planned to threaten English assets in India through a lasting occupation of Egypt, but the country had many surprises in store. Amid the cultural shock, the divergence of interests between the military and scientific communities, epic combat with Mamelukes and Ottomans, popular uprisings, and outbreaks of the plague, this was an expedition to remember. It ended in stinging military defeat, but would see a great scientific triumph and the birth of a new science: Egyptology.  RMP

Cervantes: The Search

Scientists and historians unravel the secrets that have kept hidden the tomb of Miguel de Cervantes, the greatest writer of the Spanish language. Originally interred at a convent in central Madrid, his mortal remains went missing in 1673, but in 2014 researchers began to relocate them. This is a thrilling and rigorous account containing the only images—exclusive to this documentary—that exist of the excavations, with the testimony of eyewitnesses and the protagonists of the events, including that of Miguel de Cervantes himself. SL

Chartres: Light Reborn

Film Image - Chartres: Light Reborn
Film Image – Chartres: Light Reborn

The next major phase of the restoration of Chartres Cathedral has begun, a project that will take two-and-a-half years to complete.  The most spectacular and representative areas of the cathedral are being renovated: the nave, with its soaring 35 meter walls, and the windows surrounding it, reputedly the largest collection of 13th century stained glass in Europe under one roof.  The documentary takes a look at the work of the restorers, conservators, scientists and architects who share their passion for this exceptional historical and cultural site. SL

Chinese Chariot

Film Image: Chinese Chariot
Film Image: Chinese Chariot

Chariots are deeply ingrained in Chinese culture.  Ancient war manuals reveal much about the importance of the chariot in Chinese warfare, but no details are given as to how to use them or how effective they were.  Now, an expert team gathers clues from across China to recreate one of these extraordinary machines. Scientists, archaeologists and historians combine to figure out how chariots were constructed, the ingenuity of the unique wooden joints and how the intricate bronze fittings were cast.  The team wastes no time in putting it to the test, finding out how archers operated from this fast moving platform, how the chariot was defended and how it fared over rough ground. They discover that, although military innovations threatened the dominance of the chariot on the battlefield, for the ancient Chinese this weapon had become something much more important—a symbol of power and prestige. SL

The Enigma of the Celtic Tomb

At the end of 2014, in the Champagne region of France, a team of archaeologists unearths a funerary chamber where lies a skeleton adorned with gold jewels.  His bones are surrounded by Greek and Etruscan artifacts. This rich Celtic tomb, dated to the 5th century BC, is one of the most important discoveries of recent European archaeology.  The Enigma of the Celtic Tomb proposes to shed a little light on this fascinating character, who he was to deserve such a sumptuous burial, and the relations he maintained with his neighbors and the peoples of the Mediterranean. SL

Good Earth: Awakening the Silent City

Film Image - Good Earth: Awakening the Silent City
Film Image – Good Earth: Awakening the Silent City

This film presents the fascinating story of the Good Earth at Blood Run historical and cultural site as told by a Native American grandfather to his grandchildren.  Produced in 4K by Emmy-nominated documentary filmmakers Kelly and Tammy Rundle of Fourth Wall Films, the documentary combines vivid present-day views of the scenic vistas and wildlife at the Good Earth at Blood Run State Park combined with dramatic historical re-enactments portraying daily life at one of America’s largest cities in the year 1650.  Good Earth was the ancestral home of the Omaha, Ponca, Ioway, and Otoe tribes for more than two hundred years. SL

Just Like Us
The Netherlands

In this documentary, Hans Dirven and Merel ten Elzen spend a year following all relevant developments about the surprising archaeological treasure found in the Dutch town of Dalfsen, starting at the center-point of the story: the treasure itself.  Looking at the actual findings, they outline a unique image of the original inhabitants of the area and their habits and activities. In addition, they look for connections with the present—with the surroundings and residents of Dalfsen now. Showing the connection between our history and who we are now, this film documents life, farewell, happiness , and consolation as they connect history to the present and re-animate the lives of the first inhabitants of Dalfsen. SL

Life in Circles
The Netherlands

In this independent documentary, Dutch filmmaker Bart van Tongerlo goes in search of a countless number of mysterious stone circles in southern Africa.  In a world of conflicting hypotheses, he gets confused and distracted. But the quest unfolds in a magical way and Bart eventually discovers the deeper meaning of his trip.  The call to an ancient trace of a life in circles results in an open-hearted narrative of the inner journey from the head to the heart. In an animated travelogue with a frivolously spiritual touch, comedian and television host Leon van der Zanden follows Bart closely as an inquisitive interviewer. SL

Manohar Ambanagari

This is an endeavor to showcase the grandeur of Ambajogai city in Maharashtra, India.  This city was the center of cultural developments around the 10th and 11th centuries. Seven inscriptions have come to light in the vicinity; they refer to the town structure and the cultural heritage of the region.  Today, many temples and wadas (traditional mansions) are still standing and reflecting the richness of ancient architecture, which can be a good subject for research. In Manohar Ambanagari a unique amalgamation of visuals and music takes you through a journey of beautiful art and nature at a time when people in India have moved from the old to the new lifestyle. SL

Marovo Carver
Solomon Islands

Tasiro is a wood carver who expertly creates traditional sculptures, which represent Solomon Islands culture and reflect the natural beauty of the environment that surrounds him.  Dedicated to his craft, Tasiro uses carving as a means of supporting his family. Set in an island paradise and narrated exclusively in the Marovo language, this is a gentle and uplifting story, told by Tasiro himself, that takes you deep into the World Heritage listed Marovo Lagoon.  It captures an almost surreal moment in time as the past, present and future come together. SL

Masters of Universe

The Kingdom of Urartu (860-590 BC) in modern-day Armenia inherited the cosmic secrets of the ancestors, who had ideas about the Universe with roots in ancient times.  Not only were they able to follow the paths of the Sun and Moon, but also the planets, stars and constellations. These secrets and cosmic calculations were passed down and recorded on belts, helmets and ceramic vessels used for rituals. SL

A New Petroglyph for Campo Lameiro

New rock art designs w ere discovered recently around the Rock Art Archaeological Park of Campo Lameiro (PAAR), in the area of “Outeiro da Chan da Isca,” in Spain.  The Galician Heritage Council conducted fieldwork on them in order to analyze and register the panel, record the presence of more panels around that vicinity and include them in the PAAR.  An interesting fact of this field project is that it put into practice a series of procedures for the archaeological work, such as research and documentation, excavation, and field inspection, and supported its recognition as a valuable resource. SL

Nothing About Moccasins

Young First Nations Canadian director Eden Mallina Awashish struggles to understand why her grandmother refuses to allow her to shoot a film about moccasins.  Her failed attempt in this short film turns into a playful deconstruction of cultural loss and a record of the resolve to protect the native Atikamekw tradition of Quebec.  Eden made this film to shine a spotlight on the Atikamekw nation and its issues.

Of Love & Artistry

When the artist becomes a real and loving entity, and when an audience begins to empathize with the performer, true appreciation begins.  This opens several doors for the survival and propagation of an art form, and the artist can thrive. This is a film that explores the lifestyle and life stories of different folk artists from Rajasthan in northern India.  It relates memories and anecdotes associated with John Singh, the man who helped these artists explore the world of music on various national and international platforms and go beyond the boundaries of their regional performing space. SL

On the Banks of the Tigris: The Hidden Story of Iraqi Music

To discover the hidden history of the songs he loved as a child after his escape from Iraq, Majid Shokor travels from Australia to Israel, Europe and Iraq to meet exiled Iraqi musicians—Jewish, Muslim and Christian—who still sing and play these songs that were purged from Iraq during the regime of Saddam Hussein.  The aging musicians reunite in a joyful concert at London’s Barbican Centre, where music and culture are bridges that transcend religion and politics. SL

Savages in Foreign Lands

Savages in Foreign Lands is a feature documentary about the lost civilization of the Guanches, the aboriginals of the Canary Islands.  Many legends surround these people, from the descendants of Atlantis, to the opponents of the Roman Empire left on the islands as prisoners, or mysterious pyramid builders.  Living far from the continent and isolated from the rest of the world, the Guanches believed they were the only survivors of a terrible natural catastrophe that had wiped out the entire human race.  Until six-hundred years ago, when some Spanish sailors first stepped on the Canary Islands. More than 2500 years separated the two cultures. Savages in Foreign Lands reveals the untold story of this society, lost in the Atlantic ocean in the pre-Columbian times.  An unprecedented quest to the truth and identity, but also a story of survival, legacy, conquest and recognition. SL

Searching for the Lost Future

Film Image: Searching for the Lost Future
Film Image: Searching for the Lost Future

An extraordinary journey leads you to discover the milestones that marked the path taken by humanity from biology to civilizations.  Carlota, as many young people nowadays, does not know what to do with her future. Keep studying? What for? Her uncle, Luis, fulfills an old promise and invites her to join in his next adventure with the famous archaeologist, Eudald Carbonell.  The trio make an extraordinary journey to the past, traveling to four continents searching for the keys that will open the doors of the future to the people of Earth. SL

Secrets of the Nolichucky River

Cane Notch, an archaeological site nestled alongside the scenic Nolichucky River of North Carolina and Tennessee, may hold the key to a missing link in Cherokee history.  Join explorers from East Tennessee State University, using modern-day technology to see beneath the land’s surface, as they uncover a buried Native American village in Upper East Tennessee.  The perfectly preserved Cherokee village has been dubbed “a mini-Pompeii” by archaeological experts. Discover the mysterious link between this village and the Spanish explorer, Juan Pardo. Hear Cherokee archaeologists explain the cultural significance of this find and archaeology’s importance to Native American peoples.  Follow the team’s progress as they discover ancient artefacts and unlock the Secrets of the Nolichucky River. SL

Secrets of Sakdrisi

In 2006, a joint Georgian-German archaeological expedition led by Irina Ghambashidze and Thomas Stoellner, working in southeastern Georgia near Armenia and Azerebaijan, discovered a 5500 year-old gold mine.  Because it was considered the oldest gold mine known in the world, scientists from various countries flocked to Sakdrisi-Khachaghiani Hill to visit the site. As the discovery gained notoriety, it also attracted the interest of one of the largest enterprises in the Georgia and Caucasus region engaged in mining activities, RMG-Gold.  After a 2-year battle between the government and the scientists, the archaeologists were replaced by tractors. Secrets of Sakdrisi tells the story of the sensational discovery, the battle between politics and science, and the world of ancient Georgia 5500 years ago. SL

Sekar Arum: Forging the Javanese Gamelan

Film Image - Sekar Arum: Forging the Javanese Gamelan
Film Image – Sekar Arum: Forging the Javanese Gamelan

This is a short documentary about the forging of a Javanese Gamelan gong, highlighting the rhythmic nature of the methods employed by traditional gamelan makers, including the firing, molding and tuning of a new bronze instrument.  Filmed on location in Pak Saroyo’s forge in the Sukoharjo Regency of Surakarta in central Java, the documentary focuses on the making of one of the 40-plus instruments in the set, revealing the musical nature of the forging process, from the rhythmic beating of red-hot metal to the dance-like quality of the gongsmiths as they work in concert to bring a single gong to life. SL

Seven Regards

Film Image: Seven Regards
Film Image: Seven Regards

In a ceremony with much meaning to Shiite Muslims in Iran, but which has much more ancient origins, a group of traditional people in Shahrud, Semnan Province, perform their ablution a few hours before the start of Nowruz, the Iranian New Year.  They dip the reed pen into the saffron liquid and write seven verses from the holy Koran on the back of china bowls. They pen those verses, which are prefaced with regards, or good wishes, before the opening salvo of the New Year is fired. These regards represent the deep respect they display for their beliefs.  Then they rinse the bowls into the water and bring the hallowed saffron liquid to a traditional table set with seven items whose names begin with the letter “s” in Farsi. SL

Shepherds in the Cave

Film Image: Shepherds in the Cave
Film Image: Shepherds in the Cave

An international team of art restorers and archaeologists begin work on the restoration of medieval frescoes inside a network of ancient caves.  Faced with local bureaucratic challenges and systemic neglect of archaeological sites, the team encounters a community of shepherds and migrants who have used the caves for centuries and discover a living culture worth preserving most of all.  Located near Altamura, Italy, the Byzantine and Latin era frescoes range from 12th to 14th century, but the surrounding cave dwellings date back thousands of years earlier, and nearby Neanderthal remains have been found to be older than 130,000 years.  The documentary chronicles the meticulous work of art restorers working on the frescoes, archaeologists exploring the network of caves, and shepherds and farmers in the surrounding countryside—locals, visitors, and migrants alike, their passions indivisible from one another. SL

Still Turning

The art of making the Lanzhou Waterwheel in China was all but lost in the 21st century, until Duan Yicun, a 20th-generation descendent of Duan Xu, a scholar of the Ming Dynasty, took it upon himself to study and learn the craft.  Now 74 years old, Duan Yicun finds the waterwheel market chaotic and competitive. Looking to his apprentice and future generations to inherit the craft of waterwheel making, he is hopeful the tradition will continue and the quality standards of the Lanzhou Waterwheel will be upheld.  Duan Yicun looks to the future, as the Yellow River has yet another role to play in the community of Lanzhou and China abroad. SL

The Tempest Stela: Revisiting the Roots of the Exodus

Is the Book of Exodus based on real events?  In a dramatic geologic event 3500 years ago, a huge volcanic eruption destroyed half the island of Santorini.  That global catastrophe was possibly the cause of the Plagues of Egypt; they are mentioned on a mysterious inscription on a stone stela translated 50 years ago by Egyptologist Claude Vandersleyen.  This is the starting point of a fascinating investigation which sheds new light on the history of Egypt in the time of the Pharaohs, as well as upon parts of the Old Testament. SL

To Wake

This narrative follows a remarkable five year old girl named Janisha, who has dedicated her life to sustaining and preserving the forests that surround her, and her inspiring journey.  She teaches the women and children within her village to live a more empowered, sustainable and aware life, highlighting what their actions will preserve and prevent from happening in their lives and for future generations to come.  A very important universal message within To Wake is the recognition of women worldwide, their role as nurturer and protector of nature within society and in this case, the rest of the planet. This documentary has created a visual platform for facing critical problems concerning forest fires, species loss, climate change, pollution, and women’s and children’s rights. SL


Historians believe one of the most tragic events in America’s history of racial discrimination is the Tulsa race riot of 1921.  More than 300 African Americans were killed and 126 houses were destroyed. For decades, until a commission report published in 1921, history books were nearly silent about this tragedy, one of the worse cases of racial violence in the history of the United States.  This dramatization by Iranian film director Sayed Shojaei relates the event through the eyes of two boys, one white and one black. SL

United By Water

This film contains footage of the last Salmon Ceremony carried out by the Upper Columbia Tribes (Coeur D’alene, Colville, Kalispel, Kootenai, Spokane tribes) in the states of Washington and Idaho before the Grand Coulee Dam flooded their traditional waterways and ceremonial fishing sites in 1940.  This footage was then cut with more recent footage to create United by Water, a documentary about the Upper Columbia Tribes’ return to the waterways for the first time in 76 years by way of traditional handmade dugout canoes. This powerful short film is narrated by Sherman Alexie, Jr., who donated his time to the project and read his poem, “Powwow at the end of the world.” SL

Vikings: Warriors from the North, Giants of the Sea

Long before the Viking Age, Scandinavia already was settled.  Its population descended from ancient Germanic peoples, with whom they shared the origins of their mythology, language and culture. The inhabitants of present-day Denmark, Sweden and Norway were trading and had contact with numerous surrounding countries and societies.  In the 8th century the contact and the purpose of these expeditions changed, when the Vikings set sail in their clinker-built ships and sailed all over the world. Over a span of 300 years, they carried out raids, trade and migration all over Christian Europe and even more far-flung regions. SL

A Walk Through Time

Anderson Marsh State Historic Park is one of the most special places in all of California.  Home of the Koi people, the first humans to colonize the area and still living there today, its majestic landscapes, diverse wildlife and history span 14,000 years, the longest continuous occupation of any territory in all of California.  Their deep cultural heritage prompted the extraordinary events that led to the park’s creation and serves as a foundation for the current effort to protect the amazing resources the park holds. This documentary showcases their longevity, tragic removal and the fight to preserve their culture and land. SL

Written in Stone

This film by Iranian director Farhad Pakdel reflects on the intimate connections between today’s lives and the lives of those who have come before.  From the present to the past, a young woman and her brother trace the history of their ancestors through traditional stone carving in Shiraz, Iran, in the center of the ancient Persian homeland.  Their journey takes them to historic sites and monuments, including Persepolis and monuments to revered Iranian poets, as they pay homage to their father on the anniversary of his death. SL

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