Mysteries of Egypt

on August 01, 2008 by Francesca Dinglasan
   Set against the wondrous backdrop of the sweeping Nile and the majestic Giza pyramids, "Mysteries of Egypt" takes the viewer on an engaging journey through the Land of the Pharaohs. Meant to be educational as well as inspirational, the large-format film conveys pertinent information in the form of a running conversation between a wise old grandfather (Omar Sharif), who stresses the importance of historic perspective as well as respect toward the ancients, and his inquisitive granddaughter (Kate Maberly), who is eager to hear about the legendary Mummy's Curse and the more titillating tales associated with the region.
   Seeking to satisfy both this thirst for knowledge and the morbid curiosity about ancient Egyptians, the film is interspersed with reenactments of events such as the mummification of royal family members and the plundering of rich tombs by intrepid grave robbers, with Sharif's voice-overs serving to explain the onscreen depictions of the archaic traditions and their historical significance.
   Despite the potentiality for contrived dialogue or distraction caused by the grandfather-granddaughter relationship, "Mysteries of Egypt" is quite successful at communicating basic information about the country's history as well as avoiding the pitfalls associated with a documentary featuring real events and places, but fictional characters.
   The only flaw of any note is the film's inability to delve deeper into topics it introduces, including the short life of King Tut and the mysterious construction methods behind the pyramids, igniting viewer curiosity only to let it down much too quickly. However, having to cover an entire civilization in just 40 minutes is no small task, and director Bruce Neibaur makes the most of the time he is allotted by using the giant screen to depict Egypt's breathtaking landscape and timeless monuments on a scale in which they deserve to be seen. Starring Omar Sharif and Kate Maberly. Directed by Bruce Neibaur. Written in consultation with Dr. Mark Lehner, Dr. Zahi Hawass and Dr. Nicholas Reeves. Produced by Scott Swofford and Lisa Truit. A National Geographic release. Documentary. Unrated. Running time: 40 min
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