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MYSTERY OF THE NILE (article first published : 2005-05-29)

Currently showing at Imax at Gateway is Mystery of the Nile, a fascinating story about the only people to have followed the Blue Nile from its source. Starting off at the river’s true beginning in Lake Tana in Ethiopia, a small television team travelled the whole length of this legendary river.

Directed by award-winning documentarian Jordi Llompart and produced by Llompart and Greg MacGillivray, Mystery of the Nile covers this epic journey in 15/70 full-frame large format film. For 114 days, a team of explorers led by Pasquale Scaturro and Gordon Brown faced nearly insurmountable challenges as they made their way 3,260 miles down the Blue Nile and Nile river, traversing three countries in some of the world’s remotest regions. Just some of the obstacles they faced were deadly crocodiles and hippos, the world’s most dangerous white-water rapids, gunfire from bandits, malaria, and temperatures topping 120°F.

Apart from Lake Tana, Ethiopian locations included Lalibela, Tissisat Falls and the Grand Canyon of the Nile. In Sudan – Khartoum, where the Blue Nile and White Nile merge, and Meroe. In Egypt - Lake Nasser, Abu Simbel, Aswan, Luxor, Cairo and Alexandria.

Mighty as the Nile is, the river’s flow is not enough to satisfy the future water needs of the nations through which it courses. With the population of the region expected to double in the next 25 years, the battle over who controls the river’s water is only expected to intensify. The Blue Nile is particularly troubled, especially because Ethiopia contributes 85% of the water that flows in Egypt – yet is unable to harness enough water to irrigate its own crops and feed its own people.

As the expedition’s rafts rush down the Blue Nile, the team members collect water samples and note signs of environmental change to understand the threats facing the region. The message they take home is that there is much left to be done to assure the Nile will remain accessible and healthy for the millions who rely on the river as their sole source of fresh water.

Director of photography Reed Smoot has a whacky sense of humour and the photography is simply magnificent. The Imax format allows viewers to experience this thrilling journey from the airconditioned safety of their plush upholstered cinema seats. The stunning camera work takes us underneath waterfalls, veering around rock formations and coming so close to the water you feel you can taste it. Lava flows create huge rapids and the lava rocks are covered with razor sharp edges. Glad I was in an Imax seat and not in one of those canoes made of fabric!

Memorable images still remain etched in my mind - 40 feet down into bedrock are carved churches linked with tunnels. Then there’s the Saskia Falls; the point where the two Niles converge at Khartoum; Lake Nasser, and the vastness of the Aswan Dam. One of the most poignant moments of the film is where the scientist was able to bring his grandfather some holy water from Lake Tana.

“The Nile is the most magnificent river in the world,” says expedition leader Pasquale Scaturro, “No other river can compare. And no other river in the world is as closely associated with a particular culture and society as is the Nile. Without the Nile there would be no Egypt, no pharaohs, no pyramids.”

More information on Imax at Gateway from Toni-Kim Spradbury on 031 566 1890, fax 031 566 2238 or visit www.imax.co.za – Caroline Smart




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