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Michael Palin - Sahara
Michael Palin - Sahara
Actor: Michael Palin
Director: John-Paul Davidson
Genres: Special Interests, Documentary
NR     2006     3hr 56min

Michael Palin's Sahara adventure is one of the great challenges in world travel. In this exhausting journey, Michael will pass through the rock of Gibraltar to Morocco, Mauritania, Mali and beyond. His route will take him ...  more »


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Movie Details

Actor: Michael Palin
Director: John-Paul Davidson
Creators: Michael Palin, Nigel Meakin
Genres: Special Interests, Documentary
Sub-Genres: Travel, Documentary
Studio: BBC Warner
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 04/18/2006
Original Release Date: 04/06/2003
Theatrical Release Date: 04/06/2003
Release Year: 2006
Run Time: 3hr 56min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 2
SwapaDVD Credits: 2
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 5
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

So close (to Europe) and yet so unknown
Rennie Petersen | Copenhagen, Denmark | 01/30/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

""Sahara" is a travelogue made for the BBC in 2001. Michael Palin and a camera crew traveled around the Sahara Desert and recorded their experiences. This resulted in four one-hour episodes that were shown on TV, and are now available on DVD.

The trip started at Gibraltar and went all the way around, and sometimes into, the Sahara Desert, through Morocco, Western Sahara, Mauritania, Senegal, Mali, Niger, Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria again, Ceuta, and back to Gibraltar. Some of these countries are huge, for example, Algeria is four times the size of France or three times the size of Texas. The Sahara Desert is roughly the same size as the United States, and the trip covered 10,000 miles and took three months.

The Sahara Desert is so close to well-known Europe (just on the other side of the Mediterranean Sea) and is yet almost totally unknown to most of us in the West. In "Sahara" this veil of ignorance is lifted.

All of the Michael Palin travelogue programs feature his wit and charm and exuberance, and "Sahara" is no exception. It was a very impressive trip, with many special Palin-style encounters with interesting people. And, of course, beautiful pictures from the desert and the picturesque ancient cities like Fez and Timbuktu.

Still, I'm giving only four stars to "Sahara" instead of the five stars I've given to most of the other Michael Palin travelogue programs.

My reduced enthusiasm for "Sahara" is related to the fact that most of the countries he visited this time are ones that represent many problems. Heat, drought, poverty, begging, sickness, cultures in decline, refusal to accept the modern world, political instability, even barbaric traditions (female circumcision).

These are not countries that I feel much desire to visit myself, and this reduces my interest in the program. It is occasionally evident that Michael Palin was not all that happy with things himself, and this is also a negative factor.

Another negative factor is that the trip is presented in a somewhat disjoint manner at times. The trip was simply too much for the time allotted, so parts are skipped and we jump from one place to another. (The associated book does a much better job of covering the entire trip.)

I also felt that some of the things included in the program were very special and not really representative of the area, for example the Paris - Dakar rally, the British WW II veterans' reunion in Libya and the flash-backs to the filming of "Life of Brian" in Tunisia.

The DVD version of this program is on two discs. In addition to the four one-hour episodes there is the following extra material:
- Interview with Michael Palin (16 min.) - very good
- Deleted scenes (30 min.) - very good, some very funny bits
- Video diary (25 min.) - not so interesting

As Michael Palin says himself, "With the wonders of DVD we can show you and bore you rigid with things that didn't actually make the final cut."

Conclusion: Not as good as the best of the Michael Palin travelogues, but still very good.

Rennie Petersen"
A truly amazing journey by Michael Palin
David Drennan | Australia | 01/26/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

"After watching his various other adventures, such as his "Around the World in 80 days" and "Himalaya", I kind of knew what to expect from this outing. Thankfully, I was not disappointed, and was eager for more!

His journey begins in Gibraltar, in the more 'familiar' setting of an island with a lot of British heritage, before he heads south to Morocco. After seeing some of the most amazing sites in the various cities there - including an ancient cloth dying area, with huge vats of dye - he moves on through the Atlas mountains to the south. They briefly stop at a Berber village, and witness a traditional Berber wedding ceremony, which is different in character to those we would expect in a (majority) Muslim country.

One of the most remarkable places he stops on this leg of the journey, is a refugee camp literally in the middle of the desert. The people are refugees by virtue of them wanting to remain free, and not part of the disputed territory of Western Sahara. The camp is more like a village, but the nearest good drinking water is over 50 miles away!

After that he travels to Mauritania, and then travels towards Senegal "first class" on a 2km long iron-ore train. The cabin consists of some cramped quarters where people can lie down and look out of a hole ("window") for the journey. Other passengers do not fare so well, and lay out a mat on top of the iron ore, sitting on that for the 6+hr long journey through the blazing sun.

Once in Senegal, it looks like being in France - the reflections of colonialism are intense. One of the most amazing things about this whole journey, is how Michael manages to get by using his abilities in French - everyone seems to understand it, regardless of the country!

Continuing his journey, the next stop is Mali, where he visits some of the most amazing people - the Dogon. Rather than become Muslim back in the vestiges of time, they decided to exile themselves and live in their own small community in the desert mountains. An interesting fact disclosed here is that they practise female circumcision, even though clearly not Muslim, and it infact has been a tradition for many centuries and even predates the coming of Islam to the area. They have one of the most intriguing theologies about life that I have ever heard, however!

Some of the most amazing architecture I have ever seen was there in Timbuktu - bringing new meaning to the term "mud hut" - or in this case "mud mosque".

The best part for me though, was when he ended up joining a group of cameleers and walking through the Sahara desert with them. A "camel train" of 24 camels accompanied him and his handful of men to travel through the Sahara. The way that they managed to keep going through such a heat, and the fact that Michael was still wearing his "British" shirt and pants was something that astounded me, as they walked over huge sand dunes without seeing any life for days.

After leaving the desert he comes back to Algeria, and travels through a wasteland of wrecked cars and sand. It is a very eerie place, and shows just how inhospotable the desert can actually be. Some of the most amazing landscapes are seen in this section, with many shots of the Hoggar Mountains and other places.

He visits Libya and Tunisia before heading back to Gibraltar. One of the most charming visits with locals he makes is when he visits some cave-dwelling people. The government is trying to move them out to "proper houses", but they still prefer living underground! Warm in winter and cool in summer apparently!

All in all a great documentary of the variety of lives touched by the desert - quite a change from the stereotype that most of us have when thinking of the Sahara as a wasteland with no life."
Scat Savoy | Connecticut | 07/04/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)


Michael Palin has done it again; taken a trip and brought his fans another video travel masterpiece!

See what it's like, or at least similar to, backpacking through a vast and intriguing country, the Sahara Region, with a few side trips to cities, yes! I said cities, and a few tourist sites; Micheal Palin seems to prefer checking out what life is really like in these far-off places.

Michael Palin does not march from one traditional tourist trap to another: that's what makes his travel videos so great! Very little time is spent at the regular tourist sites.

Michael Palin's best laid plans are not alway's realized, and that's just another plus: hey, sometimes one must adapt; little or big, unexpected experiences can be fun!

All of Micheal Palin's previous travel tapes are FANTASTIC, and now we have Micheal Palin's "Sahara."

For those who have never seen a Micheal Palin travel video, I recommend buying them all (1.Around The World In Eighty Days; 2.Pole To Pole; 3. Full Circle; 4. Himalaya; and 5. Sahara) then sit back and enjoy the expertly filmed travels of this one-of-a kind explorer/traveler. For those of you who thirst for entertainment, I've led you to water, whether or not you drink is up to you.

David G. Thomas | Tacoma, WA USA | 05/16/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Compared to his Himalaya this is closer to the "old Palin" that I remember. Gritty to a degree, honest and fascinating narrative accompanied with beautiful footage makes this an amazing must see. Mr Palin's charisma comes thru to cut thru any national barriers and unite the people of this world in another fine adventure. A must have in any travellers collection!!
We just need ALL of his journeys in DVD, THEN we would all be happy :)"