Not what I had hoped for
Annie T. Samuels | 11/29/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"After reading all of the glowing reviews I couldn't wait to watch the series. Unfortunately, it was a little disappointing. Visually it is stunning and offers a broad view of the vast continent. The problem is in the narration. Ugh! While viewing some of the most exciting scenery in the world and gaining some insight into the many cultures of Africa the narrator seems determined to put the viewer to sleep. And rather than give the viewer a real taste of the local music, whenever someone bursts into song, whether in a children's game or at a funeral, they have chosen to pipe in some over-produced studio version of "African" music that is full of western influences. Indiginous African music is so beautiful in its rawest form; don't insult your audience by assuming that we can't appreciate music that hasn't been cleaned up and westernized."
Old versus new in modern Africa
Utah Blaine | Somewhere on Trexalon in District 268 | 01/11/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Most of the currently existing reviews do a poor job of describing exactly what this series of four DVDs contains. Each DVD contains 2 episodes about life in modern Africa (i. e. eight episodes total). In particular, each episode focuses in on young African men and women who must make important life decisions and how the transformation of African society into the modern world impacts these decisions. Each episode is centered in a different region of Africa. Fundamentally, this series explores the tension of the old ways of doing things and the new ways and how the two can coexist to make something better than the sum of the parts. For example, in the first episode we follow the lives of two women in East Africa (Kenya), one of whom has chosen to get married and live in the bush with her husband, the other who lives as a single mother in a big city but returns to her small village to have a baby so that the child with have some contact with his roots. We learn a bit about the traditional culture of the people of East Africa, and see how this is being changed by the modern world. In many ways, the woman living in the big city has an easier life, but something is lost in this choice, and she realizes it. The other seven episodes continue in a similar vein, exploring life among Pygmies in the Congo, nomads in the Sahara, Orthodox Christians in Ethiopia, and other African peoples.
The best part of this DVD series is that you will, I believe, begin to understand the great diversity in cultures in Africa. The history, the cultures, the world views of the people who populate Africa is incredibly diverse. Some peoples were influenced by Islam, some not, some greatly affected by Western colonialism and Christianity, others not. The landscape, the weather, the vegetation, and the animal life also play/played an important role in the development of each African culture. Even people living in close proximity can be very different (and certainly distinct from the Western world).
There is some great cinematography of the flora and fauna of Africa, as well as the landscape, but this is not the central theme. If this is what you are looking for (a study of the plants, animals, and landscape of Africa), you'll be sadly disappointed. Some of the most glowing reviews wax poetic about the cinematography, and I think this is overstated. Also, some of the political correctness in the dialogue becomes tedious. Nearly every culture presented in this series (there are one or two exceptions) lives in peace and harmony with their neighbors, working in synergy and sharing for the greater good of all.
This is a great series, but the only reason that I give it four stars is that it is not something that you'll watch over and over. I wouldn't recommend that anyone actually spend money to add this to their permanent collection. Definitely worth watching as a rental, but probably not a collectable for most viewers."