To Auschwitz and Back: The Joe Engel Story
To Auschwitz and Back: The Joe Engel Story

The Archaeology Channel International Film Festival, opens its 16th annual edition on May 1st at the Hotel Eugene in Eugene, Oregon. The five-day event offers film screenings and will also feature expert speakers, a guided tour, TAC Conference on Cultural Heritage Media, a TAC Conference symposium on the search for Amelia Earhart and another symposium on archaelogy-related podcasts, and a Saturday social gathering, and will conclude with an awards reception at Capitello Wines.

The 23 films in the competition cover a variety of fascinating subjects from around the globe: places as far apart as China and Peru and across the human timeline from hundreds of thousands of years ago in the Neanderthal era to 20th-century horrors of the Holocaust. That’s just a start. How about the biological underpinnings of human music, an updated interpretation of Stonehenge, and the discovery of a hidden chamber in the Great Pyramid of Egypt? 

Evan Hadingham’s Keynote Address at the Festival Banquet will focus on a big issue in producing archaeology-related documentaries: the “Caveman” problem As Hadingham himself describes it, “All too often, well-intentioned efforts have unintentionally comic ‘Monty Python-esque’ results or are influenced by hopelessly out-of-date stereotypes. How did one of the most persistent of these images, the lumbering, dim-witted caveman, originate?” Hadingham also will give a lecture at the Eugene Public Library (noon on Wednesday, May 1) called “Adventures with NOVA,” discussing the challenges of communicating science to the public in a fast-changing media landscape, with examples of some of the NOVA episodes he has worked on.

Also noteworthy among the presenters at the Conference portion of the Festival are presenters on the making of some fascinating Festival films. These include “To Auschwitz and Back: The Joe Engel Story,” a powerful first-person account of the Holocaust by a 90-year-old survivor, and another on “Mosques: Art and Space,” a visually rich history of Islam produced by ZED in Paris, which is sending the film director, Bruno Ulmer, to discuss that project. Also notable is the second edition of our symposium on the search for Amelia Earhart and the media coverage of that project. This is the most diverse and numerous set of presentations in the history of TAC Conference.

List and brief description of the films in this year’s Festival competition:

The Birth of Printing: The Gutenberg Revolution – Medieval businessman secretly develops great new idea

The Builders of Stonehenge – British archaeologist unravels why Neolithic farmers built giant monuments

Caveirac: A Castle Regained – Medieval French castle, now hidden, comes to life through research and graphics

Churches: The Quest for Light – Christian church architecture reflects a long history and many renewals of faith

Confucius – Ancient Chinese philosopher suffers ignominy in life but becomes the moral guide for a great nation

First Encounter – By defeating conquistador DeSoto in the 1500s, the Chickasaw Nation becomes unconquerable

First Face of America – Young girl tumbles into a cave pit 13,000 years ago, leaving clues about first Americans

Ghosts of the West: The End of the Bonanza Trail – Old hotels and saloons offer mute testimony to faded past

Inhabiting Summers of History – Greek lighthouse keeper gathers artifacts revealing long history of his island

Leonardo: The Mystery of the Lost Portrait – Science examines possible self-portrait of great Italian master

Manchurian Sleepwalkers – Emigres from Harbin remember a seemingly impossible time in an international city

Mont Saint Michel: Scanning the Wonder – Labyrinthine French island abbey reveals secrets of long history

Mosques: Art and Space – Sacred Islamic monuments reflect long tradition of ingenuity and artistic refinement

Mysterious Discoveries in the Great Pyramid – New technology explores the inner recesses of an ancient wonder

The Origins of Music – Biomusicologists explore how deeply rooted musical traits have shaped the human species

Project Mosul – Computer programmers launch crowd-sourcing effort to create digital 3D replicas of lost heritage

Rock Art Project, Iraqi Kurdestan – Using drones and photogrammetry to make digital copies of ancient rock art

Roman Engineering: Aqueducts II – Computer graphics illustrate remarkable skills of ancient hydraulic builders

The Sacred Geography of the Incas – Why did the Inca build the spectacular mountaintop retreat, Choquequirao?

Sacred Sites: Petra – Newly found secrets of Nabatean desert civilization, lifeway and surprising power of women

The Titanic of Southampton – Lasting and haunting effects of Titanic disaster on people of Southampton

To Auschwitz and Back: The Joe Engel Story – Man overcomes unimaginable horrors in Nazi death camps

Who Killed the Neanderthal? – Once-dominant human species was replaced by modern humans, but why?

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