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Yam Festival, Ghana by James Dalrymple
Yam Festival, Ghana by James Dalrymple

The Archaeology Channel (TAC) International Film Festival, organized by Eugene, Oregon nonprofit, Archaeological Legacy Institute (ALI), opens its 17th annual edition on May 13 and runs through May 17, all online, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Originally, before the arrival of COVID-19, the festival planned five days of public events and gatherings, including a banquet at the Oregon Electric Station with a presentation by Keynote Speaker, Dr. Tom King; live film screenings in a theatrical setting at The Shedd Institute; other expert speakers; and more. Despite the abbreviated nature of TAC Festival 2020, the festival will screen the films online and continue the juried competition.

“When we launched The Archaeology Channel and began streaming videos in July 2000, our website became one of the first streaming-media platforms, and today it remains as one of the longest-running such sites and the only one in the world focusing on cultural heritage media,” says Festival Director and ALI Executive Director Rick Pettigrew. “In keeping with our tradition and history of online media streaming, our response to the coronavirus pandemic is to enhance the streaming services we offer by building our own subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) streaming service, which we call Heritage Broadcasting Service, or just Heritage for short. The first task chosen for Heritage is to stream most of the films selected to compete for TAC Festival 2020 awards. Our audience this time includes people everywhere, not just in Lane County.”

“Our Festival audience is stuck at home and unable to gather together to watch this lineup of the world’s best films in our genre, so we are employing our 20 years of online streaming experience to bring the Festival to them! We are not about to break our string of annual film screenings for this, Lane County’s longest-running film festival. Instead, we are turning lemons into lemonade by enhancing the event and hopefully growing its visibility and impact both locally and around the world. And after the Festival is concluded, we will re-purpose Heritage permanently to stream a new and ever-expanding list of premium cultural heritage films on this Netflix-like, SVOD platform.”

For the 17th season, the festival accepted 103 film entries from 26 countries. The 26 films in the 2020 competition cover a variety of fascinating topics from around the globe: places as far apart as Singapore and Peru and across the human timeline from hundreds of thousands of years ago in the Neanderthal era to the Japanese bombing of Oregon in World War II. That’s just a start. How about the lifeway of the world’s last hunter-gatherers, an updated interpretation of Stonehenge, revelations about how the Egyptian pyramids were built, and the fascinating story of Polynesian sea voyagers as told by themselves? And much more!

Watching TAC Festival 2020 films online will require a small virtual ticket fee ($5), which ALI will share with the filmmakers. Festival award winners will be announced online on May 18, immediately after the close of the online screenings.

The following is a list and brief description of the films in this year’s Festival competition:

  • Art at War – Three heroes conspire to defend Italy’s artistic heritage from Nazi greed and allied bombing in WWII
  • Becoming Singapore – Eunice Olsen explores Singapore’s forgotten history alongside her own long-lost roots
  • The “Boy” with the Nikon – Ancient oases and splendid architecture of Berber people in Saharan Libya
  • Bronze: A Forgotten Treasure – A quest to discover the story behind a forgotten trove of Chinese bronze artifacts
  • Cedar: Tree of Life – For three Salish women, the sacred cedar tree is inextricably linked with their culture and life
  • First Horse Warriors – On the vast plains of Kazakhstan, researchers reveal evidence of humanity’s first horsemen
  • Hafez and Goethe – The ancient Persian poetry of Hafez revives 400 years later in the work of German poet Goethe
  • The Last Bonesetter – In Chugurpampa, Peru, indigenous healing continues through Don Felipe: the last bonesetter
  • The Last Tribes – The hunter-gatherer life cycle survives as the Ju’/Hoansi San tribe honors their traditional lifeway
  • The Lions of Lissa – A tale of action and wonder unfolds around a legendary shipwreck long lost in the Adriatic Sea
  • Lost Cities with Albert Lin: Stonehenge – Recent excavations may enhance our view of Stonehenge and its people
  • Mayan Time: Archaeo-Astronomical Phenomena – A visual journey into the temporality of Maya sacred spaces
  • Neandertal: The Mystery of the Bruniquel Cave – French researchers try to interpret a Neanderthal construction
  • Papua New Guinea: The Fire Dance – The Baining tribe makes costumes and dances through the burning embers
  • Pyramids Builders New Clues – Two teams of Egyptologists seek to learn more about the ancient pyramid builders
  • Remains: The Search for SFC Samuel J. Padgett – An attempt to recover a soldier’s body from Vietnam jungles
  • The Ring People – Shell rings litter the South Carolina coast, remnants of a society that scientists hope to understand
  • River of Treasures – Researchers trace the lost treasures of Warsaw through history, chasing the thrill of rediscovery
  • Samurai in the Oregon Sky – Japanese pilot Nobuo Fujita finds peace with the town he once bombed during WWII
  • Saving Places – The staff and volunteer crews of HistoriCorps work to preserve threatened structures on public lands
  • Stout Hearted: George Stout and the Guardians of Art – A high-stakes race to protect art from Nazi hands
  • Theirstory – Re-evaluating the attitude about gender in human history, the focus shifts to the other half of the story
  • Vars – The history of the Veresk bridge brings into question its usefulness and place in modern transportation in Iran
  • Versailles Rediscovered: The Sun King’s Vanished Palace – The Palace of Versailles through digital imagery
  • We, the Voyages: Our Vaka – Pacific voyagers tell their story through the recreation of their ancestral sailing
  • Yam Festival, Ghana – A closer look at the music, dancing, feasting, and local crafts of the “Te Za” Yam Festival
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