Colour footage of Palmyra in 1938. Essential viewing
Only six years after Technicolor was first seen and only three years after the first Technicolor feature "Becky Sharp", a British documentary unit was dispatched to Syria to film the ruins of Palmyra. Here they are as they were in 1938, still partially inhabited. Traders on camels stop to rest; boys play in a river. There's a slight narrative. A man falls asleep under a tree, is later awakened by his friend, and they move on. The commentary mentions the city's glorious history and the many famous names associated with it. Alas, the film is only 10 minutes long. We want more but we have to bear in mind the enormous difficulty and expense of transporting early Technicolor cameras to such a remote region. I'm surprised it's not mentioned here that the cameraman was Jack Cardiff. The photography is beautiful and his camera is surprisingly mobile. This film should be included in Cardiff's credits. Newly restored (and shown at the BFI London Film Festival in 2016), the film now has added poignancy because of the recent tragic destruction of more of the city. One wonders how much we see still exists. One of the best known monuments in the city, the Lion of Al-lat, destroyed by ISIS or whatever they are called this week, is not shown. Was it not famous in 1938?
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