Customer Reviews: Africa: Eye To Eye With the Unknown [Blu-ray]
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on February 23, 2013
The title for this review seems a bit much, but let me quickly explain why it's not hyperbole or meaningless oversell. I help at my friends video store, which hosts a giant collection of Blu-ray features. I own many, but I should specify the only Blu-Rays I purchase, mostly due to replay-ability, are nature documentaries. My modest collection boasts over 75 Blu-ray nature documentaries: BBC, Nat-Geo, Discovery and other independent sources. I've been collecting nature Blu-rays since the evening I installed a compatible drive in my computer. The PC is linked via 1080p HDMI connection to a large LCD screen. The reason I'm telling you this personal information is so you know I'm serious about the genre. I'm critical. It takes a lot to blow me away since I've viewed so many astonishing, eye-popping nature documentaries over the years. Other people collect guns, stamps or shoes. Well, I collect nature documentaries.

This is, without question, the best nature documentary ever made.

It's better than Life.

It's better than Planet Earth.

It's the reason why you should own a Blu-ray player and a high definition television.

I pre-ordered this series several months ago. Then, like a child waiting for his package to arrive, I eagerly paced my friends store for the delivery to be made yesterday. I'm an avid follower of anything David Attenborough produces -- a God for us nature doc enthusiasts. If you want to hear the highest degree of natural obsession, but described in as fascinating a way as listening to Indiana Jones tell tales of adventure, listen to Attenborough discuss filming on the extra interview footage, Disk 2. He'll give you a sense of where the genre as a whole has evolved from and how modern technology innovated how we study nature. But the reason why this is so great isn't because Attenborough carries it. It's attributed to the iconic and innovative panoramic and close-up cinematography, the high resolution night-filming, spectacular ecological sequencing, detailed studies and harrowing biological dramas.

The series breaks-down six African regions: the Kalahari, Savannah, Congo, Cape, Sahara and a looking-ahead episode called the Future. Among the intense biological attention, the crew follows most of the unique, rare and well-adapted African creatures, harvesting big questions and stirring the viewer into comprehending the vastness and the unfathomable diversity which exists on the mysterious continent. One of the many incredible scenes in the first episode shows the worlds largest underground lake, beneath the unforgiving Kalahari desert. Attenborough describes how this lake contains a prehistoric fish species that exists nowhere else on the planet and how it survives in such ironic form. Another gem is the EXTRAORDINARY oasis scene, where a breathtaking array of beasts and fowl drink side-by-side at a life-saving watering hole. It's one of the most overwhelming scenes ever captured, I'm not kidding. A Garden of Eden, a bounty of lions, giraffes, ostriches, rhinos, and many other stoic animals all existing for the moment as a unified body.

The series showcases the high, mountainous and remote "islands" where creatures like gorillas and other primates live. Detailing how family dramas are tied to the treacherous struggles of survival in the rain forest. You bare witness to the unique personalities and familial bonds, capturing intimate and rare once in a lifetime moments on camera. You see when the normally introverted and temperamental rhinos come out at night, greet one another and foster relationships with friends. Yes, with friends. You hear how they communicate and witness the body language they present for each other, making it easy, as easy as sympathizing with another human, to understand what the rhinos are thinking. These moments echo throughout the series within various species. It results in casting the beautifully special creatures with a sense of importance and individuality on the planet -- as equal as, and I say this with controversial trepidation, human populations struggle with the same belonging.

I never knew why giraffes had those two tiny horns on their heads before this series, which shows you why in glorious detail as the scene unfolds a cliffhanger moment into an uproarious Cinderella story. There are a few nail-biting, horrifying moments where in the last moment an event turns to favor the underdog, you never see it coming as you prepare to flinch and then you burst into tears and clap like a maniac.

Iconic sweeping panoramic landscapes fill the transitions between the micro-dramas. The vivid wildernesses offer glorious, endless wow-factor. You'll find yourself rewinding and re-watching scenes to maintain the tingly frisson, again and again. Earth-porn at its finest.

As usual, the BBC Concert Orchestra extends and resonates the visual majesty with a spectacularly swelling score. The finest timing represented when the camera slowly creeps over a gaping precipice and the symphony builds into a shivering crescendo.

There are hilarious moments too, like the squirrel dropping its dinner with the kind of attitude and personality you expect from your best friend, he's registering he's been spotted by a leopard, and is about to bolt to his haven. The odd and personality-brimming giraffes are also sources of comic relief throughout Africa--they've quickly risen to be one of my favorite creatures on the planet, all thanks to this series.

It is completely worthy of your time. It has the capacity to change your feelings to favor preservation and natural conservation in all its forms without brow-beating you with guilt trips or "humans are always a problem" shaming. Instead the series tactfully, and rightfully, admires nature and shows you why we should preserve these creatures, habitats and regions. And in that respect, showing is far more influential than telling.

Appropriate for all members of your family and offers a paramount-entrance into the revealing and worthwhile nature-doc collection. It's something every human on the planet should be required to see. This is why you bought your Blu-ray player. And if you do not own a Blu-Ray player, this is the reason you've been searching for to take the plunge.
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on March 2, 2013
I've been watching nature documentaries for decades now, so I approach these newer ones with weary skepticism, especially since the wave of glossy 'remake-upgrades' started by Planet Earth. In this specific case, the topic is the wildlife of Africa, which has been covered in almost every major BBC documentary so far, as well as hundreds of other docs, and it has also been the focus of the very good 'Wild Africa' series (also by the BBC).

The one detail with 'Africa' that gave me hope was that it was produced by Mike Gunton, producer of arguably the best of the new breed of documentaries: 'Life'.

I am happy to report that this one is just as good as Life, if not better.

The approach here is to find footage of surprising, educational and entertaining animal behaviour not seen before and film it in dramedy style as with Life. In addition, the documentary masterfully combines summary information on the natural history and climate to provide a complete picture of nature and wildlife in each habitat as an integrated whole.

A typical scene in this series will describe the available food in a region and the challenges specific to that habitat, then introduce a native animal cast, and film a little dramatic, unusual, surprising or funny sequence, such as monster armoured crickets with poison blood attacking baby birds, or a lizard sneaking up on sleeping lions to eat the flies off its face.

If you ever walked in nature, you should know about these moments when you observe animals you already know doing something surprising. Well this series is like a condensed compilation of these moments, some thrilling, some sad, some very amusing. And this is backed by carefully chosen music and narrative to enhance the drama or comical aspects.

Where Fothergill's approach with Planet Earth/Frozen Planet seems to be to focus on postcard landscapes and thrilling hunts, Gunton uses stunning landscapes only as an introduction, and then makes nature intimate, surprising, beautiful, exciting and slightly anthropomorphic. Now I can see this approach being abused by the wrong person and becoming manipulative and cheap, but Gunton seems to know how to balance it all superbly.

As you can guess from the above description, the structure on this one is more tight than recent sloppy BBC documentaries, because it strives to draw a full picture of five very different habitats in Africa (Kalahari, Savannah, Congo, Cape and Sahara). That said, it avoids repeating footage on the same old wildlife and regional information by quickly summarizing the habitat and then focusing on these new findings. Which means that you can combine this series with previous ones and still get something new, as well as watch the amazing landscapes in high-definition with stunning photography.

There are five episodes, making this half the length of Life, but they finally stopped bothering with an overview episode, and this series feels like it chose only top-quality, new and rich footage instead of padding it with repetitive postcards. A superb production! It also includes a sixth episode covering various conservationist projects in Africa that is thankfully more inspirational than alarmist, but it still feels like an extra rather than part of the series. And we get the expected, entertaining ten-minute 'Eye-to-Eye' making-of snippets at the end of each episode.

I only wish that they had included one episode on Madagascar in this series instead of padding it out to three episodes and a separate series (also produced by Gunton while he was filming 'Africa' hmm... why do I get the feeling that was a commercial decision?).

And yes, Attenborough narrates this one, is still in top form, and makes appearances in the Sahara desert, amongst other things. The man is a living monument. And yes, once again Discovery thinks that Americans want Attenborough replaced with an American, and no, I won't be bothering to check out their version. Even if he turns out to be good, why bother when you have Attenborough?

The picture and sound quality are amazing as always.

In short, I keep complaining about remakes, glossy sensationalism and screen-saver documentaries, but Gunton reminds us that nature is always surprising and always has something new up its sleeve, as long as you know where to look, and have the patience to find it (and catch it with the best equipment).
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on February 23, 2013
Africa is the latest incredible nature documentary from the producers who brought us Planet Earth, Life, Frozen Planet, and Human Planet. Africa is narrated by the great Sir David Attenborough. Unfortunately the Discovery Channel airing of Africa used a different narrator. This Blu-Ray is the original uncut broadcast with Attenborough. The Discovery Channel cut out scenes for commercials during the hour long broadcast when it aired.

Africa is a 6 part series which includes: Kalahari, Savannah, Congo, Cape, Sahara, and The Future. Each episode is stunning. From forest elephants to kick-boxing frogs, the animals of Africa come to life in stunning high definition. The cinematography in Africa is amazing. This is definitely one of the best BBC nature documentaries to date. This Blu-Ray is a must have for anyone who enjoys nature.
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on March 14, 2013
Let me start by saying I am addicted to BBC nature films. I was joking with my brother that my son hears more of David Attenborough's voice than his own father's on a lot of days.

After Planet Earth I was blown away and thought it couldn't get any better and was equally impressed by Frozen Planet. Madagascar is incredible as are the Galapagos, and I've probably seen Wild Pacific 20 times now.

Even after countless hours of watching all of the above and others I was still glued to the TV for the entirety of Africa. There are some disturbing and tear-jerking scenes, but as usual the production is incredible, the narration is perfect, and the footage is unsurpassed. This is my new favorite!
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on March 21, 2013
The movie starts in the Kalahari Desert first, and uncovers things about the desert that most of us never knew. They also show one perfect scene where so many different animals have congregated close together by a rare source of drinking water. It almost reminds you of the biblical account of the Garden of Eden, with so many different animals getting along so peacefully, until a pride of vicious marauding lions suddenly appear out of nowhere and interrupted the peace. They looked crazed while even attacking each other, before chasing the other peaceful animals away. The show also highlights a group of desert Giraffes, and shows one Giraffe being knocked out in slow motion, by another Giraffe that was competing for a female Giraffe to mate with.

This documentary makes you feel that you're on an actual journey in Africa, all from the comfort of your living room sofa. It is much more than just the same old coverage about wildlife in Africa; this documentary is different because it gives you extensive detailed information about every region they visit. This film shows how the sand dunes in the Sahara desert, is constantly changing its shape in a time-lapse video replay. We also learn for the first time that there is a hidden underground lake in the Sahara Desert that is hundreds of feet deep, which may run the entire length of the desert.

From there the series takes us on a journey to the Savannah, and sheds light on the largest lava lake in the world. This is a six part documentary, and after every part is over they take at least another 10 minutes to explain how they made this series and the video shots they captured, which makes the series even more interesting. With the near perfect video shots, and the perfect lighting effects, this is what sets this film apart from others in the same naturalist field. This is another must have, for your collection of the BBC Earth Series documentaries.
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on September 10, 2014
The disc plays fine though I have not watched the full 2 discs but more or less skipped around. OK, so what does that mean?

I purchased this set in a Daily Deal and read the reviews and like almost all the other BBC Earth Series discs, the ratings were very high. Especially since David Attenborough narrates it. I knew it would be good and I was not let down from what I have seen.

What I want to talk about though is the disclaimer that this disc will not play in most of the U.S. Blu ray Players as it is a region 2 disc and not region 1. Meaning that it is made for European market and not for USA or Canada market. When I ordered it, i did not see the disclaimer until it was being shipped. I read about the video, the price and the comments from others. Just like you are probably doing now. The DVD version did not have the disclaimer but Blu ray does. I figured it is i]on the way and not much i can do about it now.

It came in the mail today with another BBC Earth disc set I ordered and before unwrapping the cellophane/plastic, I compared the two sets on what was written on the back and looking for the region codes. Both had similar written wording and nothing about regions, so I chanced it and opened it. Needless to say, it worked as I stated above. There was no problem with my player reading the discs and they played normally. There is an area written stated the disc is distributed in the United States by Warner Home Video so I am not sure if these discs came out after the disclaimer was first put on under the description for this set or what, but I will say mine played well in my Sony Blu Ray player and in reading reviews, no one has mentioned this issue and I can only assume it is a non-issue or the other reviewers all live in Europe...which I doubt...LOL. Hope this helps in your decision.
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on August 28, 2015
The slice of life animal scenes are so poignant that you get the impression that it must have taken months of pacience to capture. They clearly didn't just give a high resolution camera to a couple of interns and ask them to film whatever they could in Africa. Cinematography, direction, and editing are first rate.

The 2-DVD set divides Africa into its major geographic ecosystems, and is a very entertaining tour of the uniquely wild and pristine swaths of land within this amazing continent. A "making of" third disc is included.

The fact that legendary naturalist David Attenborough is involved and is the narrator is the icing on the cake. He doesn't appear on screen as often as in the classic productions that he orchestrated in decades past, but he does appear occasionally and his voice and delivery are as captivating as ever.

I highly recommend it.
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on September 11, 2014
This blu-ray includes incredible images of scenes throughout Africa. I originally purchased this for my nephews (5 and 3), because they love watching animals/animal shows; however, I quickly noticed that my entire family fell in love with the movie. Well worth the buy!
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on May 27, 2015
Beautifully photographed, incredible scenes, some never before seen, well organized, David Attenborough narrating and personally involved in various locations! What can be better?

I own Earth, Life, Wild Pacific, Nature's Most Amazing Events, and Yosemite from BBC and they are all wonderful. I like the way this set is put into its separate parts by geographical location. I really like the end of each segment when personal stories are told about how the segment was filmed, what troubles they had, rewards, etc.

There are great extras too; interviews, deleted scenes, and outtakes. Highly recommended, you will discover unusual scenes such as lizards jumping on lions to catch flies. Giraffes battling! Rhinos being friendly? Absolutely riveting, not enough superlatives can relate how I feel about this set. Very reasonably priced too.
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on October 12, 2014
Won't waste my time saying the same gushing reviews as everyone else. Just trust me on this one: This series is incredible and it will show off your HDTV in most spectacular fashion. Get this, or you're a weenie.
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