Michael Palin - Pole to Pole
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Michael Palin: Pole to Pole (DVD)
Michael's journey along the 30-degree east line of longitude encompasses 17 countries and both hemispheres -- from Greenland in the north to Kenya, South Africa and Chile in the south. Along the way communism collapses, apartheid ends, and a civil war is sparked as Michael meets Santa Claus and Lenin, goes shopping for camels in Omdurman and makes a final hectic dash to the South Pole.]]>
Michael Palin, star of Monty Python's Flying Circus and A Fish Called Wanda, is in a comic race against time to get from the North Pole to the South Pole. Palin balks at nothing, tries just about anything, and always finds time for a spot of tea. En route Palin stars in a crayfish documentary in Novgorod, attends a baby-rolling ceremony at a Cypriot wedding, gets stuck in a Nile traffic jam, buys chicken in Wadi Halfa, goes camel shopping in Khartoum, and is prescribed tree bark by a Mpulugu witch doctor to get rid of his evil shadow. Even when things go according to plan, Palin travels in unusual ways--by dogsled on Spitsbergen, barge down the Dnieper, train roof across the Nubian desert, van through the Sudan, hot-air balloon over Kenya, and down Lake Tanganyika on the "African Queen." With curiosity, courage, and his standard aplomb, Palin plunges himself into the local cultures, beating himself with birch branches in a Finnish sauna and wallowing in mud in an Odessa sanatorium. Reminiscent of his Around the World in 80 Days, Palin once again brings some of the world's most inaccessible cities right into your home. An armchair traveler's delight, this collectors' edition of Pole to Pole is ideal for anyone interested in the funny world we live in. --Tara Chace
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various cultures with an element of uncertainty. But what makes it
inspirational is Michael Palin with his spirit of adventure, great sense
of humor and ability to connect with local people.
Palin's journey shows us how people across different ethnicities and
cultures have one thing in common - the 30 degree longitude (as he
travels along this route from North Pole to South Pole). It gives us a
sense of how in spite of our differences in race, religion and culture
we still share the same planet.
We can learn the political, social and economic situations unfolding in
those countries during early nineties. The world has changed a lot since
Palin's journey but his adventures will always be relevant regardless of
This vicarious experience inspires me to embark on a real adventure.
Along the way, from snow to savannah, from Norway to Nairobi, the charm of Palin's travels comes from the unassuming way he interacts with the people he meets on route. His personality carries the relatively unstructured travalog along on a sea of well-meaning interest and curiosity. He tells us when he's tired, anxious, and bored. We are touched by the genuine friendships he makes, however fleetingly, and the partings are often touching. In Pole to Pole the meat of the journey is Africa and we travel from relatively cosmopolitan Egypt to what in politically incorrect days was referred to as Darkest Africa. Even in 1991 witchdoctors outnumbered the western kind, and random violence was never far from view. Indeed, at one point Palin stays with a European estate owner in Zambia and his family and after the visit is concluded we learn from the voice-over that they were slaughtered six months later.
I spent a few formative years in southern Africa and it was shocking to me to see how little had changed since last I saw it. If anything, most of the change was for the worse: the old trains and buses simply have grown older, the disorder greater. Only in South Africa did time seem to have moved on. For the casual viewer the sheer range of experience in Africa should be fascinating, even though we get the merest glimpse. How can one capture a continent in just a few minutes of video? Like many people, I suspect, my favorite moments were of Palin sitting on top of the slow train creaking its way through Sudan, talking with those who can't afford to travel any other way, and seeming perfectly at home. Somehow Palin makes us forget how unlikely it all is: a well-paid BBC personality squatting among the illiterate and impoverished, interacting with them as though it were the most natural thing in the world. Perhaps no other TV presenter could really pull it off convincingly.
In the end the "hook" seems a little forced: Palin flies in to the north pole and he flies in to the south pole. It's not really much of an epic journey but it was more hazardous than it might seem: when he made the trip to the South Pole there was inadequate navigation and infrastructure and it would have been all too easy for him to have perished due to half-baked preparation and execution on the part of those tasked with ferrying him around. Fortunately all survived and went on to make several other telejourneys to various parts of the world; journeys which are now slowly being remastered onto DVD and released by the BBC. If you don't have the chance to travel much beyond the usual tourist haunts, by all means pick up a copy of Palin's travels and experience the sights, sounds, and people you will otherwise never know of.
I can't give it a 5 because the BBC pressed a number of defective discs. I had to re-order three different times, and each one was corrupted at the same place on the disc. I had to keep the last disc I ordered, as I missed the deadline to return it.
I really liked the content, but I wish I had a disc that worked properly and didn't freeze and skip.