on 8 March 2013
You know what I like about the BBC? When they do something, they do it right, astoundingly right. Their work is original and exceptional. And when it comes to professionalism, they are the masters. I have seen so many wildlife documentaries about Africa on TV and DVDs, but this one is like no other. I have seen all the six episodes in two days and what a richly rewarding experience it was.
The episodes are arranged 'regionally' rather than by habitat. The BBC team, and in four years, visit some of the striking places in Africa from the Atlas Mountains in North Africa to the Cape of Good Hope in the south to bring us some of the extraordinary wildlife spectacles this ancient continent has yet to offer. Some of these unforgettable events are: two male giraffes fighting in Nambia, black rhinos socializing near a waterhole in the cover of darkness in Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique, daring lizards catching flies off sleeping lions, chimpanzees using branches to dig honeycombs out of tree barks while the young ones watching and learning, silver ants battling the scorching the brutal African sun to gather food in just 10 minutes, spectacular sand dunes shifting which took months to video, etc. Really really amazing stuff.
In the extra materials, you get to learn what patience, endurance, dedication, and professionalism it all took in order to produce such top notch film making. I really take my hat to all the BBC team members who were involved in this project.
And yeah Sir David Attenborough is the narrator (who also appears in person in some of the episodes). What a joy it was to hear his voice : )
I enjoyed Africa immensely and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in wildlife documentary films. Perfect.
The BBC are to be congratulated for producing another outstanding addition to their Natural History repertoire. With a big budget, this painstakingly produced six episode series has presented the viewer with almost six hours of top-class entertainment that took four years to shoot. The initial impact is the stunning effect of the photography that captures the wildlife and landscapes. The technical brilliance of the camera work has revealed aspects of the lesser known species, often small or living in a remote environment previously inaccessable or not filmed before (the Shoebill and chicks nesting, for example). The more familiar animals are pictured in mesmerising slow-motion sequences, sparring giraffes over territory, lions, black rhinoceroses and elephants establishing rank and mating supremacy.
Using starlight camerawork, the rhinos. reveal an unexpected social side, gathering at night around a waterhole, and seemingly communicating picked up by novel sound techniques. The greatest wildlife continent on the planet with its constantly changing environment, climate and landscapes are visualised in a bewildering display. David Attenborough's narration links the scenes with his umatchable professionalism and dulcet style. It is one of inspiration and information without being over educational, often told more as a story, from happy to sometimes upsetting scenes. His forecast for the continent with the changes occurring so rapidly is quite forboding. The music I found unobtrusive but may not be to everyone's taste. The 'Eye To Eye' sections at the end of each episode were revealing in the 'this is how we did it' mode. An extremely enjoyable experience that will lend to repeat viewing.
on 8 July 2013
I've just finished watching "Africa" on Blu-Ray and in the main must agree with the majority of other reviewers. Each episode is a marvel of natural history film making and the series warrants an unequivocal five stars, however, the episode entitled "Cape" lets the entire series down very badly. The episode is shoddily put together and misleading.
The Cape has its own unique floristic and faunal composition caused by climatic conditions. This was only touched on by the programme. A quarter of the episode was devoted to the reproduction of turtles, which although interesting had nothing to do with the Cape. The episode continued with some film of storks, spoonbills and pelicans fishing. The relevancy of this to the "Cape" was never explained. The Drakensburg Mountains were then considered. Again, interesting but relevant to the Karoo, not to the Cape.
Additionally the episode was littered with glaring errors of which two examples will be sufficient. It was stated that the sardines met an impenetrable barrier when they met the warm Agulhas Current. This is utter hogwash. The arrival of the sardines off the coast of KwaZuluNatal, more than 1 500 kms east of this "barrier" is a well reported event and a highlight for fishermen, dolphin watchers and nature lovers in general. Indeed their arrival was extensively filmed as part of an earlier Attenborough documentary.
Secondly, the assertion that "rainwater flows from Mozambique, south to the Eastern Cape" left me speechless. Where are these westerly flowing rivers? Did anyone look at a map? In the interest of brevity, I'll not go into other errors, suffice to say that the episode gave the impression that the series makers had a lot of excess film which they didn't know what to do with. These were then lumped together under the tenuous title "Cape".
The Cape is in fact an exceptional area of biological diversity. Nearly 4% of the Earth's plant species live in the Cape and the vast majority of these species are unique to the area. I would have thought that such an ecosystem would have been better served from an eponymous episode in an otherwise excellent series.
on 12 February 2016
Africa arrives at blu ray with MPEG-4 AVC 1080p 1.78:1 encode. This video transfer is simply stunning. Colours are warm and natural, with vibrant blues, lush greens, lifelike earthtones and deep blacks. Detail is razor sharp, and is as revealing as can be expected (especially considering all the challenges of shooting a documentary series of this caliber). Edges are nice and crisp, and textures, scales, hair and fur are proficiently resolved, allowing the Natural History Unit photography to stand on its own merits without any pesky distractions. (5/5)
BBC Home Entertainment has granted Africa a full-fledged DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track. Sir David Attenborough's narration is clear, suitably centered and well-prioritized, while the sounds of the African plains, jungles, highlands, deserts, rivers and oceans are given ample opportunity to flourish. The music is never intruding. The LFE channel is restrained but never tame, lending support as needed with surging waters, brewing thunderstorms, deafening stampedes and the blows of various wildlife battles. Chases, hunts and clashes are particularly thrilling and decidedly immersive. (4.5/5)
Four years in the making and across 27 countries, this 6-part series will amaze and awe with stunning shots from exotic locations like the Congo jungle, Zambia swamps, Sahara desert, Google rainforest, and Dragon's Breath Cave, the largest underground lake in the world. The filmmakers used 553 cameras, spent 100 days on horseback, carried about 50 tons of kit and took 6,526 anti-malarial tablets over four years and 27 countries to shoot Africa. (5/5)
There are 2 BD-50 discs.
6 The Future
7 Bonus Features
Under each chapter, all the stories are new and interesting.
The word means Land of Great Thirst. In Africa’s ancient southwest corner, two extraordinary deserts sit side by side. Water is in short supply, yet these deserts are somehow full of life because the creatures that live here have turned the rules of survival on their head. There are many interesting stories: like clever meerkats outsmarted by a wily bird Drongo for food. The part about rhinos, filmed in large group in the dark. The part about one male rhino trying to mate, but failed because of lack of ability, and the female pretending to be asleep to literally get him off her back, is simply hilarious, and almost human-like!
East Africa is a land which is constantly changing. To survive here, creatures must be able to deal with unpredictable twists and turns – wet turning to dry, famine to feast, cold to hot – no matter how hostile and unpredictable it becomes. To see tiny lizards trying to steal flies from the faces of sleeping lions, vast dinosaur-like birds who stalk catfish through huge wetlands, and elephants who battle for three days for the right to father the next generation, are all very entertaining.
The Congo rainforest covers the very heart of Africa. It is a dynamic and pulsating habitat, packed with life. Chimpanzees steal honey from hard-working sweat bees by engineering a large stick to smash open the nest. The elusive Picathartes symbolizes everything that is secret and ancient about the rainforest – their bald heads are like molded marzipan and their nest of chicks look like bizarre, scraggy dinosaurs. Tiny frogs battle it out using kung-fu moves then hide their precious eggs in folded blades of grass. Great herds of elephants gather at a mystery meeting place to socialize under cover of darkness, and the three-ton titan bulls cause the ground to shake as they meet in furious combat, terrifying the other animals and hurling trees to the ground with their passion.
This film celebrates the rejuvenating powers of the ocean. To the east, the warm Agulhas current flows south, generating clouds that roll inland creating the wettest place in southern Africa. Home to a magical fairy-tale butterfly ballet, the area is known as the “Google” rainforest as it was only discovered using satellite images in 2005. In the sea, the warm current sustains shoals of giant kingfish and creates some of the most beautiful seascapes ever seen – the Bazaruto Archipelago. To the west is the cold Benguela current. It is home to more great white sharks than any other sea on Earth. Perhaps most impressive is where the two currents meet. The clash of warm and cold water creates one of the world’s most fabulous natural spectacles, South Africa’s sardine run. This is the greatest gathering of predators on the planet, including Africa’s largest, the Brydes Whale.
North Africa is home to the greatest desert on Earth, the Sahara. This vast wilderness, the size of the United States, is the toughest part of the African continent – the sun rules mercilessly here. In this haunting wilderness, dunes “sing,” sandstorms stretch for a thousand miles, and rain may not fall for 50 years. On the fringes of the Great Desert, Grevy’s zebras battle over dwindling rivers, and weird naked mole rats avoid the heat by living a bizarre underground existence. In the heart of the Sahara very little life can survive the sun’s onslaught. Just one animal takes on the midday sun, and it needs a “spacesuit” to do it. The silver ant waits until all other creatures have fled the scorching dunes before finally emerging to feed in peace.
Over 80 years of wildlife filmmaking, Discovery and the BBC have chronicled the greatest changes in a continent that the world has ever seen. With more than a billion people, Africa might now be at its tipping point, but it is also the one continent that has not lost its biggest animals – despite the fact that mankind has lived here longer than anywhere else on the planet! So, in a quest to save Africa's most iconic species, what lessons learned from the rest of the world can we bring back to our ancestral homeland?
MY OWN JOURNEY:
When Africa was first announced, I was overjoyed and placed an order immediately. My heart sank when Africa appeared on the Discovery Channel, narrated by Forrest Whitaker. I could hardly make out what he was talking about, because he spoke very softly. With previous history of BBC Nature series, where US versions have their own narrators, like Oprah Winfrey, Alec Baldwin, etc. I carefully checked the front cover picture, and there was no notation of name of narrator. However, in UK (Amazon.co.uk), Sir David Attenborough’s name was clearly stated, and it was also a 3 disc set (according to the website). But that set is a Region 2 only, thus not playable on North American blu ray player. I placed an order just in case (even though I don’t have an all region blu ray player yet, because I simply want the version with Sir David Attenborough’s narration). I enquired at Amazon.ca, and was not given any clear answer. Fortunately a fellow reviewer stated that according to BBC Canada website, Sir David Attenborough was the narrator. I checked that website, and promptly cancelled the UK order, and am happy with the current set.
Following the previous top-notched releases, such as Planet Earth, Life, Frozen Planets, etc., Africa is indeed ranked right up there with the rest. The whole series were immersive and totally enjoyable. Some of the pictures on my 12 foot wide screen are simply jaw-dropping. And the must here got to be the narration of Sir David Attenborough. “I Have Grown Accustomed To His Voice”. No substitute is acceptable. Watching this on Discovery Channel with poor narration did injustice to this fine series.
Finally, Africa, with the narration of Sir David Attenborough and gorgeous videos, is immensely entertaining, educational and very highly recommended.