TV programs worth watching
Sun June 1 — Sat June 7
For over 3000 years the name and image of the pharaoh Hatshepsut the Great were banned from the official history of Egypt. For Hatshepsut, who ruled Egypt for 22 years, was a woman. The widow of Tuthmosis II, Hatshepsut was not the only woman to become Pharaoh: there were also Arsinoe II, Berenice II and Arsinoe III. To be accepted Hatshepsut had to dress as a man and be portrayed as a man in statues and paintings. Nevertheless, she carried out an ambitious building program, constructing and beautifying new temples and obelisks, and led Egypt's armies to war. The new two-part series by directors Michael Gregor and Wolfram Giese The Queens Of The Nile (SBS 7.30pm Sundays), uses interviews with archaeologists and Egyptologists, as well as excavation photographs and sophisticated computer-generated reconstructions of the historic temples, to trace the long-forgotten history of these female pharaohs. The documentaries recount their rise and fall from power, as well as tracing the current day archaeological search for relics and further information about their lives. From Egypt, to Palestine and an interesting documentary double-bill: both films are from Israel, both are about the Jenin refugee camp massacre in April 2002. Their points of view, however, are diametrically opposed. First up is a half-hour program that pushes the official Israeli line, as reflected in its title, The Battle Of Jenin (SBS 8.30pm Sunday). For the Israelis, this attack on a refugee camp had the grandiose name "Operation Defensive Shield". In typical fashion, an Israeli soldier claims the objective of the attack was to try to find weapons and laboratories that manufacture explosives, and to arrest terrorists. The Israeli soldiers deny any wrongdoing, saying the army continually asked people to leave their homes (before they were bulldozed), that there was no random firing. A bulldozer operator says that bulldozers were only used on houses from which there was gunfire and that were unoccupied by civilians. But the second, hour-long documentary, Jenin, Jenin (SBS 9.05pm Sunday), tells a different story. Arab eyewitnesses from the camp tell of bodies deliberately mashed by being repeatedly run over by tank tracks, of the deliberate, careful shooting of women and children, of houses collapsed on their inhabitants, of random executions and deliberate acts of terror by the Israeli soldiers. Jenin, Jenin was made by Israeli-Arab actor-director Mohammed Bakri. Significantly, it has been banned in Israel, the first film to be so singled out for 15 years. The Inquisition was not something that only happened in Spain or that ended half a millennium ago. The Inquisition continues today, although in the 1960s its name was changed to the more innocuous-sounding Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Today it is the central institution of the Roman Catholic Church. Its Prefect, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, is a leading proponent of the Church's most reactionary positions in regard to Communism, AIDS, women in the priesthood, etc. The Secret Inquisition (SBS 7.30pm Tuesdays) is a new three-part series based on the book of the same name by Professor Peter Godman. It also takes advantage of the opening by the Vatican in January 1998 of the secret archives of the Inquisition. Countless mysteries and enigmas of 500 years of world history lie concealed in the Palace of the Holy Office, the headquarters of the Roman Inquisition, which was initiated in 1542. The archives are the repository where trial files, letters and countless notes on popes and heretics, spies and informers, inquisitors and persecuted thinkers are stored. This week's episode, Flames of Faith, carries us back to the first century of the Roman Inquisition, from its beginnings in 1542 to 1600, the year the philosopher, Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake. Lavishly filmed, the series uses renowned German actors to play the historical figures. Various historians and Vatican bigwigs comment, including both Cardinal Ratzinger and Professor Godman. The new half-hour BBC science series Walking With Cavemen, screening in the Catalyst slot (ABC 8.00pm Thursdays), is not, as you might assume, from the team that gave us Walking With Dinosaurs. It is, in fact, from the team that gave us The Human Body. And although the Dinosaurs crew obviously helped with the provision of the megafauna that occasionally wander through the cavemen's world (much the way rhinos wander through Tarzan movies), there is a significant difference in the two series' approaches. Walking With Dinosaurs recreated the world of dinosaurs as exactly as possible, for us to see. It was almost like a wildlife program. Walking With Cavemen is presented just like a wildlife program, sometimes irritatingly so. Not content with having Robert Winston driving around Africa in his landrover several million years ago watching cavemen through his binoculars like a time-travelling David Attenborough, the programs have Wilson interacting with the prehistoric creatures. He picks up the body of the slain Australopithecus he has named Lucy and deposits it beside a stream, in the spot where David Leakey will find her bones 3.5 million years later. How arch can you get? This interacting is unnecessary and distracting. Considering the outstanding overall quality of the series, it is a pity, but fortunately it is not a fatal flaw. Walking With Cavemen is otherwise a splendidly realised account of human evolution. The potentialities of the computer are utilised to the full in showing the climatic and geological changes that affected these early cavemen's environment. These changes in turn caused changes in their evolutionary development. Did you know that two million years ago there were half a dozen or more different species of cavemen living in Africa, all exploiting different aspects of their environment? A curious feature of the series is that it deals with creatures that in three out of the four episodes at least (I have not seen episode four yet) do not live in or paint pictures on the walls of caves. These early hominids and homos are savannah-dwelling apes, in the process of evolving into homo sapiens. It is extremely well done, even though the necessity to fit it into a half- hour format means inevitable gaps in the story. It will hopefully be widely used in schools.