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Sahara - The English Patient’s Desert
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The Sahara - quintessence of the desert: one of the world‘s, most adverse, hostile regions was still largely unknown territory at the beginning of the 20th century. Until in 1933 the Austrian adventurer Ladislaus Almásy discovered cave paintings in the middle of the desert. These pre-historic works of art depicted a heavenly world filled with the large African animals , rivers, lakes and bathing people. The desert explorer had come across one of the most intricate puzzles of climatic history. The largest tropical desert of the world must once have been a luxuriant Garden of Eden. Following Almásy’s trail, the many time award-winning Austrian natural history film-maker, Michael Schlamberger searches for traces of this exciting chapter in the natural history of the Sahara.

Director: Michael Schlamberger
Writer: Martin Mészaros, Sophie Cooper
Camera: Michael Schlamberger, Rolando Menardi
Edit: Andrew Naylor
Location Sound: Rita Schlamberger, Raimund Sivetz, Jörg Goldbrunner
Sound Edit: Jörg Goldbrunner, Andreas Fabianek
Dubbing Mixer: Raimund Sivetz, Florian Camerer
Music: Kurt Adametz

A Co-production of ScienceVision, ORF, Docstar, ZDF and Media.

Swimmers in the desert
The Libyan desert, 5th May 1933: after year long explorations, Almásy finally succeeds in reaching the centre of the impassable Gilf Kebir with his expedition. What his guides then show him surpasses all expectations - „red paintings, which the spirits have painted and as no human being could paint them”. A sensational find, which years later continued to bring him world fame as the central character in the novel and film 'The English Patient'. Almasy wrote in 1939 in „The Unknown Sahara“: 'We know that today’s Sahara wasn’t always such a lifeless sea of sand and rock. What sort of a people could it have been which thousands of years ago inhabited a still green Sahara?'A new edition of the work: The Unknown Sahara from 1939: Swimmers in the desert - Searching for the oasis of Zarzura.

Life at the limit
In no other natural habitat have such fascinating, specialised adaptations developed as here: The oryx antelope raise their body temperature in order to save water. The fennek, a small desert fox cools his sensitive body by emitting excess heat over long ears and a pointed snout. Desert monitors are protected by a special sensory organ - a biological thermometer, this acts as an early warnings system against the life-threatening intensity of the sun.

The search for the last desert crocodiles
10 thousand years ago fertile savannahs with large quantities of game were still predominant in the Sahara. Witnesses to these times are animals whose survival depends on water and which are only found today as remnant populations. The most impressive examples of this are the Sahara’s dwarf crocodiles: Cut off from every larger water system they have survived for thousands of years. However their end appears to be nearing. Our expedition into the spectacular Ennedi mountains in Chad supplied the sad proof: Where in 1960, 30 crocodiles were supposed to have lived, we found the last 3 specimens and - for the BBC as well - captured them on film.

Making of
Filming in the desert is arduous in every respect. Our team undertook 4 major expeditions, completed 170 days of shooting and covered 60.000 kilometres in 4-wheel drive vehicles. In order to be able to show the impressive dune landscape from the air we managed to bring a hot air balloon into the remotest corners of the Sahara. We accompanied a Tuareg caravan in the Acacus mountains. For half a year we lived like nomads under the open skies. Sandstorms, lack of water, heat or poisonous snakes couldn’t stop our work. But on several occasions, complications with filming permits, customs formalities and the attacks of warring Tubu nomads almost forced us to discontinue filming.

Fotos: Copyright by Sience Vision