WRITTEN AND PRESENTED BY MICHAEL WOOD
DIRECTED BY JEREMY JEFF
MAYA VISIONS INTERNATIONAL, 2009
360 MINUTES ON 2 DISCS, DVD
Reviewed by Marc Jason Gilbert
For almost two decades, celebrity anthropologist Michael Wood has developed lavishly produced video documentaries exploring the world’s civilizations. In each, the slender, ebullient Wood, rarely off center screen, climbs ruins, rides trains, and sails the seas while attempting to provide sweeping, thematically comprehensive overviews based on reasonably up-to-date scholarship. These video essays are presented with an unjustified “you heard it here first” breathlessness that knowledgeable viewers find grating, but novices cannot help but find engaging. These works usually are accompanied by a “companion” print publication.
Wood visited the subcontinent of India in a segment of his five part series Legacy: The Origins of Civilization (originally broadcast in 1992). However, The Story of India (a six-part series first shown by the British Broadcasting System in 2007 and by the Public Broadcasting System in 2009) is a far superior work. Its length (six hours as opposed to one) allows more meaningful discussion, while offering a little less Wood in the frame. The Story of India’s DVD companion print publication, not under review here, was published under the same title by BBC Books in 2007.