There’s a Sphinx in Santa Barbara Thanks to Cecil B. DeMille, Wander Into THE LOST CITY Sept. 23

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

When THE LOST CITY OF CECIL B. DEMILLE screens at The Egyptian Theatre Sept. 23, and the documentary’s full 30 years of footage finally gets a proper showing, it will be in the mythical city of its origin, Hollywood. Scroll back in time to 1923, the Great Director DeMille stands in blowing sand, turning back the hands of time to a Biblical Age when “The Ten Commandments” made for cinematic chaff. Pardon the “outdoor voice” on that florid description, but there’s something really wild about this film, not just an actual lost city of a film set near Santa Barbara.

Paul Iribe in specs, stands beside Cecil B. DeMille, 1923. (CecilBDemille.com)

Paul Iribe in specs, stands beside Cecil B. DeMille, 1923. (CecilBDemille.com)

It’s the cinephiles who made this thing, and kept pushing this celluloid ball up a hill for eons to find a distributor, in some kind of super-human film-worthy feat. In fact, remarkably, their efforts will pay off on Oct. 3 when Amazon, iTunes, and other platforms will finally stream this thing for the widest possible audience worldwide. So let’s go on this adventure with them, back in time to the 80’s. It all began in 1982, apparently.

Which leads to our clunky tagline: “In 1982 Peter Brosnan heard a story about an ancient Egyptian city buried in the California desert. For thirty years he’s been fighting to dig it up.” Peter Brosnan is no relation to the lesser-known James Bond and world famous actor, Pierce Brosnan, but Pierce should really play this guy in a biopic.There is every element of human suffering and tragedy, enduring pain, and triumph not over the Red Sea, but over the red tape of petty bureaucrats, permits, and politics in this windswept saga.

Archeologist Kholood Abdo Hintzman discusses excavation with Filmmaker Peter Brosnan. Photo by Jack McIlroy

Archeologist Kholood Abdo Hintzman discusses excavation with Filmmaker Peter Brosnan. Photo by Jack McIlroy

Here’s the approximate storyline, as the film’s notes tell it. “Have you seen “The Ten Commandments” with Charlton Heston?  Did you know that in 1923 DeMille made a silent version of “The Ten Commandments?”  He shot the film in Santa Barbara County, California, about 150 miles north of Hollywood, and built a huge City of the Pharaoh set.”

The Actual DeMille Set, Faux Pharaoh's Kingdom.

The Actual DeMille Set, Faux Pharaoh’s Kingdom.

“Designed by Paul Iribe, the “father of Art Deco,” it was the largest set in motion picture history.  When filming wrapped, the city mysteriously vanished.”

If you watch clips of the original 20’s picture, you can see the vanished Sphinx after the voluminous opening credits and title cards. This is a Hollywood version of the Bible after all, so it’s framed with fancy lettering and moralizing, but when the oddly Western-looking, white-faced man-made monument appears, you know it’s show time.

In the Beginning There Was Cecil B. DeMille’s Picture

 

 

Years ago, the media hopped on this fake Egyptian relic bandwagon from time to time. In 1991, “PEOPLE” magazine published an April Fool’s dated true story on this adventure entitled “Cecil B. DeMille’s Ten Commandments Set Lay Buried for 68 Years, But Filmmaker Says He Can Dig It.” By 2015, The Guardian UK backdates the story to 30-year old Peter in 1982 taking on his mission to unearth 300 tons of statuary, including 21 chariots delivered by train, plus Ramses look-alike’s  to be liberated from a sandy grave. Each print outlet describes “the unmoving dunes” as a major tip-off to the fact that they were essentially Hollywood landfills, artificial berms, that is.

Iribe Made Many a Sphinx.

Last year, Brosnan spelled it out for the “Santa Barbara Independent” newspaper as such: “It began as archaeology. When Bruce Cardozo, Richard Eberhardt, and I “discovered” the set in 1983, we realized that the tools and disciplines of archaeology would be vital to saving not just buried statues, but a record of the lives of the people who worked on the set. One of our first moves was to contact the archaeologists, including Dr. Brian Fagan (UCSB), Dr. Paul Chace (California Society of Archaeology), Dr. Ray Brandis (University of San Diego). and Dr. Robert Hoover (Cal Poly SLO), who were all early supporters of our efforts.”

Every major broadcaster through the years aired the story too. But not all gave credit where credit is due. Consider Brian Williams of NBC, here he is talking about the dig site without mentioning THE LOST CITY OF CECIL B. DEMILLE once.

Brian Williams of NBC News Aired a Segment on Dig, Doesn’t Mention the Doc, Ouch…

 

 

What could be so riveting about old plaster of Paris parts of a faux faced winged monster of Thebes with the lion’s maned human female head on a lioness’ body? Actually in the Egyptian tradition, this same creature has a male head, on a lion-esque body, and no wings. These details are less fascinating than the creator of the 1920’s movie prop visionary, who was none other than Paul Iribe, a remarkable French illustrator whom Jesse Lasky singled out to DeMille.

According to DeMille’s official website, which published a recollection of the relationship, “Jesse Lasky recommended the French fashion illustrator Iribe to DeMille.”

“Iribe began as art director on Male and Female (1919). On The Ten Commandments (1923) he designed all settings except the Israelite camp at the foot of Mount Sinai, which was done by Francis McComas. Iribe left DeMille’s staff after designing a portion of The King of Kings (1927).”

The Art Deco feel of these pieces is authentic, in other words. Much like once-tossed cells from vintage animation, the historic cinematic value of these Iribe production designed statues also comes with an intrinsic worth at having been turned out by his own hand. Paul Iribe (1883-1935) is often called “the unsung hero of Art Deco.”

In fact, as far as jewelry design, this multi-talented artist born Paul Iribarneygaray from Angoulême, France, was so influential in jewel-making he stands alone as the creator with CoCo Chanel of her “signature” shooting-stars stylized diamond neck cuff. (See his fantastic designs and learn more about that on Jewels du Jour.)

Younger Peter Brosnan

Peter Brosnan 1980’s

But back to our movie, the documentary with a provenance as impressive as a fine artwork. It’s not so much the man-hours it took to bring this documentary to the screen, but also the perseverance with which the core crew soldiered on through the years.

They employed Archeologists and Geologists, some of whom quit and refused to talk about it ever again due to the frustrating nature of the project.

Archeologist Colleen Hamilton was a project director and seems to have survived to the final credits. Peter Brosnan is shown at various ages dealing with a revolving door of experts in this film.

Editor George Artope, Director Peter Brosnan,and Producer Daniel J. Coplan sift through 30 years of footage. Photo by Kelvin Jones.E

ditor George Artope, Director Peter Brosnan now, and Producer Daniel J. Coplan sift through 30 years of footage. Photo by Kelvin Jones.

The weathering on all cast and crew really shows how the sands of time do erase all traces of hype from Hollywood. But then again, some things seem to last forever in the retelling, the remakes, the 1923 Ten Commandments, the 1956 Charlton Heston – Yul Brynner version, both directed by DeMille, and now this Finding Of documentary that retraces the hidden folly of a film landfill from decades ago.

Slowly the painstaking discoveries they made on the Guadalupe-Nipomo dunes some 150 miles from Hollywood in Santa Barbara County make this doc worthy of a feature film, as mentioned. When The Nature Conservancy puts the ecological brakes on their dream, somehow they carry on like the march of time, unearthing what unnatural architecture lies beneath the wind-shorn facade.

Even the great Leonard Maltin was impressed, upon seeing it in a festival screening. He lent his name to this quote: “I’ve watched the doc and I’m very glad I did. What an extraordinary story. I thought I knew all there was to know about Peter Brosnan’s discovery of the Ten Commandments set in the California desert, but I was wrong. While documenting his obsessive, thirty-year odyssey he also traces Cecil B. DeMille’s fascinating saga. The result is a rare combination of film and cultural history. — Leonard Maltin.”

A Film Is Born: THE LOST CITY OF CECIL B. DEMILLE, Watch

 

 

So watch what happens in the Man vs. Nature Hollywood story that is THE LOST CITY OF CECIL B. DEMILLE. There will be a Q&A nd conversation with Peter Brosnan and his last archaeologist Colleen Hamilton after the screening on Sept. 23, at 2 pm, at the American Cinematheque’s Egyptian Theatre, 6712 Hollywood Blvd., visit here for details. Also note the doc will stream Oct. 3 on Amazon and other services, check their site for updates.

# # #

VIDEO: “HAUNTERS: The Art of the Scare” trailer gives behind-the-scenes look at extreme haunts

Every year around Halloween we subject ourselves to to facing our worst nightmares as we venture through haunts that are meant to scare us into having fun. “HAUNTERS: The Art of the Scare” is a documentary that offers a behind-the-scenes look at these attractions, but also delves into the darker side  of the haunt season. […]

The post VIDEO: “HAUNTERS: The Art of the Scare” trailer gives behind-the-scenes look at extreme haunts appeared first on Inside the Magic.

“The Exorcist” Director talks about his experience with a ‘real’ exorcism for his new documentary

When it was released in 1973, “The Exorcist” was widely believed to be the scariest movie of all time and for many, it still holds that title today. At the time of filming, director William Friedkin had never experienced a ‘real’ exorcism. Now he has. While shooting his new documentary “The Devil and Father Amorth,” […]

The post “The Exorcist” Director talks about his experience with a ‘real’ exorcism for his new documentary appeared first on Inside the Magic.

VIDEO – “Psycho” documentary “78/52” provides fascinatingly detailed analysis of horror’s most famous movie scene

Ask a horror movie fan to list some of the most famous individual sequences in the history of the genre– chances are that list will include the shower scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho.” The iconic scene, during which an unsuspecting Marion Crane is stabbed to death in the shower stall of her room at the infamous […]

The post VIDEO – “Psycho” documentary “78/52” provides fascinatingly detailed analysis of horror’s most famous movie scene appeared first on Inside the Magic.

Film Review: The Pulitzer at 100

By Maria Esteves – July 21, 2017

THE PULITZER AT 100, is a powerful must see documentary for the 21st Century journalists, based on the history of American journalism and the life of legendary Hungarian Jewish immigrant Joseph Pulitzer (1847 – 1911) founder of urban Yellow Journalism, the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University, New York, and the amazing Pulitzer Prizes honoring excellence in American Journalism and the Arts. It captures investigative journalism with superb archival footage from the Pulitzer Collection, New York Times, Associated Press, and many others along with extraordinary interviews with authors, editors, musicians, novelists, playwrights, photographers, poets, and reporters. Featured Pulitzer Prize honorees includes:

Junot Diaz, author, winner, Pulitzer Prize for fiction, 2008 “The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao”

Michael Chabon, novelist, winner, Pulitzer Prize for fiction, 2001 “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay”

Nicholas Kristof, columnist, New York Times, winner, Pulitzer Prize 1990 & 2006 from AIDS in Africa to June 4, 1989 Tiananmen Square student protests Beijing, China

Nick Ut, winner, Pulitzer Prize for Photography, 1973 ” June 8, 1972 Trang Bang, Vietnam”

Paula Vogel, playwright, winner, Pulitzer Prize for Drama, 1998 “How I Learned to Drive”

Thomas L. Friedman, columnist, The New York Times, winner, Pulitzer Prize, 1983, 1988, 2002 “June 8, 1982 Hostilities Widen”

Toni Morrison, novelist, winner, Pulitzer Prize for fiction, 1988 “Beloved”

Tracy K. Smith, poet, winner Pulitzer Prize for poetry, 2012 “Cathedral Kitsch” and “The Good Life From Life on Mars”

Tony Kushner, playwright, winner, Pulitzer Prize for drama, 1993 “Angels in America”

Wynton Marsalis, managing and artistic director, Jazz at Lincoln Center, winner, Pulitzer Prize for Music, 1997

Celebrities Martin Scorsese and Natalie Portman are among the list of narrators who profoundly impacts this documentary.

“What a newspaper needs in its news, in its headlines, and on its editorial page is terseness, humor, descriptive power, satire, originality, good literary style, clever condensation, and accuracy, accuracy, accuracy!” – Joseph Pulitzer

THE PULITZER AT 100, directed by Kirk Simon | Marblemen Productions | U.S.A. | 2017 | 91 min | New York Premiere, July 21, 2017.

Feature-length Steven Spielberg biographical documentary coming to HBO this fall

Movie fans from Generations X and Y (and anywhere in-between) often cite one filmmaker as providing them with more lasting cinematic memories than any other: Steven Spielberg. The director behind legendary, iconic blockbusters like “Jaws,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (and its sequels), “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial,” and “Jurassic Park” […]

The post Feature-length Steven Spielberg biographical documentary coming to HBO this fall appeared first on Inside the Magic.

Haunted Mansion fan documentary “Foolish Mortals” set to premiere in Anaheim during D23 Expo this weekend

On two occasions over the past couple years, we at Inside the Magic have interviewed Southern California filmmaker James H. Carter II about his then in-production feature documentary about the fan culture surrounding Disneyland’s world-famous Haunted Mansion attraction. Entitled “Foolish Mortals,” the movie has now been completed and is set to make its world premiere […]

The post Haunted Mansion fan documentary “Foolish Mortals” set to premiere in Anaheim during D23 Expo this weekend appeared first on Inside the Magic.

Touch of an Angel – Winner Spring, 2017

Touch of an Angel - Winner Spring, 2017

Metamora Films Festival is proud to award Touch of an Angel (Directed by Marek Pawlowski) best documentary film for the spring, 2017 season.  Congratulations!

Director’s Comments:  The film presents completely unknown facts about the existence of a failed Bureau of Emigration of Jews to Palestine in Auschwitz town, run by Schoenker’s father. “Touch of an Angel”, took five years to produce. I searched all over the world for documents to prove the truth of this story. It’s a very personal, poetic tale of a deaf man who returns to the places where he found refuge as a boy. He finds his hiding places bringing back horrific memories. Sounds return to him, which as he describes “shut in him like in a shell”.

SUBMIT YOUR FILM TODAY (low fees!)

VIDEO: Disney’s Animal Kingdom to feature in Animal Planet documentary-style special

Disney’s Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World has been getting quite a bit of attention lately. The addition of Pandora – The World of Avatar last month has led to massive crowds of people flocking to the park. Now, Animal Planet is going to help keep the spotlight on the theme park with a show […]

The post VIDEO: Disney’s Animal Kingdom to feature in Animal Planet documentary-style special appeared first on Inside the Magic.