SBS/Roadshow Entertainment .
R4 . COLOR . 165 mins .
E . PAL
If you have checked this review to read some rant about Muslim extremists and how they threaten to end life as we know it then you are going to be disappointed. Sure, there are Muslim extremists out there and they are a pretty devoted and dangerous lot by and large, but if you think they have a monopoly on religious fervour, blackmail, fear, terror and destruction, then you are largely mistaken. There is probably not a religion around today (and all our yesterdays for that matter) that at some time wasn’t in the world spotlight for all the wrong reasons.
Everyone pitched in to help Ali find his contact lens.
If there is one thing this DVD release is likely to do, it is to educate most of us who do not really know much about Islam today and present a history that is cultured, clever and innovative. Narrated by actor Ben Kingsley, the three 55-minute episodes will shatter many long-held beliefs, throw light on many of the achievements of the Arab world, and quite possibly remove some fears and misgivings about the faith of the average Muslim.
As a religion, Islam is not the world’s oldest, but it is certainly one of the strongest and largest. From humble beginnings Islam has become the world’s second most practiced religion and is based on the teachings and ideals of God as told to the last prophet, Mohammed. Islamic culture grew by taking the best of previous Empires and civilisations and developing and enhancing existing practices. In areas such as architecture, language, medicine, writing, paper-making, textiles, science, politics and social structures, Islam has borrowed the best from the Greeks, the Romans and the Egyptians amongst others to create a social structure based on the worshipping of one god, God (Allah).
What all the best dressed camel drivers are wearing this year.
Those of you who love the feudal aspect of Empires are catered for by way of the Crusades, the Mongols and the Ottomans, who at various times through history attempted to put an end to the "savages", only to fail. Likewise, the failed Muslim push into Europe is discussed, and the slow but successful spread of Islam into North Africa and most of the Arab world.
If there is one thing that can be guaranteed from watching Islam: Empire of Faith, it is that you will gain a good insight into what the Islamic faith is and what it is not. So forget the “Be Alert – Be Alarmed” campaign (or whatever the fridge magnet assault suggested) and try “Be Informed”. To simply dismiss Islam as some violent faith full of fanatics and terrorists is too easy and borders on ignorance.
"I don't know, Achmed. Why are camels called the 'ships of the desert'?"
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 as are most (if not all) of the Empires series, there are no serious issues worth drawing attention to. The aspect ratio boasts 16:9 enhancement and looks solid with good levels of sharpness and decent clarity. Colours are accurate throughout with no problems related to noise or bleeding. Shadow detail is likewise good, and black levels are solid and deep. There are no serious artefacts or marks, mild occasional grain, and little in the way if shimmer and aliasing.
The layer change is situated between chapters in Episode Two, but is placed as well as can be expected.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track may not have the impact that a 5.1 mix may have delivered, but it is solid and impressive nonetheless. Bass levels are rich and mostly noticeable in the heavily percussive pieces from the accompanying soundtrack. There is a good fidelity, and Kingsley’s golden tonsils give the narration a classy sound. There are no issues with clarity, volume or synchronisation.
If you wish to class the ten or so trailers for other DVDs in the Empires series, then yes, there are some extra provided, imaginatively titled The Empire Series.
Not being one that has much time for the religions of the world, it came as something of a pleasant surprise when this DVD turned out to be interesting and informative. If you can push any existing biases to the side for 165 minutes, then there is a lot to be gained from watching Islam: Empire of Faith.