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Terry Jones' Barbarians - documentary DVD / art house DVD / experimental DVD review
TERRY JONES' BARBARIANS Unrated by the Motion Picture Association of America rating: 4 stars
Narrator: Terry Jones
Directors: Rob Coldstream and David McNab   Distributor: Koch Vision
DVD release: 08 January 2008   Runtime: 205 min. (2 discs)
Format: Color, Dolby, DVD-Video, Full Screen, Widescreen, NTSC
DVD Features: Languages (Dolby Digital - English), Four episodes: "The Primitive Celts," "The Brainy Barbarians," "The Savage Goths" and "The End of the World"

A famous British Prime Minister once said, "History is written by the victors." Another famous Briton, Monty Python's Terry Jones, confirms Winston Churchill's conviction in the new 2-DVD set of Barbarians, a four-part BBC series that takes issue with history as we know it.

Terry Jones travels around the geography of the former Roman Empire and talks with scientists, archaeologists and historians. With solid evidence, Jones argues that we have been sold a false history of Rome that has "twisted our entire understanding of our own history." Of course, Jones does this all with the wit and irreverence that only a member of the Monty Python troupe could provide.

Jones disputes that the Celtics, Vandals, Gauls, Germanians, Greeks, and Persians - those "despised and unwashed dregs of humanity" who lived beyond Rome's civilized borders - were barbarians at all. The Romans despised them, yes, but from there the facts seemingly were changed in order to put a better face on the Romans and their activities. Jones presents another side of Roman history that portrays the Romans themselves as the vandals and pillagers.

Additionally, Jones gives evidence that these so-called barbarians, the "poor simple, unwashed illiterates," were actually accomplished scientists, architects, engineers and mathematicians, as well as savvy and wealthy businesspeople with humanitarian ethics and open-minded practices. For example, one Celtic community was found to have compassionate laws that protected the elderly, children, and the mentally and physically ill. The rights and duties of every person were outlined, providing basic decency to all citizens. All this gives evidence of a highly developed civilization. But these facts don't fit into the story told by Caesar.

Additionally, Jones reveals that archeologists have uncovered Iron Age Celtic industrial towns that give evidence of the inhabitants using imported wine and wearing rich exquisite jewelry. Other tribes mined huge gold deposits. It seems the Romans were more interested in obtaining the wealth of these "barbaric" nations rather than protecting themselves from any type of outside invasion. Other evidence shows how the Romans butchered, captured and enslaved the barbaric tribes - even women, children and the elderly.

But the job of the scientists, archaeologists and historians with whom Jones confers isn't easy, because the Romans effaced as well as erased much of the worlds of the barbarians. The Roman wars were not just wars of conquest but wars of destruction and extermination.

Jones' presentation, as well as the videography, is engaging and quite interesting. The beautiful countryside of Europe is showcased throughout this documentary, and unique use of computer graphics shows how ancient cities and fortresses were situated on currently empty hillsides.

Barbarians is an enjoyable 205 minutes of history-altering research and evidence, showing there must have been much more to the barbarian tribes than the Romans ever let on.
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reviewed by Nancy Atkinson
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