First Footprints
R0 - Australia - Umbrella Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (24th June 2017).
The Film

"First Footprints" 4-Part Documentary Series (2013)

Australia is home to the oldest living cultures in the world. Over fifty thousand years ago, when Neanderthals still dominated Europe and thousands of years before people reached America, people were spreading across this vast southern continent. As the first modern people out of Africa, Aboriginal people made the first open-ocean crossing in history, conducted the world’s earliest ritual cremation, invented technologies such as the hafted stone axe and boomerang, etched the earliest depiction of the human face, engraved the world’s first maps and made the earliest narrative paintings - all pre‑dating the Cro-Magnon of Lascaux, France. Across Australia there are millions of prehistoric paintings, engravings and archaeological sites. The continent is one giant canvas telling an epic story of endurance in the face of terrifying megafauna, catastrophic droughts, rising sea levels, and massive climate shifts that cause both conflict and phenomenal cultural output over tens of thousands of years. "First Footprints" shows for the first time new archaeological discoveries, stunning rock art, a wealth of never-before-seen archival footage, and cinema-quality CGI that reveals the epic story of 50,000 years of life in Australia.

Written, directed, and produced by Martin Butler and Bentley Dean, the duo that also made the documentary film "Contact" (2010) and the Academy Award nominated feature "Tanna" (2015), "First Footprints" is a four part series that features beautiful images of the natural beauty of Australia, timelapse photography, vintage footage, CGI recreations, interviews with archaeologists on sites, historians at museums, and Aborigines telling their age old myths. The episodes are divided as follows:

Episodes (with Play All) (113:33)
- "Super Nomads" (56:48)
- "The Great Drought" (56:45)

Episodes (with Play All) (115:15)
- "The Great Flood" (57:25)
- "The Biggest Estate" (57:50)

Each episode takes the viewers back to a certain time period - "Super Nomads" covers 50,000 to 30,000 years ago, "The Great Drought" covers 30,000 to 15,000 years ago, "The Great Flood" covers 18,000 to 5,000 years ago, and "The Biggest Estate" is from 9,000 years ago to the present day. From the remains of the 42,000 year old remains of "Mungo Man", the cave paintings showcasing extinct animals, how people survived through the extreme ice age and global warming, how agriculture was shaped, and much more. Fascinating information all around, and the biggest concern might be its relatively short length of cramming 50,000 years of history into a four hour TV series. There is much more to learn about an entire continent far separated from all other parts of the world and having a relatively short history of Western influence. Regardless of the relatively short length "First Footprints" is an amazing look at richness of the southern continent's past.

Note this is a region ALL DVD set in the PAL format which can be played back on any DVD or Blu-ray player worldwide with PAL capability


Umbrella Entertainment presents the series in theaspect ratio of 1.75:1, anamorphically enhanced, in the PAL format. There are slim black borders on the left and right sides of the frame. The series is made up of newly shot HD footage, vintage footage, and CGI shots, and obviously the HD footage and CGI shots look crisp while the vintage film looks dirty and damaged with a lack of clarity. Shots of the cave drawings and nature look absolutely wonderful and vibrant with deep blacks for night shots and bright whites for the sunny scenes. Screenshots are as follows:


English/Aboriginal Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo
The original audio track is offered in stereo. Narration by Ernie Dingo sounds very clear as is the interview segments with the various people. Music and effects use the left and right separations though none are too obtrusive, sounding natural. It is not a heavy track by any means but does the job well.

There are burned-in English subtitles for the Aboriginal language portions in a yellow font. There are no subtitles to caption the English language portions.


The sole extra is offered on the second disc:

"Time Lapse Compilation (10:56)"
Various shots of natural landscapes in time lapse photography are offered in a montage with music from the series as background.
in anamorphic 1.75:1, Dolby Digital 2.0

Embedded below is an excerpt from the series, courtesy of Umbrella Entertainment.


"First Footprints" is a fascinating multipart history documentary that is both educational and entertaining, though the short length to cover the vast history of the Australian continent is not nearly enough time. Excellent video presentation and good audio, but one wishes more for the extras department. Still comes as recommended.

The Film: B+ Video: A Audio: A- Extras: D Overall: B


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