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Ghost Canyon

'Secrets of Egypt's Lost Queen'
(DVD / NR / 2008 / IMAGE Ent.)

Overview: Deep beneath the sands of Egypt's fabled Valley of the Kings lay the anonymous remains of one of ancient history's greatest - and least known - rulers, Queen Hatshepsut. More powerful than Cleopatra or Nefertiti, Queen Hatshepsut not only died mysteriously, but every sign of her existence was systematically erased. Now for the first time ever, top archaeologists use cutting-edge forensic techniques to unravel the mystery of Hatshepsut's life and death, unearthing her fascinating story that has remained buried for 3,000 years.

DVD Verdict: Most documentaries are 50 minutes or 75. This was much longer than that. Discovery Channel paid for some of the research here and maybe the length is their way of congratulating themselves. This dragged terribly to me.

I knew someone who visited the main museum in Egypt and she said the museum is set up in a way that does not take the visitor into account at all. She said there were all kinds of famous artifacts that were placed in a sloppy manner. In this documentary, it always takes museum staff hours or days to find items. I live in Chicago and I am quite sure that the Art Institute or the Field Museum can tell you where each and every item is shown or stored.

I went to a university that provided an undergraduate major in Egyptology. One of the requirements was that students study either French or German because so much research on Ancient Egypt is published in those languages. I was not surprised to see Egyptian or French experts working in this documentary. However, they showed Spanish, Polish, and American experts doing the same. Perhaps, decades after Egypt's independence, other countries are still encouraged to do research there about the past.

I loved seeing Dr. Zahi Hawass, with his deep chin dimple, again. He has trilled R's and dramatic gestures. With his gray-white hair, light brown complexion, and grandfatherly persona, he may remind many of the late musician Tito Puente, Sr. This work had interviewees of both genders and many ethnic backgrounds.

Still, the documentary drags the viewer along without being concise. They rule out one mummy after describing her at length when she is obviously not the queen. They finally make a decision which should have been obvious to them at the start of the documentary. The experts probably made this test from the start, but the documentary makers, again, wanted to keep viewers in their seats longer.

I'm pretty sure that Leslie Feinberg has written of Hapshutsep and many other "female kings" in her political work on transgender people. I wish this work would have said much more about a "female king." Did her subjects call her "he" or "she"? Did they resent having a woman in power? Why couldn't a "queen" be a ruler, rather than a "female king"? Was her name and statues destroyed due to sexism? Yes, the Ancient Egyptians probably did not have a concept called feminism, but these are still logical questions to ask which the documentary ignores. This documentary takes too long on forensics and architecture, and barely raises important concerns from gender studies. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs, but does not come with any Special Features.