Recensie Unknown: The Lost Pyramid [Netflix]

Director: Max Solomon| Time to play: 83 minutes | Year: 2023

It’s a bit ironic. Zahi Hawass says that he used to hate archeology because all the archaeologists were foreigners abusing Egypt. Now it’s up to him to make the country proud as an Egyptian and find the long-lost pyramid of Huni. The fact that he does not have to tell all this in his native language but in English, for a Netflix production, does detract from it. Under the direction of Max Salomon, this results in a sparkling visual spectacle. It is both the strength and the weakness of this documentary.

Strength, because it is unprecedented how well the archaeological work of Zahi Hawass and his counterpart Mostafa Waziri is portrayed. The camera has a better place than anyone in the excavation. Even in the dark underground spaces, the lighting is ridiculously good. The camera flies high or descends on a rope to plunge into the depths. Unlike many other documentaries, almost no footage is dedicated to the people speaking to the camera. His text is about cinematic shots of teacups being left behind or a busy workshop where the activity almost seems choreographed.

At some point that raises questions. How authentic is this documentary really? It’s all a bit too slippery at times. The conversations and narrations don’t feel like rough rocks, but rather meticulously honed final versions of the previous ten takes. The camera is always in exactly the right place and people always know what to say. The process is constantly compared to Indiana Jones by various people involved, again somewhat atonal with the whole Egyptian chauvinistic theme. And with dramatic music, measured sentences and acrobatic camerawork, the documentary tries to adopt the same leather jacket – and hat.

As a result, the documentary deals more with vague notions of mystery and adventure than archaeology. Pieces pass where the preservation process is discussed, but Zahi Hawass is central, an ego trigger, for example, while he gazes in surprise at a cave in the rock. When Mostafa Waziri finally makes a major find – a thirty-foot-long papyrus scroll containing new chapters from the Book of the Dead – the implications are great. But once the treasure is unearthed, the documentary has lost all interest in Egyptian culture and the civilization in which it is rooted.

Images of the Egyptian desert have probably never been more beautiful, and the intimately filmed look at unique excavations is a great selling point for Unknown: The Lost Pyramid. However, the high dramatic content and superficiality also suggest a certain cynicism. Is it really about Egypt and gaining new knowledge, or is it about recreating Indiana Jones for the umpteenth time?

Unknown: The Lost Pyramid can be seen in Netflix.

Varsha Rai

Hi, Varsha here. I am a very passionate writer with a knack for the art of words and I hope to share my stories and information in a way that is meaningful and inspiring. At, I write mostly on latest and upcoming movies, movie reviews and everything related to movies. Catch up with me on - [email protected]
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