Documentary makers race to raise cash for Oscars nomination
An archaeologist who has spent the last 30 years looking for the undiscovered tomb of an 11th century BC Egyptian ruler is facing a new challenge as he attempts to bring his documentary about the search to the attention of the Oscars.
The documentary "What if nothing?", describes Warsaw University archaeology professor Andrzej Niwiński’s life-long search in the Valley of King’s for the hidden tomb of Herhor, a High Priest of Amun.
Awarded best short documentary at the 36th Warsaw Film Festival in October last year, the film was put forward by its producers as the Polish nomination in the short documentary category for the 2021 Oscars.
The film is currently on the Oscars long list, but between 1 and 5 February 2021, the members of the academy will cast their votes for the films that will be included in the shortlist of around 10 films.
From these films, only a few will then go on to the final nominations for the 2021 Oscars.
In a crowdfunding appeal, the producers said: “The road to the Oscars requires hiring a professional PR agency and covering the costs of promoting the film in the U.S. in order to reach specific members of the American Film Academy, who can vote for it after seeing the film.
“With the funds raised we will be able to reach more people, organise an online screening of the film for members of the film industry in the US, and pay an agent.”
They say they already have part of the costs but they need to raise a further PLN 20,000 to stand a chance of getting the film on the shortlist.
Beginning his research in the 1970’s Professor Niwiński says he won’t give up until he has discovered the tomb.
Herhor appeared in the Egyptian province of Thebes during the civil war around 1080 BC. Pharaoh Ramesses XI sent him as a general to fight rebels who had stripped Theban temples of their gold ornaments and plundered all the royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings.
When he was successful, he assumed a royal title and became the ruler of southern Egypt.
One of the first decisions of any new ruler is to choose the site of his future burial. However, Herhor died just six years into his reign.
When Herhor died, there was one empty royal tomb, which originally belonged to Amenhotep I and later Totmes I. This had been previously stripped by tomb raiders, making it free for Herhor.
Niwiński believes the empty tomb was put to use as the burial site of Herhor.
Using an ancient 3,000-year-old papyrus, he located the tomb to the area above the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut in Deir el-Bahari on the west bank of the Nile near the Valley of the Kings.
Over the years with his team, he has made many incisions into the sheer cliffs above Hatshepsut’s temple using his lifetime of learning to make educated guesses about where the entrance to the tomb may be hidden.
In March 2020, Niwiński’s team uncovered a stone chest from 3,500 years ago in the rubble above the Temple of Hatshepsut, indicating that that Herhor’s tomb, untouched for thousands of years, could be nearby.
However, all other attempts to find the tomb have been unsuccessful.
The film’s director, Łódź Film School graduate Monika Krupa, remains undaunted. She believes that the strength of the film’s story lies in the universal appeal of the protagonist – his combination of charisma, diligence, modesty, determination in pursuing his goal and above all his genuine passion.
She said: “I wanted archaeology in the film to be the background for the story of a man whose life is not so much about the goal as about the possibility of achieving it. Whatever the outcome, the most important thing is the battle.”
Details of the film’s crowdfunding campaign can be found at https://zrzutka.pl/mrcvj9