Sunday, March 05, 2017

Atlas Film Studios: In Which we Detour to Tibet and Ancient Egypt

I gasped in surprise and delight as we stepped from the bright desert sunlight of Morocco into the dim interior of the Tibetan monastery used in the film Kundun, about the Dalai Lama and his escape to India. It's a film I've seen several times, and the Tibetan people are dear to my heart after spending time amongst them in Nepal and in Mcleod Gang, India, current home of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government in Exile.

Before our trip I had learned of the presence of Atlas Film Studios in Morocco, and thought that if we were nearby it might be fun to visit. Peregrine has a keen interest in filmmaking, and when we learned that our trip to the desert would take us through Oaurzazette, we asked our guide if we could tour the studio. It was only about ten minutes away from where we stayed the first night, so the next morning we were excited to go check it out. Our tour guide was quite a character and had clearly given the tour a time or two (thousand). He was full of interesting bits of information and had quite a sense of humor. 

The books in the beautiful nooks of the monastery walls weren't books at all, but props made of something like dense foam. It was interesting to knock on "rock" walls, only to find them flimsy and hollow. The set designers are quite amazing! I look forward to watching this film again and spotting some of the places we saw. Our guide told us a cast of 300 Tibetans was on site filming over the course of a couple months. The Atlas mountains, not nearly as high as the Himalaya, served as a decent stand-in! 

The courtyard of the monastery.

Pearlie and me in front of the gate into the monastery courtyard.

Leaving Tibet, we stepped into a village that might be ancient Jerusalem. Movies such as The Passion of the Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, and The Last Temptation of Christ, and Gladiator, and Ben Hur have all been filmed here. 

Raphi exploring the "village".

It was interesting to see behind the scenes, as many of the sets are built to be filmed from only one side. Again, we were so impressed with the sets and how realistic they looked! I want to watch some of the movies filmed here now.

Traveling back in time, we entered ancient Egypt! This was a massive hall full of pillars, the court of some Pharaoh or another. Moses, Jewel of the Nile, Cleopatra, and The Mummy have all been filmed here.

Kids, we're not in Kansas anymore! This one reminded me a little of the Lincoln Memorial!
We had such a fun time strolling through history and learning a little bit about filmmaking in the process. I'm so glad we took the time to visit Atlas Film Studios.