Local film, art and history buffs will have an opportunity to view some of the world's very first and perhaps oldest works of art found deep inside the Chauvet-Pont-d'Arc Cave in the south of France as the Arts & Education Council brings Werner Herzog's "Cave of Forgotten Dreams" to the Majestic Theater for a special screening event June 5.
Herzog's documentary, shot in 3-D, takes viewers on a close-up exploration of some of the world's most ancient visual art created by man perhaps more than 30,000 years ago.
The elaborate cave drawings were discovered in 1994 by a team of explorers who stumbled upon the cave's opening and descended into a series of deep caverns where they found hundreds of paintings, engravings and animal bones.
The humans who inhabited the subterranean spaces during the prehistoric Paleolithic period depicted at least 13 different species in their drawings, including rare illustrations of predatory cave lions, panthers, bears and cave hyenas not typically found in ancient drawings on cavern walls.
Check out an interactive map with images from inside the elaborate cave system here.
According to a New York Times 2011 review of the film, the exact age of the art is a matter of dispute amongst archaeological professionals. Christian Züchner, a German archaeologist who argues that the drawings may be actually much younger than the proclaimed 30,000 years, is still impressed with their beauty.
"Even if Chauvet Cave is not as old as assumed, it remains one of the outstanding highlights of cave art,” Züchner told the Times.
Herzog's interest in the caves came after reading an article published by The New Yorker by Judith Thurman in 2008 titled "First Impressions: What Does the World's Oldest Art Say About Us?"
After pitching and finalizing the idea with France's Ministry of Culture, the filmmaker was given unusual access to the caves, which were secured and sealed off to the public by the government entity soon after their discovery.
The film crew of four, including Herzog, were only allowed to shoot inside the ancient dwelling for four hours a day over a six-day period, according to the Los Angeles Times. The 3-D cameras used were custom built and often assembled inside the cave during the production.
"Once his four-person crew was inside the cave, they couldn't leave a narrow, 2-foot wide walkway installed to preserve the damp floor of the cave. Herzog had to use lighting that didn't emit any heat," the LA Times reported.
Film event is part of new approach to indy screenings in Chattanooga
The Chattanooga screening of "Cave of Forgotten Dreams" is part of AEC's new partnership with Tugg, a Web platform that helps communities host film screenings of movies they might not normally get a chance to see. With the third film now presented in Chattanooga via Tugg, AEC program director Laurel Eldridge said the new platform is replacing the organization's Independent Film Series, which had become difficult to program.
"We've struggled with our independent series for the past couple of years to book 12 movies in advance. We wanted things more in our control," Eldridge said.
Instead, the group will now present special events and one-night screenings, such as "Cave of Forgotten Dreams" next month, with limited seating sold through advanced online ticket purchases.
“We facilitate screenings for individuals and organizations, so that films that are neglected from wide distribution can get an opportunity to connect with a theater-going audience. This seems to fit with [AEC’s] mission, which is why we feel that the Arts & Education Council and Tugg could work together to create a vibrant film community in Chattanooga,” Tugg's Brian Parsons said in a press release.
Eldridge said that with the new platform the community has an opportunity to contribute to the success of each event by purchasing tickets in advance. Each film booked through Tugg requires a minimum attendance, so there is a break-even split between the theater and Tugg. AEC receives a portion of the proceeds after the minimum is reached, Eldridge said. The event is only confirmed once the minimum is reached.
"If the community doesn't support it, it doesn't happen," she said.
Herzog's film, however, is definitely showing.
"The AEC reached the 75-person minimum for this event in just one week, providing a perfect example of the level of support for independent films in Chattanooga," AEC Executive Director Susan Robinson said in a prepared statement.