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Artisan Home Entertainment presents
The Real Eve (2002)

"When we look at the pattern of skin pigmentation among indigenous peoples today, we see very dark people in equatorial regions with high UV and significantly lighter people as we get toward the poles. And it turns out that melanin, the natural sunscreen, is phenomenally good at screening out ultraviolet radiation. To some extent, it's too good. And in order for us to be able to make enough Vitamin D in our skin, we have to reduce the amount of melanin that exists in the skin and so what we see, in the course of our species history as we've have moved from an area of high UV to areas of low UV, our skin has become more and more de-pigmented."
- Nina Jablonski, scientist

Review By: Jesse Shanks   
Published: May 08, 2003

Stars: Danny Glover
Director: Andrew Piddington

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (Adult discussion)
Run Time: 01h:27m:59s
Release Date: August 20, 2002
UPC: 012236129608
Genre: documentary

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

It would be hard to think of a topic that would drive hard core right-wing Creationists up a wall more than the idea that all humans on earth are descended from one woman, and a a black woman at that. Surveys have shown that only a small percentage of Americans even believe that the theory of evolution properly explains the history of the development of the human species. Today, decades beyond the Scopes Monkey Trial, there are still attempts to legislate what is taught in schools as fact about the origin of humanity. In the film's arguments, aside from the provocative title that seems to cast the Eve from the Creationism story as the "non-real Eve," The Real Eve doesn't particpate in that discussion. Here the theory of evolution is very much taken as a fact and taken even further with the magic of modern mitochondrial DNA analyses, in which fascinating details about the relationship between people of different races are examined.

The Real Eve is a nicely stylized documentary that is fast-moving and visually interesting. The filmmakers achieve their stated goal of creating a story that is more than a dry lecture. But in their haste to keep us entertained, there is not focus on the science. In its somewhat breathless rush through the centuries of history and in its uncovering of the mysteries of evolution, the film fails to let us know some very important aspects of these theories: this is all very recent in its conception and could very well be wrong. The creativity of anthropologists to construct such a fascinating and idealistic vision of human history cannot be underestimated, but the information that is being used to develop that theory could be incomplete, wrong or misinterpreted.

Personally, I believe in evolution as the closest we can come to describing how we got from what we have found in fossilized evidence to what we are now. The majesty of evolution as an incredibly powerly device to describe the procession through existence and is something that takes science beyond the mere presentation of facts. But, I feel uncomfortable when I see theories, no matter how strongly supported by the available facts, presented in an unquestioned manner. One of the foundations of our philosophy of science is the scientific method born of Logical Positivism early in this century. What cannot be proved is not accepted as fact, no matter how seductive it is. This is the way of thinking that has helped us rise above the spooks and spirits of the Middle Ages and emerge into the modern age.

It's a remarkable story and the premise that these are descriptions that best fit the available facts should not detract from the most potent and attractive of the claims found in The Real Eve. Scientists posit that through DNA evidence we can trace the ancestry of every person on Earth to a single mother. From this mother belonging to an ancient African tribe come the groups that migrated from Africa to other parts of the globe as climate allowed and through adaptation to the dfferent enviroments, our different races came into being. I can see the horror found in meetings of neo-Confederates at this idea!

The technical quality of The Real Eve is top notch. The filmmaking is confident and high quality. The narration by Danny Glover is very compelling. The re-enactmants are excellent in illustrating the concepts and bringing home the actuality of the ramifications of the idea that we are all "related" through a common ancestor. Still, great pains have been taken not to make The Real Eve a manifesto of evolution and for the film to be too didactic would damage its value as entertainment.

I would love to see a companion documentary in which the evidence here is put in the crucible of debate with a proponent of the Creationist theory of human history. As we have political battles over the very essence of what is taught to children as fact in our schools, it is all the more important the ideas be compared and understood as well as possible in the light of their distinct and irreconcilable differences.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.66:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Crisp, quality transfer in the widescreen presentation of The Real Eve on DVD. Colors are vibrant and the visuals support the fast-moving MTV style of the story-telling.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: Solid and clean audio transfer, but certainly the least of the DVD's features. About what would be expected for such a release.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 13 cues and remote access
2 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The first featurette, The Edge of Extinction (3m:01s) tells the special effects story of the recreation of the eruption of the ancient Toba volcano 75,000 years ago. This is event is posited as a crucial event in human history. The second, One Family (3m:01s), tells more of the motivations of the film's creators in making a documentary about the relationship between the races. Producer Paul Ashton states, "The people we are seeing on the screen are not 'those people,' who lived a long time ago and have no relation to us. This is the story of our family and we are all members of it." These are fairly lightweight little nuggets and one might have expected more meaty fair in the extras... such as a time-line or illustrative map that details the migrations. Surprising that this film doesn't have subititles, as well.

Extras Grade: B-


Final Comments

The Real Eve on DVD is a high quality documentary from the Discovery Channel and would be a fine edition to the family science collection. It is a fascinating look at the development of the human race, describing how we are all descended from one African woman and how we left Africa for other spots on the globe.


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