FINDING ALTAMIRA – Review by Susan Granger

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Focusing on the conflict between religion and science, this story revolves around the 1879 discovery of a cavern in Northern Spain that’s filled with pre-historic paintings of galloping bison. Jurist and amateur archeologist Marcelino Sanz de Sautuola y de la Pedrueca (Antonio Banderas) and his nine year-old daughter Maria (Allegra Allen) enjoy roaming the countryside of Cantabria, observing nature and chronicling their findings. Read on…

One day, Maria accidentally stumbles into a cave, hidden in a nearby hillside, and spies the remarkable etchings of bison and other animals. Not surprisingly, her observations ignite vivid nightmares which concern her devout mother, Conchita (Golshifteh Farahani).

Meanwhile, Marcelino comes to believe that these artifacts are Paleolithic – 35,000 years old – which is in direct opposition to the Biblical teachings of the Catholic Church. His astonishing assertion is repudiated by local skeptics like De Los Rios (Henry Goodman) and the Monsignor (Rupert Everett).

When Marcelino presents his conclusions at the Prehistoric Congress in Lisbon in 1880, he is publicly ridiculed by the eminent French historian Emile Cartailhac (Clement Sibony), who argued that pre-historic man was incapable of such artistic achievement.

Finally, in 1902, several similar paintings were discovered in France, prompting Cartailhac to admit his mistake in an article published in the journal L’Anthropologie.

Unfortunately, disgraced Marcelino died before his vindication/redemption. Maria subsequently married into a prominent Spanish banking family; one of the film’s producers is her relative.

Unimaginatively chronicled by Olivia Hetreed (“Girl With A Pearl Earring”) and Jose Luis Lopez-Linares, this period drama is directed by Hugh Hudson (“Chariots of Fire”), vividly photographed by Jose Luis Alcaine and enhanced by Evelyn Glennie and Mark Knopfler’s guitar compositions.

The poignant ather/daughter bond has the most emotional resonance, while a subplot involving Conchita and a local painter, Ratier (Pierre Niney), seems superfluous.

Coincidentally, geologists in Greenland have recently unearthed evident for ancient life in rocks that are 3.7 billion years old; if confirmed, according to the journal Nature, these fossils would be the oldest on Earth, altering scientific understanding of the origins of life. So, even today, the debate continues….

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Finding Altamira” is a persuasive 6, recalling a Spanish scandal.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.