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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Blood and Oil - The Middle East in World War I DVD
Blood and Oil - The Middle East in World War I DVD
Inecom // Unrated // December 5, 2006
List Price: $24.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Holly E. Ordway | posted January 25, 2007 | E-mail the Author
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The movie

Blood and Oil: The Middle East in World War I is a solid piece of documentary filmmaking. It's a more serious historical study than the rather sensationalistic title and cover art would imply; in fact, both of those are rather misleading, making it seem like the film is focused on the politics of conflict over oil resources. In fact, it's the subtitle that best captures what the program is about: the events of World War I in the region of the Middle East, and their consequences on the political and social stability of the region.

After a brief introduction that ties the 2003 invasion of Iraq by the US into the ongoing history of war in the Middle East, Blood and Oil jumps right into the events of World War I. The 112-minute program goes into great detail on the various military campaigns and battles there during WWI, making connections between those parts of the war that happened in the Middle East to what was happening elsewhere on the continent. If you're looking for a big-picture view, it's easy to get a bit bogged down in all the specifics here, with the detailed explanation of battles and military figures, but military-history enthusiasts will welcome this attention to detail.

I found the most relevant and interesting part to be the last third or so of the program, in which the formation of an Iraqi nation (with all the pitfalls that happened along the way) is explained. This section provides a good insight into how the events of 1919 and onward created or exacerbated underlying issues that have led to the current political and social problems in Iraq. It's nice to see that the perspective here appears quite unbiased, neither excusing the mistakes of Western nations nor blaming everything on them.

The program is supported by the good use of maps, archival footage, and still photographs; we get a good sense of what was going on, where, and what it was like. I did find the voiceover narration to be less than ideal; the narrator is so... careful... to... enunciate... clearly... that the narration becomes a bit draggy. That's a fairly minor quibble, though, since the content of the voiceover is perfectly fine.

The DVD

Video

The program is presented in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1), though I did spot a few instances in which it looks like the archival footage was in 1.33:1 and stretched out rather than cropped properly. The older footage looks as good as can be expected (worn but watchable). It's the modern footage of interviews that actually looks noticeably bad: the interview scenes show heavy pixellation. It's OK overall, but nothing great.

Audio

The Dolby 2.0 soundtrack is clean and clear. No troubles here.

Extras

There's an interesting section of extended interviews with three historians, all of whom are featured in the program itself. (The menu calls them "commentaries," which is odd; they're interviews.) This section totals about 28 minutes. There's also a set of trailers for other documentaries.

Final thoughts

Blood and Oil: The Middle East in World War I is a solid documentary with a fairly specialized focus. I'll give it a "recommended" rating with the caveat that it's likely to appeal much more to viewers who are particularly interested in military history, rather than a general audience.

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