Unknown: Cave of Bones (2023)

Unknown: Cave of Bones (2023)

A documentary that skews away from objectivity towards self-indulgence

4.3

Movie

United States of America
English
Documentary
2023
MARK MANNUCCI
Lee Berger
93 min

TLDR

I may not be thoroughly convinced but now I'm in the Google rabbit hole. Touché.

What it's about

A team of paleoanthropologists explore a South African cave to decipher their burial rituals and how it influences humanity today.

The take

Given the nature of the subject (the discovery of a species that predates humans), this installment of the Unknown documentary movies has more fanfare than its predecessors. The narrative never transcends positing that a Homo Naledi is just like Homo Sapiens, but not really. The experts' enthusiasm is often unsettling when you quickly realize that no opposing view is mentioned. In other installments, the balance of arguments for and against discoveries made the narrative compelling. However, Cave of Bones is suspiciously wrapped in (and warped by) the need to have Homo Naledis feel different from humans. What is initially fascinating eventually lends itself to fatigue when discoveries and philosophized theories are repeatedly aggrandized. 

What stands out

Is the discovery inherently less compelling? No. Does it work without Lee Berger's charisma? Probably not, but we'll never know. Through their own admissions, the team notes the similarities between Naledis and other ancient civilizations yet insists on doubling down on their findings being unique. But the choice to centre the entire narrative on Berger's enthusiasm and somewhat ill-fitting animations insisting that a "human type species is not human but tells-us how human we are" is a valiant albeit questionable choice.

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