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PLEASE NOTE: Michael D's is currently in READ ONLY MODE. Anything submitted will simply not be written to the database.
Lots of stuff is still broken, but at least reviews can now be looked up and read.
East to West (2011)

East to West (2011)

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Released 3-Apr-2013

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Main Menu Audio
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 2011
Running Time 394:46 (Case: 385)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Melisa Akdogan
John Fothergill
Nick Gillam-Smith
Jack Macinnes
Lion Television
Madman Entertainment
Starring Khalid Abdalla
Bettany Hughes
Case Amaray-Opaque-Dual-Secure Clip
RPI ? Music None Given

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     East to West is an epic journey of discovery which chronicles the birth and flourishing of civilization in the near and Middle East, and its huge impact on the West. Alongside its Western influences the ancient lands of the East contributed to the foundation of science, justice, monotheism, commerce, civil rights and artistic expression. The unifying power of Islam created an extraordinary region where formerly diffident tribes came together under one banner that became a political, economic, and cultural centre of the world, and a bridge between the continents of Asia, Africa and Europe.

     Disc 1:

     Between Two Rivers (56:45)

     In common with most of human history the beginnings of Eastern civilisations rose from the fertile banks of rivers and estuaries. From Anatolia to the Middle East, hunter-gatherers began to settle and formed structures around 12,000 years ago. In Mesopotamia between two great Middle Eastern rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates, we see the rise of agriculture, governance, science, astronomy and writing. We visit ancient Babylon (Iraq) and Mari (on the Euphrates in current day Syria) to explore the world’s earliest cities where cuneiform scripts replaced hieroglyphics as a form of writing. It was only in the nineteenth century that the rediscovery of cuneiform tablets enabled scholars to decipher these ancient texts. Greek (Western) infusion into Asia Minor brought about an amalgam of Western and Eastern culture, and Alexander the Great’s arrival in Troy and conquest of the Persian Empire made the mixture more pronounced. Alexander himself was criticised for appearing to become enthralled with Eastern culture and eschewing the plain living of a Macedonian warrior. Apparently his dying wish was for East and West to unite, and live as one.

     The Triumph of Monotheism (56:07)

     In this episode we see the birth of religion and the concept of monotheism - the belief in one universal God rather than a pantheon of deities. In the ancient cities of Catal Hoyuk and Sha’ar HaGolan we see the idea of rebirth after death, and the concept of a uniform idea of God emerging from the crucible of religious ideas. We look at the earliest form of monotheism, as conceived by Egyptian Pharaoh Amenhotep, who changed his name to Akhenaten in honour of only one god – Aten, the sun god. After his death Egypt returned to polytheism and its traditional gods during the short reign of Akhenaten’s son, Tutankhamen. We trace the birth, development and explosion of the religion of Abraham and Moses - from the worship of Canaanite gods to the beginnings of Judaism with one god, Yahweh. We also see the ascendancy of Christianity, from its origins in Judaism, and subsequent spread to the furthest reaches of the Roman Empire beginning with the missionary work of Saul (Paul) of Tarsus.

     A Force from the Desert (56:15)

     We trace the origins of the Arabs and their unification under the banner of Islam. Before the prophet Mohammed began his teachings the Arabs did not have a unified culture and often lived nomadic lifestyles as illustrated today by the Bedouins. The Arabian deserts, although inhospitable, were a key trade route between East and West, and profited from the passage of goods between India, China, Arabia, and Europe. The sophisticated Nabatean cultures at Petra and the magnificent city of Palmyra were a testament to the riches that came from the control of trade routes. Roman conquests put an end to the domination of those cities, and it would take another three hundred years and the growth of Islam arising from the city of Mecca before Arab fortunes rose again. Following the conquests of the Byzantine Christian cities of Damascus and Jerusalem an Islamic state came into being, where all religions were tolerated although non-Muslims were taxed. Expansion into Egypt saw that country’s vast riches fall into Arab Muslim hands with further conquests reshaping the landscape of Arabia and North Africa completely. We then follow the story of the prophet Mohammed in Mecca, and the spread of the empire through the Middle East, North Africa and into Southern Spain.

     The Muslim Renaissance (58:42)

     In this episode the golden age of invention and scholarship that thrived in the Islamic World is explored and contrasted with the European dark ages. Waves of invaders had flooded Europe, smashing the Western Roman Empire and laying waste to centres of learning and libraries. In the East, however, Muslim scholars were preserving the ideas of the Greeks and Romans and added to them Persian and Indian mathematics and astronomy. Centred in Bagdad, Muslim translators and scholars translated learned texts from Western, Persian, Indian and other sources into Arabic, thereby preserving them and making them accessible to future students and scholars. Universities and madrassas in Bagdad and Cairo enabled the study of the Koran, law, philosophy, mathematics, and developed the beginnings of modern science. Centres of leaning sprung across the Muslim world, and began competing with each other thereby encouraging the spread of scholarship. Eventually European scholars came to notice Islamic scholarship, albeit through an unlikely course - through Christian knights. Islam and Christianity were at war, however this contact was also bringing the two sides closer together as Western scholars moved East with the crusaders. As did Alexander before them, so did a new wave of Westerners interact with the East and begin to absorb what they found. The reconquest of Toledo in Spain by Christian King Alfonso VI began the beginning of the end of Muslim Spain, but signified a new dawn for the intellectual life of Christian Europe. In Toledo, Alfonso found vast libraries of books tendered by scholars of Jewish, Christian and Muslim heritage. These libraries could now be translated into Latin and the lost works of the Greek academics and masterpieces of Arab science now materialised in Western secular universities to lead Europe into their renaissance.

     Disc 2:

     The Asian Crucible (57:30)

     A thousand years ago the dividing lines in the Middle East and Asia Minor were firmly drawn between the Islamic empires and the Christian Byzantine Empire. New forces however rose from the steppes of Central Asia which would upset this world order. First the Muslim nomads known as Seljuk Turks took on the Byzantines, pushing their way into Anatolia (modern Turkey), and putting to an end the Byzantine Empire. The Seljuks victory was not just territorial, but also a victory over hearts and minds in that Christians were not persecuted, but encouraged into a Turkic way of life. In a cave in Cappadocia we discover a long lost painting that reveals clues on how the two cultures co-existed and mixed successfully. By the turn of the thirteenth century, however, the relative calm and prosperity was shattered by the arrival of Genghis Khan at the head of an invading Mongol army. Sweeping westward into Central Asia the Mongols had already conquered Mongolia and half of China with sights set firstly on the fortified city of Bukhara. The once glorious city surrendered to the Mongols and was laid to waste with only the great walls and minaret surviving. Destruction was the Mongol way, and any city that resisted capture was subjected to looting and total slaughter. In the Iranian city of Esfahan, however, we see how the Mongols eventually converted to Islam and began to settle. Then in Uzbekistan the film traces the rise of Timur, who claimed both Mongol and Turkic ancestry and who wished to rival the conquests of Genghis Khan. Timur was just as murderous as Genghis Khan, but was also credited with allowing a wide latitude of artistic freedom for subjugates to express themselves, and encouraged scholarship and learning. Finally the episode follows the first of the Moghul emperors who were descendants of Timur and Genghis. Babur was a ruler who would take Central Asian ideas and culture into India, creating the wonders of the Moghul Empire. The film ends at the Taj Mahal, with its magnificent Persian and Indian designs making it the apex of Moghul architectural achievements.

     The Rise of the Ottomans (53:48)

     The arrival of the Ottomans marked the end of a millennium of Christian Byzantine rule and the beginning of a new world order that was both drawing from, and contributing to, the European West. Bursa in modern day Turkey was the first capital of the Ottoman dynasty, and final resting place of its founder, Osman Ghazi. Its strategic location on the westernmost end of the famous “Silk Route” made Bursa a hub of commerce and the most important trading post in Anatolia. Only the Byzantine city of Constantinople remained more significant because of its strategic position commanding the trade routes between the Aegean Sea and the Black Sea. Descendent of Osman, the Sultan Mehmet II, laid siege of Constantinople in 1453, and took the city after 53 days during which his cannons had torn a huge hole in the Walls of Theodosius II. Constantinople was looted by the invaders with much of its Christian heritage destroyed; however the city was transitioned into Islamic ways and eventually recovered to become the third capital of the Ottoman Empire under the name of Istanbul. Expanding East and then North into Serbia, Greece, Romania, and the Ukraine, the Ottoman Empire was ruled from the great Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, a central location from where Mehmet’s bureaucracy managed the Empire. The Ottomans maintained a relatively stable and peaceful Empire by allowing non-Muslim groups to co-exist – albeit under Muslim laws. As long as taxes were paid, and rules obeyed, then various ethnic and religious groups could live their own lives. In that respect the Ottomans created the world’s first truly global and multicultural Empires, where trade flourished from within, and also from outside, the borders. As the world greatest military force the Ottomans under Sultan Suleiman I (Suleiman the Magnificent) looked to expand further into central Europe, and were soon poised at the gates of Vienna. Conquest of Western Europe seemed inevitable.

     The Ottomans and the West (55:39)

     During the 19th century there is a quantum shift in perspectives as the Ottoman East starts to realise that they cannot survive in a rapidly modernising world without engaging with the West. Centuries earlier however, and at the height of Ottoman expansion, Suleiman I in 1529 took the empire to the gates of Vienna. Despite overwhelming odds the defenders prevailed. With the Western boundaries now relatively stable despite continued conflicts with their Habsburg rivals, Suleiman looked to control the seas and trade routes from his base in Istanbul. To this cause Mediterranean pirates and privateers were recruited as Ottoman “Admirals” - perhaps the most famous of these being Barbarossa who became a scourge for European shipping. The sea battle of Lepanto off Greece is often seen as the breaking point in this dominance, where an alliance of European nations led by Venice, Spain, and other Papist countries smashed the Ottoman fleet. Despite this setback the Ottomans rebuilt and remained powerful enough to require envoys from England and France, amongst others, to forge treaties of trade and commerce. During the 19th century nationalism within the Ottoman Empire began to rip the Ottoman world apart. With the backing of major European nations, countries such as Greece, Egypt, Romania, and the Balkan states declared their independence. To prevent total disintegration the Ottoman elite began to reorder its administration along Western European lines. On the Eastern flank, and at the edge of empire on the Persian border near Mount Ararat, we see how the Ottoman’s controlled the extremities of Empire at the magnificent palace of Ishak Pasha. Literature from Westerners such as Richard Burton (The Arabian Nights) ignited the growing European fascination with ‘The Orient’ throughout the 19th century, both as a place of culture and also as a trading partner and market for mass produced western goods. Despite the decline of the Ottoman Empire in the dying days of the 19th century the Sultans still managed to achieve great reforms including legislating for the equality of religion, language and race, and building feats such as the great Hejaz Railway across the Arabian desert. Modernisation had its costs however, eventually leading to the effective bankruptcy and dissolution of the Empire, and reliance on Western patronage. Nevertheless, the story of the lands that fostered brilliant minds, laid the basis of the European Renaissance, and lay at the crossroads of civilisation for 12,000 years, is a story that has no end.

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Transfer Quality


     The video is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen. The visuals are very good with vibrant outside shots and detailed close-ups of historical artefacts. Colours are often quite saturated which is especially evident during internal shots. External footage is usually a little cooler in palette although, again, dramatic recreations become more saturated. Grain is rather evident in dimly lit internal or night-time shots but not enough to be distracting – although there are noticeable differences between some sources. Contrast levels are excellent and there are no obvious signs of compression artefacts. Closing credits are quite blurry albeit readable.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     A Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track encoded at 224 Kb/s is the only option. Narrator Khalid Abdalla’s voice is clear and distinct with similar quality for the on-screen presenters and experts. The background audio score is often of an Eastern “flavour”, and is largely unobtrusive. The score intensity rises and falls to accompany the visuals and it is at these times that any surround effects are felt via Dolby processing. Otherwise, as you’d expect, the audio is very much centre focused. English subtitles for the hard of hearing are available and these are largely accurate. There are some spelling mistakes and word omissions, for example “steps” instead of “steppes”, but these are infrequent. Synchronisation with audio is faultless.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    Static menu with audio.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    At time of review the DVD for East to West has not been released in overseas markets and so this offering from SBS is your only option.


     East to West sheds light on the influences that Eastern culture had on the Western world, from the beginnings of mathematics, astronomy, medicine and other disciplines, to the advancement of politics, art and civil rights. The presentation and content is comprehensive and intelligent, and covers aspects of history which are often ignored in popular Western history. The delivery of narrator Khalid Abdalla is at times overly reverential and laboured, but the script is appropriate, his diction is excellent, and the dialogue is always easy to understand. As you might expect the focus of this series highlights the achievements of Eastern culture and downplays somewhat the Western slant on history. Despite this however the obvious message is that both East and West borrowed from and added to their respective cultures, and that this legacy could not have arisen without both alliance and conflict and competition between the two sides.

     The video quality is very good.

    The audio quality is very good.

     The extras are non-existent.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Mike B (read my bio)
Saturday, June 15, 2013
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-3910 and Panasonic BD-35, using HDMI output
DisplayPanasonic TH-58PZ850A. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL).
Amplificationdenon AVR-4311 pre-out to Elektra Theatron 7 channel amp
SpeakersB&W LCR600 centre and 603s3 mains, Niles in ceiling surrounds, SVS PC-Ultra Sub, Definitive Technology Supercube II Sub

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