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BMZ Review: Across the Sea of Time (3D)
By Herb Lash


BMZ Review of Across the Sea of Time
Written by: Herb Lash
Source: Big Movie Zone
Date: Feb 2001


Category: Reviews

Four hundred and fifty New York City Third Graders can't be wrong - they all liked Across The Sea of Time, a modern-day NYC fairytale with a spoon-fed helping of immigration history. Apparently, Across The Sea of Time is best enjoyed when it replaces a classroom desk and when the teachers are passing out free popcorn instead of homework.  The educational value of the film is slight; at best it offers a romanticized introduction to turn of the century immigration. For those willing to forgive the loose history and storytelling here, the rewards are 3-D views of Manhattan that blossom on the screen and occasionally stun.
Present day Tomas Minton is an angelic faced ten year old stow-away aboard a Russian freighter bound for NYC. He carries a trusty backpack full of old time stereoscope 3-D photos of Manhattan taken by his relative Leopold Minton in 1916. It seems that Tomas wants to retrace the journey taken by his Russian ancestor who braved his way to New York during the great wave of immigration at the beginning of the twentieth century. Tomas plans on using Leopold's old photos of Manhattan as a sort of treasure map that will lead him to the neighborhood where Leopold once lived and perhaps left some family behind. Tomas treks through the ruins of Ellis Island, Coney Island, the subway tunnels, Broadway and all of the essential stops included on any decent tour of the city that never sleeps. All the while, Tomas holds his vintage stereoscope photos of Manhattan skylines up against the towering IMAX® 3-D skylines of present day Manhattan. Tomas catches a few breaks, takes a few hard knocks and gets a sanitized taste of life on the streets of New York. And like the story of many immigrants, in the end Tomas finds a place he can call home.

The film is best appreciated as a now and then photo scrapbook of Manhattan and environs. The filmmakers make an inventive use of the often striking archival stereoscope photos. Wide-open, fresh immigrant faces stare out from long lost crowded market streets. The stereoscope images give way to living scenes in IMAX 3-D and it becomes evident that technology and the Big Apple have both come a long way since 1916.  The Imax camera roams the modern streets like a skyscraper-struck hayseed come to the big city for the first time. The film shares something in common with the more recent Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure in its use of nearly one hundred old vintage photographs.  The older images steal the show in both movies - real lives captured in deep relief send an occasional chill up the spine.

Across the Sea of Time will most likely enjoy a long life in New York theaters - a breezy teaching aid for students studying their world famous metropolis. But the effort to incorporate a too rosy depiction of the immigrant experience is slightly disconcerting. The film is certainly not meant to stand on its own as a historical narrative - but it may cause more mature audiences to squirm as generations worth of immigrant anguish and struggle are glossed over.  In shying away from some of the harsher truths present during this period, the filmmakers risk the more impressionable audience members becoming confused between history and make believe. For those of us who are free to move about without permission slips and can buy our own popcorn, Across the Sea of Time is only mildly interesting.

IMAX® is a registered trademark of IMAX Corporation.

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