World's 'First Travel Documentary' Unearthed!

Two brothers who filmed a post-WW2 world in flux can now inspire a new generation


The Guardian recently ran a really interesting story about two Iranian brothers who are credited with creating the first travel documentary films. The movies, which were made in the 1950's, had fallen off the radar for most fans of the genre, but thanks to a the curator of an upcoming film festival focused on adventure travel, the film will be shown to a new generation of fans.

Back in 1954, Abdullah and Issa Omidvar set out on a grand adventure. The two brothers wanted to ride their motorcycles to some of the most remote places possible, while learning more about the cultures they visited along the way. With just $90 in their pockets, they packed up their filmmaking equipment and hit the road. Their route took them through Pakistan and India, across Southeast Asia and into Australia. From there they hopped across the Pacific, rode the length of the Andes north and continued on all the way to Alaska and Canada where they crossed above the Arctic Circle. After that, they returned home briefly before returning to the road for another adventure in Africa. All the while they filmed their exploits, capturing some incredible footage of an evolving world that was still reeling from the changes brought on by a post-World War II shift in politics and imperialism.

The Omidvars spent ten years traveling the world, taking in as much culture, history and adventure as they could. And when they were finished, one went to Chile to found a film company while the other returned home to Iran, where he became a celebrity for his works. But over time, the western world had mostly forgotten about their contribution to cinema as their documentary films haven't been seen in years.

But Lois Pryce, who has ridden her motorcycle the length of the Americas and Africa, and written two wonderful books about the experience, learned about Abdullah and Issa's story and went searching for copies of some of their films for the Adventure Travel Film Festival, which she co-founded. Pryce called in many favors and went to great lengths to find the films, eventually ending up with copies being sent her way from Issa himself. Those films will be shown at the fest, which will take place in Dorset in the U.K. on August 16-18. It will be a rare opportunity to see these vintage travel films, which are a time capsule of sorts, giving us a window into the past.

It must have been quite the adventure for the two brothers to travel the world during the 50's and early 60's. The planet was evolving a lot back then and some of the places they visited aren't even there any more. It would be fun to see these films and compare the conditions for travel back then with now. We've come a long way since those films were made, but we've lost much along the way as well.

This story first ran on The Adventure Blog.


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