Movie Quest 2005
The 10 films that are inspiring us to travel--and how you can re-create the best moments yourself
Illuminated is more inspiring in general terms, and seeing where your family is from is often the best way to find out its secrets. How you go about it obviously depends on your ancestry.
The town where your ancestors came from may not be on the tourist grid--remember that boundaries and place names change. A village that was in Hungary in 1910 might be in Ukraine today, and called something totally different. Census, marriage, and death records usually list the country of birth--but ship passenger lists, naturalization records, and newspaper obituaries are more likely to give the name of the exact town. To learn how to use these sources--and many others online--pick up a how-to book such as Genealogy Online for Dummies by Matthew and April Leigh Helm. A good roundup of websites is at cyndislist.com.
Specialized travel agencies and even some operators can arrange family history tours. JewishGen ShtetlSchleppers, for one, leads trips to explore Jewish roots in Eastern Europe (jewishgen.org). Or plan your own trip and ask the local tourist office to recommend a guide, at least for your first day. Many European countries--including Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Iceland--have emigration museums. They'll help put your ancestors' lives in historical context, and their research-library staffs are experienced in working with Americans. For a list, see aemi.dk; click on Addresses.
Allow for as much time in your ancestral hometown as you can. You may find the locals are as curious about you as you are about your roots, and it'll be impolite not to accept an invitation for a snack or a drink.
There's one thing, however, that you can't prepare for: how powerfully you'll be moved. During the shoot, producer Safar took his mother to Vienna. "We saw the house she lived in until she was 4, when the Nazis threw them out, and the corner where my grandfather was picked up and taken to Dachau. It was very emotional," he says. "My father came to visit, but we didn't have time to go to Lodz, Poland, where he lived until he was 7, when his family escaped the Nazis and went to Palestine. That is a trip I will make with him."
A boy and his cheetah explore the true meaning of friendship
After raising an orphaned cheetah named Duma on his parents' farm in South Africa, 12-year-old Xan (Alex Michaeletos) sets off on his own to fulfill a promise he made to his father to return the animal to the wild. Along the way, he meets Ripkuna (Eamonn Walker), who befriends the boy and his unusual pet. The threesome travel deep into the wilds of Africa, exploring deserts, jungles, and plains.
Director Carroll Ballard, who also was at the helm of The Black Stallion, Never Cry Wolf, and Fly Away Home, has made a name for himself exploring the relationships between animals, humans, and the great outdoors. He continues mining those themes in Duma--which is based on a true story, believe it or not--using backdrops such as the Kalahari Desert, the Okavango Delta, and South Africa's Northern Cape. Some 75 locations were involved, so the crew was able to see much of the continent's landscapes. "If you go deep into the Kalahari you'll find bushmen and the fabulous salt flats that seem to go on forever," says Stacy Cohen, one of the film's producers.
Operator 2Afrika is now selling a nine-day Duma tour that includes three nights in a tent on safari in the sprawling 24,000-acre Entabeni Game Reserve, home to the Big Five: lions, elephants, rhinos, leopards, and buffalo. (Cheetah sightings are rare.) The package, available January-March, comes with round-trip air to Johannesburg from Washington, D.C., or Atlanta, and a stay in Entabeni, with six game drives and a visit to an indigenous Pedi village. On day five, you fly to Cape Town for three nights. The package costs $2,995, kids under 12, $2,195 (866/462-2374, 2afrika.com).
Lion World Tours' nine-day family safari, also available January-March, begins with a flight to Cape Town from New York or Atlanta. During the four nights in the city, there are several excursions, including a visit to Spier, a wine-country estate that houses the Cheetah Outreach Program, and where kids can view a farm-raised cheetah. On day six you fly to Johannesburg and then to Hoedspruit--an hour north--for three nights at the Ngala Chalet. It's outside Kruger National Park (800/387-2706, lionworldtravel.com, $3,299, kids under 12, $2,099; all meals, transfers, and tours included).