The Owl's Legacy (complete series)

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  • 5 Hours
    of video

Rent the series for $12 or individual episodes for $1.99

Directed by enigmatic and brilliant documentary essayist Chris Marker, THE OWL’S LEGACY is an intellectually agile, engaging, and sometimes biting look at ancient Greece, its influences on Western culture—and how many eras have reinterpreted the Greek legacy to reflect their own needs.

Each of the 13 episodes is centered on a potent Greek word: from “democracy” and “philosophy” to “mythology” and “misogyny”. Marker convenes and films symposia—meals featuring wine and thoughtful conversation—in locales including Paris, Tokyo, Tbilisi, Berkeley and an olive grove on the outskirts of Athens. Footage from these banquets is interspersed with archival materials and interviews (often featuring a stylized or distorted owl image looming in the background). Marker’s diverse group of informants includes composers, politicians, classicists, historians, scientists, writers, filmmakers, and actors. Together their contributions form a compelling (and sometimes contradictory) cultural and historical exploration for each theme.

After screening on European television, THE OWL’S LEGACY was unavailable for decades—the result of objections from funders the Onassis Foundation, who took offense at comments made in the series about modern Greece. Now it has been restored and is finally being released. THE OWL’S LEGACY continues to serve as a powerful reminder of the ongoing impact of ancient Greek culture and the ways in which we continually recast it to suit our beliefs.

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5+ hours of video, instant streaming, yours forever! This is a gift rental for a friend. This is a gift rental just for . They will receive their copy via email.

5+ hours of video, watch as much as you want for 3 days. This is a gift rental for a friend. This is a gift rental just for . They will receive their copy via email.

The Owl's Legacy (complete series)

Rent the series for $12 or individual episodes for $1.99

Directed by enigmatic and brilliant documentary essayist Chris Marker, THE OWL’S LEGACY is an intellectually agile, engaging, and sometimes biting look at ancient Greece, its influences on Western culture—and how many eras have reinterpreted the Greek legacy to reflect their own needs.

Each of the 13 episodes is centered on a potent Greek word: from “democracy” and “philosophy” to “mythology” and “misogyny”. Marker convenes and films symposia—meals featuring wine and thoughtful conversation—in locales including Paris, Tokyo, Tbilisi, Berkeley and an olive grove on the outskirts of Athens. Footage from these banquets is interspersed with archival materials and interviews (often featuring a stylized or distorted owl image looming in the background). Marker’s diverse group of informants includes composers, politicians, classicists, historians, scientists, writers, filmmakers, and actors. Together their contributions form a compelling (and sometimes contradictory) cultural and historical exploration for each theme.

After screening on European television, THE OWL’S LEGACY was unavailable for decades—the result of objections from funders the Onassis Foundation, who took offense at comments made in the series about modern Greece. Now it has been restored and is finally being released. THE OWL’S LEGACY continues to serve as a powerful reminder of the ongoing impact of ancient Greek culture and the ways in which we continually recast it to suit our beliefs.

13 Videos

  • Episode 1. Symposium—or Accepted Ideas

    26m · Downloadable

  • Episode 2. Olympics—or Imaginary Greece

    26m · Downloadable

  • Episode 3. Democracy—or the City of Dreams

    26m · Downloadable

  • Episode 4. Nostalgia—or the Impossible Return

    26m · Downloadable

  • Episode 5. Amnesia—or History on the March

    26m · Downloadable

  • Episode 6. Mathematics—or The Empire Counts Back

    26m · Downloadable

  • Episode 7. Logomachy—or the Dialect of the Tribe

    26m · Downloadable

  • Episode 8. Music—or Inner Space

    26m · Downloadable

  • Episode 9. Cosmogony—or the Ways of the World

    26m · Downloadable

  • Episode 10. Mythology—or Lies like Truth

    26m · Downloadable

  • Episode 11. Misogyny—or the Snares of Desire

    26m · Downloadable

  • Episode 12. Tragedy—or the Illusion of Death

    26m · Downloadable

  • Episode 13. Philosophy—or the Triumph of the Owl

    26m · Downloadable

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You'll receive the following videos

  1. Episode 1. Symposium—or Accepted Ideas

    26m · Downloadable

    This episode sets the tone for the rest of the series, introducing the fundamental idea Marker and his participants explore: For centuries, we’ve used Greek civilization as a touchstone, but as John Winkler—classics scholar, queer historian, and one-time monk—says, looking at ancient Greece is like trying to determine what lies beneath a face covered in many layers of makeup.

    The concept of the individual, calls to moderation, the value of knowi...

  2. Episode 2. Olympics—or Imaginary Greece

    26m · Downloadable

    We begin with the personal. In interviews, classicists Manuela Smith and Oswyn Murray, singer Angélique Ionatos, and filmmaker Theo Angeolopoulos discuss the sometimes unconscious ways ancient Greek thought have permeated their lives and work. (And Ionatos notes that those who fetishize ancient Greece either idealize or ignore contemporary Greeks.)

    From there, the episode looks at this phenomenon writ large—exploring the exploitation of ancient ...

  3. Episode 3. Democracy—or the City of Dreams

    26m · Downloadable

    An in-depth—but not overly dense—exploration of how Athenian democracy worked, and the key ways it differs from modern states using the word. Ancient Greek democracy emphasized the polisnot as a city-state the way we understand it, but as a collection of individuals. Those able to participate (free men—a small minority of the total population) were passionate about politics and had access to numerous checks and balances. It was a world without part...

  4. Episode 4. Nostalgia—or the Impossible Return

    26m · Downloadable

    Nostalgia is there right at the start of the Greek literary tradition. Odysseus, after a decade of fighting the Trojan War, must wander another decade before finally returning home to Ithaca. For millennia to follow, nostalgia—a word drawn from roots meaning “longing for home” and “pain”--continued to mark the Greek experience.

    Greeks feel nostalgia on many levels and in many capacities. They are immigrants who idealize their homeland. Citizens ...

  5. Episode 5. Amnesia—or History on the March

    26m · Downloadable

    Western history is said to begin with the Greeks—more specifically, with Herodotus, credited as the first historian. But the ancient Greek conception of history, based on the idea of self-examination, is very different from current conceptions. History in some ways is the interplay between remembering and forgetting—and it always being reconsidered and reimagined.

    Located at the intersection of Asia, Europe, and Africa, Greece has long been a pa...

  6. Episode 6. Mathematics—or The Empire Counts Back

    26m · Downloadable

    There is a narrative about ancient Greece and math: That the Greeks invented mathematics as we know it, that men such as Pythagoras and Thales were its fathers, and that concepts including parallel lines and geometric shapes are universal and ahistorical.

    After introducing us to this view, Marker sets about dismantling it—or at least questioning its universality and introducing much more uncertainty. Study of ancient Egyptian texts show mathemat...

  7. Episode 7. Logomachy—or the Dialect of the Tribe

    26m · Downloadable

    The word “logos” stands at the start of Greek philosophy. A word that defies simple translation, it lies at the root of terms including logic, dialogue, and dialectic. The Greek word for literature is “logotechnia” -- the technique of logos.

    LOGOMACHY explores logos in its many forms, from Socratic dialogue and its implications when it comes to both education and power, to the five different forms the Greek language, to language as a battle in ...

  8. Episode 8. Music—or Inner Space

    26m · Downloadable

    What defines music? Soldiers marching in tandem create rhythms; Orthodox priests don’t simply speak when performing the liturgy, they chant and sometimes sing; the hammer banging on a board is not that different from the tug of a rope ringing a church bell.

    In Greek mythology, Athena (whose symbol is the owl) invents music. This episode focuses primarily on composer Iannis Xenakis and singer Angelique Ionatos, as they delve into the multi-facete...

  9. Episode 9. Cosmogony—or the Ways of the World

    26m · Downloadable

    This episode is classic Chris Marker, tying together an abandoned Athenian power plant turned cultural center, ancient Greek statuary, a department store in Japan, young men destroyed by armored warfare during WWI, and a comparison between Plato’s parable of the cave and contemporary cinema.

    From the beautiful enigmatic statues of Cycladic art to classic Greek statuary and on to the big bang theory, COSMOGONY explores the mysteries of creation—o...

  10. Episode 10. Mythology—or Lies like Truth

    26m · Downloadable

    A small number of Greek myths—Oedipus, Antigone, the Gorgon who turns people who gaze on her to stone—have fed our understandings of ourselves and each other through literature, religion, philosophy, and psychoanalysis.

    In this episode, George Steiner discusses the origins of myth in the psyche, and speculates on the directions European history could have taken if a more Hellenic view of the world had dominated over the more Judaic approach of t...

  11. Episode 11. Misogyny—or the Snares of Desire

    26m · Downloadable

    Classicist Giulia Sissa takes center stage in this episode, which explores desire in ancient Greece (primarily Athens), the social status of women, and the erasure of women by classics scholars.

    Homosexual and heterosexual relationships co-existed, each within their own spheres. Any notions of romantic love resided with same-sex relationships, which were also seen as rites of passage for boys initiated into the ways of philosophy. Marriage was ...

  12. Episode 12. Tragedy—or the Illusion of Death

    26m · Downloadable

    Greek tragedies were originally like TV shows before the age of streaming. They were performed once, and only once says scholar Oswyn Murray. But despite their transitory nature, they embraced themes that have spoken to humanity for centuries—and across cultures.

    This episode looks at the particular cross-cultural pollination between Greek and Japanese theater. A Japanese woman remembers first engaging with Greece through Theo Angelopoulos’s fil...

  13. Episode 13. Philosophy—or the Triumph of the Owl

    26m · Downloadable

    After a dozen episodes that begin and end with the image of an owl, PHILOSOPHY begins with the owl and its symbolism, and shows us how many of the participants in the series react to the birds or images of them.

    What is philosophy? Does all philosophy draw on the Greeks? And are there any philosophers left? Kostas Axelos argues there have been no philosophers since Hegel; all we are left with now are thinkers. (Mind you, Axelos is considered by...