Chronicles of Empire Long Gone
Chronicles of Empire Long Gone is perhaps the most controversial film (actually mini-series) of all times that is banned in many countries and is known for starting many discussions on television ethics.
The way of creating it
Instead of hiring proffessional actors, the creators of the Chronicles of Empire Long Gone relied on searching for the cast among ordinary people (of various nationalities, races and of both genders) for the main roles. These people were not told that they would participate in film, but were deceived in various ways (most were told that they are going to take part in an expedition in search for the lost treasures of former empire the first archeological remains of which were discovered only recently). The participants signed contracts that basically removed any liability from the creators of the film in case of accident or even death in this "dangerous mission". It is sometimes alleged that the creators of the film used psychological pressure on the participants to sign the contracts; also it probably was so that people with little knowledge of law were purposefully chosen. The participants were promised a fair share of treasures that were to be found and large sums of money in case nothing would be found. Various techniques were used in order to conceive the particpants about the seriousness of this project, such as showing a fake manuscript supposedly compiled by professor Alexander Jones, meeting with professors of various universities who are supposedly experts in the subject (in reality they were actors). Allegedly, some actors impersonated to be famous scientists that exist in reality but this is not shown in the film.
After signing the contracts, the people were transported to the place where the series were filmed (using different means of transportation and most did meet each other only at the place). This place was a wide open space (presumably somewhere in Antarctica) with already prepared realistic props (many of which were actually real things), such as buildings, supposed archeological finds, scientific equipment and other things.
While initially some groups of participants (there were three) were accompanied by some real actors, these actors "disappeared" quickly in one way or another. What followed was several weeks of a "cat and mouse" game between the creators and partcipants, where the creators were creating various events to "guide" the scenario in one way or another. Nothing was fully staged, but many "events" were made likely in advance, such as for example dead bodies and skeletons were probably buried in vicinity of a camp of one of the groups prior to the start of filming and indeed the bodies and skeletons were discovered by the participants.
In order to guide the scenario various means were used, such as radio connection with the participants (which was later lost), where actors or other deceived people representing (for example) the company which organised the expedition talked to the participants. The goal of the creators was however presumably not to create a simple film this way (in that case they would have hired proffessional actors for all the roles), but eventually establish the atmosphere of mystery and fear among the participants and therefore create a very life-like psychological thriller.
The series were filmed through various means, which include real movie cameras (especially at the start and at the end), special security-like cameras in the buildings, hidden cameras in various places and cameras that were implanted in the participants (supposedly for their own safety).
The plot revolves around several groups of people: two expeditions sent by different companies and one group sent by a university to explore an area previously inhabitted by unknown nation of people, remains of which were discovered only recently by professor Alexander Jones, who died relatively soon after this discovery but sold his assets in the area to one of the companies prior to that. Supposedly a very rich empire once existed in this region, code-named Great Southern Empire and Alexander Jones found some expensive artifacts and had reason to believe that great treasures could be lying somewhere in that vast uninhabitted region.
One of the groups establishes on the premises abandoned by the professor Jones (and, contrary to what they have been told, no members of the Jones's group wait for them there - later these scientists are found dead), while two other groups, one accompanied by another company and the other one by university representatitives, establish their camps several kilometers away (and several kilometers from each other) an an empty land.
As the story continues, strange things start to happen, such as disappearances of several people, and the archeological finds discovered are more and more bizzare. Later the radio contact is lost and the groups find themselves to be isolated in that remote place. Other strange people, such as a little girl from nowhere who is appearantly unable to speak, approach the groups, more strange events take place.
The new evidence suggests that the Great Southern Empire perhaps was not of human origin and in fact perhaps it is still existing secretly somewhere not far away or underground. Different people suggest different explainations for the events and mysterious finds. Eventually the explorers start to blame each other, the atmosphere among people detarioriates, panic takes place. One person goes insane.
Later several murders happen and in fact a kind of war (catalysed by fear, blame, lawlessness and greed) between representatives of different companies and university (and among representatives of the same company in some cases) starts. Many of the explorers are killed or dies of hypothermia as the weather gets colder and colder with each day (and the equipment of one of the group is burned) or other reasons.
In the end a ship approaches the coastline of the area only to find rubble (but no dead bodies nor anybody alive). Several people walk through the area and talk about how the company that comissioned this exploration recently went bankrupt, while the CEO of the other company was killed by his wife who then commited suicide and the university decided to drop all the research in this area due to budget cuts. One person, who is probably an ecologist, announces that finally this abomination of wild nature by the people will end. Afterwards, he sets the remains of the camp on fire and the film ends.
The film was filmed in 1999 and saw its theatrical release in 2000. The original intent was to show it in four theatrical episodes (titled "The Chronicle of Hope", "The Chronicle of the Unknown", "The Chronicle of Fear" and "The Chronicle of Death"). With the release of the first episode it was claimed that a story of a true expedition in an undisclosed place is shown (i.e. that the film is a kind of documentary). In order to support this a fake manuscript of Alexander Jones was published prior to the release of the film. The film earned large sums of money at the first weekend; at first some believed that the film is a mockumentary (a fact supporting such belief was that the university mentioned in reality was a diploma mill), but later media found out that such expeditions indeed took place and many people did not come back. This alone raised many questions of ethics of showing such a film in movie theaters (at the time only the first episodes were released and therefore most deaths were still to happen). These questions turned into a mass outcry when an investigation determined the real origins of the film and the fact that the whole expedition was planned for the sole purpose of creating this film rather than to do any real archeological research.
Charges were issued against the creators of the film. However the real financers and director of this film are unknown; it has no credits whatsoever and it turns out that many people who represented the creators of the film were in fact hired by fictious or offshore companies. Several people were charged for manslaughter however, many reels of the film were confiscated and the film was banned in many countries. In some countries even a possesion of any part of the Chronicles of Empire Long Gone is a crime. The case of this film made many countries to issue laws that require the creators of any audiovisual material to disclose in credits the real names of the actors. In addition to that many countries forbade to use people for TV shows without at first informing them about what will happen to them and what exactly they will have to do (this way effectively placing a ban on most of the reality TV).
However the Chronicles of Empire Long Gone is still available underground in many places; now it is usually sold in shorter chapters. In addition to that, in recent years some new footage that was not included in the film was discovered by police in several countries. It is unclear who releases such content and werether this content is really from the set of the Chronicles of Empire Long Gone or faked later.
The film became a cult film among certain parts of population. It also started a great ammounts of discussions and even was a topic of many books. The fact that many of the actors who participated in the film (at the start and at the end) are not known as well led to many hypotheses (some of which are perhaps more bizzare than the movie itself). Now it is generally believed that the movie was filmed in Free Lithuania and many of the hired actors are in fact local people. Some people of Free Lithuania indeed claimed that they participated in such project (either by acting or by helping to prepare props), although they said they did not know exactly what the scenario was. The dead bodies used appearantly were bodies of some people who had been executed in Voldemaravas (for reasons other than creating a film). Under the laws of Free Lithuania the contracts signed by the participants generally prevent the creators from any liability for what they have done and acquiring weapons is easy there as well, therefore that country would seem to be a logical place to create such a film. As for the actors, those who are known also were not told the true scenario of the film. One English actor who was hired to perform the role of the company representative is known to have committed suicide after the details around this film were unearthed.
The real intentions of the creators of this film are questioned to this day - whether they really believed that they could get away with this with nobody finding out the real way the film was made, or perhaps it was some kind of experiment on how the people would react to this. Another question is how many deaths and other events were originally planned and how many were not (but the creators decided to tolerate them and not to interfere when they saw them happening). The book "The True Story Behind the Chronicles of Empire Long Gone" published in 2003 is perhaps the best source for all the information and opinions on these issues.
Most people consider the Chronicles of Empire Long Gone to be very disturbing. It uses quite unusual filming technique made possible by various hidden and implanted cameras. There exist such scenes as showing of strangulation from the "eyes" of the killer, showing of a rape alternating from the "eyes" of the victim to the "eyes" of the rapist, the discovery of dead bodies and subsequent panic from the "eyes" of the discoverer and from the camera that was hidden near the dead bodies and so on. The film is frequently blurry and grainy and this adds to the feeling of suspense, loneliness and the unknown it seeks to build. Many of the details do not become clear and the ending leaves many questions unanswered - both questions of the plot and, perhaps more disturbingly, questions of reality (such as what really happened to several people the death of whom is never shown (they just disappear), but it is known from their relatives that they did never return from the expedition). Some of the questions remain unanswered both in the plot and in the reality, such as the question about where all the dead bodies disappeared (they were never found). While the arrested (and now sentenced) people answered some questions, some of their claims contradict each other and many questions are still left unanswered. Some believe that even these people were being deceived. The original video from all the cameras of the Chronicles of Empire Long Gone set is yet to be found but as more and more time passes by many investigators come to a conclusion that most of the remaining video was destroyed after the release of the film (one of the sentenced people did in fact admit destroying many reels, although he claimed that did not know what was in the reels).
The filming technique of showing things supposedly from the eyes of characters was later reused in other films, especially ones of horror genre, and it is generally known as the CELG-style.
Chronicles of Empire Long Gone and especially its creation raised much controversy due to various reasons, including:
- The way the contracts were signed by deceiving people.
- Alleged psychological testing of the people before offering them to sign contracts which was done in order to find out who are the easiest to deceive.
- Research about the personal lifes of the people in order to single out the ones who have a few friends and bad relations with relatives. People with influential relatives were generally not taken for the film.
- The usage of real things in filming, such as real dead bodies and skeletons, real weapons.
- The death of many of the participants and the fact that the creators did not intervene (and in fact presumably such events were planned).
- Scenes such as rape which also passed by without any intervention of the creators and were later shown during the series.
- Scenes where the participants tell intimate details about their lifes are shown.
This page was created by Abdul-aziz.