The Quest for Tannu Tuva

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Biography Documentary published by BBC broadcasted as part of BBC Horizon series in 1988 - English narration

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Image: Quest-for-Tannu-Tuva-Cover.jpg

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This programme is the US version, but it is Feynman's voice that is featured for majority of the time, and the soundtrack redub by an American narrator intrudes relatively little. Although retitled "The Last Journey of a Genius" for the US broadcast, the programme is surely essentially the same as the original Horizon.

If Richard Feyman had ever met Fred Dibnah, they would have entranced each other with their enthusiasm for each of their subjects, just as they have separately done for us. Both were inquisitive by nature.

Richard Feynman was not only an iconoclastic and influential theoretical physicist and Nobel laureate but also an explorer at heart. Feynman through video recordings and comments from his friend and drumming partner Ralph Leighton tell the extraordinary story of their enchantment with Tuva, a strange and distant land in the centre of Asia.

While few Westerners knew about Tuva, Feynman discovered its existence from the unique postage stamps issued there in the early 20th century. He was intrigued by the unusual name of its capital, Kyzyl, and resolved to travel to the remote, mountainous land. However, the Soviets, who controlled access, were mistrustful, unconvinced that he was interested only in the scenery. They obstructed his plans throughout 13 years.

The majority of the scenes are extended narratives by Feynman. There is included a delightful extended discussion and demonstration of Feyman's bongo playing. Feynman explains how he used a phrase book of the Tuva language to write and express an interest in visiting there. The proposed trip took years to arrange. The programme never does get to show Feyman in Tuva; he died of abdominal cancer a few days after the recorded interview, at age 69 in February 1988. The story is interspersed with earlier recorded conversations by Feynman that add his perspectives on the nature of physics. So, this is not a travel documentary at all; rather it is another fascinating insight into the exciting personality of Richard Feynman.

"You have no responsibility to live up to what other people think you ought to accomplish." - Richard Feynman (1918-1988).

This and other programmes were Christopher Sykes productions, who in 2006 "at last... managed to get the BBC to let [him] distribute" his earlier classic 1981 BBC "Horizon" biographical documentary on Richard Feynman "The Pleasure of Finding Out" on home video for �20. The same company also made for the BBC "The Best Mind Since Einstein" (aka No Ordinary Genius) broadcast in 1993. List of Sykes' work at

On his web page ( John Cirillo gives a personal account of his own discovery of Richard Feynman, after viewing "The Last Journey of a Genius". More "Friends of Tuva" can be found at

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[edit] Technical Specs

  • Video Size: 698.81 MB
  • Video Length: 54:37 mins
  • Video Formt: AVI; MIME type=video/avi
  • Video Codec: DX50 (DixX 5)
  • Video Bitrate: 1779 kBit/s
  • Width x Height: 640 x 480
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.333 (4/3)
  • Frames/s: 29.97
  • Audio Codec: MPEG-1, Layer 3
  • Audio Bitrate: 192 kBit/s
  • Audio Channels: 2 (Stereo)
  • Audio Samplerate: 48.000 kHz
  • Language: English
  • Ripped by: left

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