Disability Studies Quarterly
Summer 2006, Volume 26, No. 3
Copyright 2006 by the Society
for Disability Studies


Queen of the Mountain.(2005). [Videorecording.] Released by Women Make Movies. Produced and directed by Martha Goell Lubell. Written and edited by Sharon Mullaly. 56 minutes.

Reviewed by Martin Atherton, University of Central Lancashire, UK

Queen of the mountain is the story of one woman's life work as an archaeologist and her quest to uncover the tomb of an ancient king believed to be hidden at Nemrud Bagh in modern Turkey. Described in the commentary as a 'female Indiana Jones,' Theresa Goell's life story is one of determination, struggle and success that offers a more realistic view of the working practices of a real archaeologist than the fictional exploits of Harrison Ford's all-action creation. Drawing on narratives from family, friends and colleagues, Goell's story is certainly an interesting one and the film shows her as a person as well as a professional archaeologist. For example, her quick temper with colleagues and those working for her is acknowledged, as is her belief that it is better to air and resolve conflicts (no matter how contentious that process may prove), rather than let problems fester through not being addressed. Despite being produced by a family member, this film avoids being a hagiography, although the pride of family members in the achievements of their forebear is obvious throughout. How important Goell's work was or is within the world of archaeology is for those involved in such work to determine and the point is not labored here. The film includes archive footage taken during her excavations and reconstruction of the site at Nemrud Bagh, and these illustrate the conditions Goell and her colleagues faced, the magnitude of the task they set themselves, the techniques they employed and devised, and the results of their endeavors. The film tells an interesting and informative story, if not necessarily an inspiring or more broadly relevant one.

The cover of this DVD claims that Goell triumphed despite facing four distinct disadvantages: she was a woman working in a man's world; she was Jewish; she worked in a Muslim country; and she was deaf. However, these issues feature only marginally in the story. From a disability perspective, her acquired deafness is only occasionally mentioned and is largely portrayed as a condition she struggled to overcome. Whilst the difficulties she faced as a result of her deafness certainly affected her ability to communicate effectively at times, she also used her deafness to her advantage when necessary. For example, one way Goell resolved disagreements in her own favor was to claim her hearing aid batteries had run down, thus negating further debate. However, Goell's deafness is not shown to have been a major hindrance to her achieving success in her chosen field. As for the other obstacles claimed by the cover blurb, these are not really addressed by the film. Goell's family history is briefly outlined, but this is the only instance in which her background as a Jewish woman is raised. How her gender and religious persuasion may have posed problems in working in a Muslim country are never discussed; nor is her public support for the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine. Given the obvious success of her work, it must be assumed that any difficulties were easily overcome. However, as these were raised in the DVD's publicity, it would have been interesting to have seen the issues addressed by the film.

The main audience for this film would seem to be those interested in archaeology and the history of the eastern Mediterranean states; there is little here that is directly relevant to anyone approaching the film from a Disability Studies perspective. Whilst Goell's work was no doubt of importance in archaeological circles, the circumstances of her supposed disadvantages and disabilities do not form a major part of the film's focus. Despite the film's cover publicity, this is not really a film about disability or the achievements of its subject because of or despite her having been deafened. Nevertheless, the film does tell a story that many will find interesting.

Copyright (c) 2006 Martin Atherton

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ISSN: 2159-8371 (Online); 1041-5718 (Print)