In the Footsteps of Marco Polo

In the Footsteps of Marco Polo

Two ordinary guys from New York retrace the 13th-century adventurer's entire 25,000-mile land-and-sea route from Venice to China and back. (American Public Television)

In the 13th century, Marco Polo penned the now-famous story of his world travels as the son of trader. In the early 1990s, inspired by Polo’s story, Denis Belliveau and Francis O’Donnell had a dream and a wild idea. They were two guys with a lust for travel and they set out to do an extraordinary thing: retrace Marco Polo’s entire 25,000-mile route from Venice to China and back.

This 90-minute documentary distributed by American Public Television chronicles their incredible 2-year journey. Their only guide was Polo’s own account of his travels and they set rules for themselves: to document everything they found that Polo had described, to travel only by land and sea (there was no air travel in Polo’s time) and to come home only when they were dead or successful.

Divided into 16 short digestible segments, the program captures the travelers as they survive a deadly firefight in Afghanistan, cross the forbidding Taklamakan Desert in a Silk Road camel caravan, endure continuous interrogations from authorities, and live among cultures ranging from the expert horsemen of Mongolia to tattooed tribes of Indonesia.

The story is enhanced with still photography by Belliveau, a former wedding photographer.

“Travel is the enemy of bigotry,” says O’Donnell. “There’s a lot more good people on the planet than bad.”

CHANNEL: American Public Television

Length: 90:00

Writers/Producers/Directors: Denis Belliveau & Francis O’Donnell
Executive Producers: Tom Casciato, Josh Nathan, Stephen Segaller

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