Tulum Beach, Riviera Maya

National Geographic special about the collapse of the Mayan civilization that will air on PBS in March

National Geographic special about the collapse of the Mayan civilization that will air on PBS in March

A Hattiesburg native has produced and directed a National Geographic special about the collapse of the Mayan civilization that will air on PBS in March.

Jeremy Zipple, 34, spent six weeks at Kaxil Kiuic Biocultural Reserve in Yucatan, Mexico last summer filming “Quest for the Lost Maya.” “It’s a story about the beginnings of the Maya and the demise of the Maya,” he said. “I think people are going to find out a ton they don’t know.”

Zipple made his first documentary while a student at Hattiesburg High School. He said the documentary is about how the Mayan people lived their lives, how their city developed over time and what may have caused them to eventually leave their city. “It explores some new research on the Maya in the Yucatan Peninsula,” he said.

Zipple said the ruins are “stunningly beautiful.” “You get to see these ruins filmed in a way they’ve never been filmed before” he said. “They’re kind of reminiscent of an Indiana Jones-kind of environment.”

The 4,000-acre reserve is a facility of Millsaps College in Jackson. Zipple filmed Millsaps anthropology professor George Bey, 56, and his students at work there. “We were primarily working on excavating several large buildings, including a pyramid in the center of the city,” said Bey. Bey said Kiuic was a unique place for Zipple to film because when the Mayan people abandoned it, much of it was left as is. “It was so out of the way, it didn’t suffer any disturbance when it was abandoned,” he said. “Many of the objects were left on the houses on the hill.” Bey said in the documentary he explores what led the Mayan people to the difficult decision to leave their city.

John Bredar, senior executive producer of the National Geographic Specials, said he believes even people who have never been interested in the Mayans before will enjoy the documentary. “Anybody who’s interested in interesting mystery stories. It’s a cool mystery.

How come we didn’t know everything we thought we knew about this place and these people?” he said. Bredar said Zipple’s film work is amazing.

“It’s spectacularly visual. The dramatic re-creations are authentic. We have this mini-helicopter that carries a camera and we fly through the jungle and it’s such a cool way to see it,” he said.

Bey agrees the documentary will have widespread appeal. “Not only is it fun, it’s the kind of story that people will say, I see the Maya as people, not just as ancient people, as forgotten people,” he said. “They went through a lot of important events and experiences. I think people are going to be fascinated.”

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