Jerusalem: uncovering the cradle of civilisation
A new 3D film is coming to IMAX theatres depicting the story of the Holy City of Jerusalem and its interlocking faiths in a fresh and intimate way.
The 45-minute documentary follows three teenage girls– Revital Zacharie, a Jew, Nadia Tadros, a Christian and Farah Ammouri, a Muslim – and delicately explores the way in which the city plays a pivotal role in their respective belief systems.
"Jerusalem is more than just a city. It is beauty, spirit, family. It is more than my religion," says Farah.
"No matter where we came from, we all trace our roots here. We are walking the same stones as our ancestors," adds Revital, whose grandfather escaped to the Middle Eastern city from Poland during the Holocaust in which the rest of his family perished.
Describing Jerusalem as "a mosaic of cultures and beliefs, ancient rituals, and secrets buried deep underground", the film sensitively unpeels the layers of the ancient city that carries such remarkable significance for the world's three largest faith groups.
Once known as "the cradle of civilisation", it is one of the most fought over piece of land in history - having been conquered 44 times and completely destroyed twice - and is beloved by over half of the world's population.
Benedict Cumberbatch provides the voiceover, inviting his audience to "explore a land cherished by billions… [and] experience this ancient city through the stories of the people who call it home".
"Jerusalem is the history of heaven and earth," he declares. "The city on a hill that binds together the hopes of the world."
Unique aerial photography sets this documentary apart from many others which have taken on the daunting task of capturing the majesty of Jerusalem on screen, giving the audience breathtaking insight into the beauty of the Holy City, its people and their practices. It's impossible not to be captivated by the stunning scenery and sheer elegance of the city and its surrounding landscape.
Written records and archaeological findings are used to portray Jerusalem at the height of its splendour, showing places of huge significance to the beliefs of millions around the world - the garden of Gethsemane, the River Jordan and Temple Mount where Christians believe Abraham prepared his son Isaac as a sacrifice, David bought the Ark of the Covenant, and King Solomon built his Temple. Biblical stories are thus brought to life in fascinating detail.
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The ancient rituals still undertaken by Jews, Christians and Muslims in Jerusalem today are also documented, including Passover, Easter and Ramadan, and the rare perspective offered by the three young girls and their families allows the audience an intimate glimpse into life as a Jerusalemite.
The way in which the three faiths coexist is remarkable, though the documentary reveals that there are still misunderstandings in spite of living so closely.
In a Q&A session following the premiere last night at the IMAX Waterloo in London, producers Taran Davies and George Duffield said they hope the film will have a positive impact on relationships between different religious groups in Jerusalem.
The three girls on which the documentary focuses have very little to do with one another and give an insight as to how many Jerusalemites live "side by side with invisible walls between them", Davies said.
"We hope this documentary will help break those walls down."
That hope is echoed by the young Jerusalemite women, giving the film an element of anticipation and hopefulness for the future.
"I hope one day we have the courage to meet the people living right next to us...maybe not today. But someday, yes," Revital concludes.
The Damaris Trust is providing free community resources to accompany the documentary upon its release at Odeon BFI IMAX on January 17, including a selection of free talk illustrations for church speakers in addition to background and contextual information.
To see what's on offer, go to www.damaris.org/jerusalem