Chris Howell

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Religion, Architecture and Culture: Topics Explored in National Geographic’s New Film “Jerusalem”

One Day After the Nation Pauses to Reflect on 9/11 the Film "Jerusalem”, Offers Hope of a Diverse and Beautiful Society


soon-to-be talked about cultural experience is sure to have living room and water cooler conversations become that much more enlightened as moviegoers see “Jerusalem” this weekend. A film by National Geographic, narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch, plays witness to the intersection of science, history and religion in this ancient, enigmatic place that is honored by billions around the world.

Never before seen images of holy sites, personal guided tours and archeological discoveries are the backbone of this voyage into the ancient city. 


But let me stop you right there. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill “TV Special” treatment on the holy city which is often the center of political and religious tension frequently fought over. This film was developed over a 3 year time span. Playing exclusively on IMAX and giant-screen theatres, this film ups the ante on visual experiences in theaters.  More on that later.

But how to tell the story of Jerusalem without just focusing on politics, the current turmoil or supporting one issue more than the other? Enter three teenage girls from each faith: Farah Ammouri, a Muslim, Nadia Tadros, from a Greek Orthodox and Catholic family, and Revital Zacharie, a Jew.

I got an opportunity to met up with 19 year old Farah Ammouri (Last name originating from the Amorites her dad proudly explains as we talk) to talk about her love of Jerusalem, how the three girls put aside their small religious differences to tell a united story and her hope of what film patrons will take with them after visiting her home, she shares with the world.

While attending a Palestinian Catholic school (shared with Nadia Tadros in the film), Farah 15 at the time of filming, heard about the casting call where directors were looking for young girls native to Jerusalem, from an announcement made by the school’s nuns. After a few moments of talking with the teen, it’s clear what filmmakers saw in this intelligent young mind as she opens up with us about the film’s concept and answers the unspoken questions the film sets out to explore. Why is Jerusalem important for the main 3 religions of the world? Why is it important to be in Jerusalem? Can people of different faiths and political ideologies really exist in the same geographic square mile and have the city still keep its importance?

 

“Our similarities span from worshiping the same God on the same land to our love for Jerusalem. The roots of each one of our ancestors goes back thousands of years”, Ammouri explains. In talking with Farah, the respect given to each of the identities, religions and stories told in the film play a role in the city’s eclectic personality. “Every stone in the city has a different story and everyone has their own story for that same stone”, Farah explains. And it’s with that single idea that the story of “Jerusalem” is morphed into. The unspoken hope of this film is to eliminate perceptions the world has of this historic city; a city often paired with fighting, misconceptions and inaccurate history recordings. And I think the film nearly reaches its lofty goal. 

Filmmakers take their time to properly introduce us to that of the film’s namesake, the city itself…Jerusalem. As plotlines within movies often follow a similar pattern of bringing stories to a singular thought as credits begin to roll, it’s clear “Jerusalem” accomplishes that in championing the theme, Diversity. From the underground tunnels marked with ancient graffiti of Christians’ voyages through the city to the nearly unreal areal views of sacred landmarks, “Jerusalem” becomes someone who you want to know more about.

Until now, the “no-fly” zone strictly enforced over this highly protected city, was temporarily lifted to capture these breathtaking and memorable views that help make this visual demonstration undeniably artistic and brave.

But brace yourself…literally. If you’re like me (not wanting to miss a single frame, shot or detail in cinematic visuals) you just might need one afterwards. Should you find yourself going to see this film in an IMAX theatre, prepare your neck muscles for the workout as you swivel your head to make sure you capture movements of a single frame all around the impressive dome-style theatre. It’s clear film makers shot this movie with special technology, as your typical head on frame becomes wider, more active and nearly impossible to concentrate on one area of a moving frame. However running only 48 mins, it shouldn’t tire you too much.

Without a doubt, you’re sure to put “Visit Jerusalem” on your bucket list but after seeing this film, consider your passport stamped.

Without giving a pivotal moment in the film away, for now, I’ll leave you with a call our young and insightful Farah championed, “it’s time for us to change history, rather than repeat it.” And while the producers, archeologist’s and cast members don’t call for this specifically, you’ll be hard pressed not to feel a sense of exploration, appreciation and inspiration after visiting National Geographic’s “Jerusalem.”


By: Jordan A. Hora

Jordan is a Senior Communications Executive with nearly 10 years working exclusively in Marketing and Consumer communications. She currently, works for an international faith-based organization which employs more than 350 families and houses over a dozen professional disciplines including Television, Film and Global Missions. Additionally, she works with CHC to tell unique and inspirational stories as this continue to be a passion and interest for Jordan who resides in Dallas, TX.

 

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