Friday, November 22, 2013

Jerusalem Movie Review

The Ceremony of the Holy Fire

Jerusalem: The Center of the World

It's not often that I come across a documentary that is equal parts informative and beautiful to look at. National Geographic's Jerusalem, directed by Daniel Ferguson is one such film, but on a grand scale... one that begs watching, and that cements itself as one of my 10 favorite films of 2013.

Rotten Tomatoes Plot: Through the unrivaled beauty and visceral nature of the IMAX experience, JERUSALEM seeks to increase public understanding and appreciation for Jerusalem's historical, spiritual, cultural and artistic uniqueness, as well as highlighting some of the intersections between Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

What’s Best: This is what IMAX is all about. Rare views of the Foundation StoneMasada and the underground tombs of Golgotha are nothing short of breathtaking. Even more important to the film's success is the evenhandedness with which Ferguson tells three different stories. Those stories belong to three young women of different religious backgrounds (Muslim, Christian and Jewish respectively) Farah, Nadia and Revital, who take us on separate tours of their "own" Jerusalem. Each one is a marvel to behold, and refreshingly devoid of political mumbo jumbo.

Narrator Benedict Cumberbatch (great voice!) reminds us that Jerusalem has been conquered over 40 times throughout history; yet he comes back later with the more promising declaration that it's also the closest place on Earth to God. Better still, Ferguson avoids the trappings of choosing one religion over another... allowing his audience to make that choice for themselves. Take away the instigators, and you can imagine a Jerusalem for everybody. Wouldn't that be something?

What’s Not: During a pre-screening introduction, Ferguson asked, 'How are we going to fit 5,000 years of history into 45 minutes?' Perhaps a better question is, "Why limit it to less than two hours at all?" If it took "thousands of cups of tea" to secure the necessary trust to gain unrivaled access to this magnificent city, why not show more?

Best Line: Nadia remarks, 'Although we live in the same area, we don't know a lot about each other.' What a shame. My favorite line however, came from Ferguson in his aforementioned introduction, 'The best IMAX films are poems about their subjects.' If that's the case, Ferguson's lens is this generation's Shakespeare.

Overall: I don't like to gush over a movie too often: I fear it doesn't suit me, especially given my history of sometimes scathing reviews. But Jerusalem is uplifting, wonderfully shot and the world's greatest travel ad all-in-one. To show you how much I loved it... I didn't even mind wearing 3D specs (now that's a first.) Big places, little moments: One of my favorite scenes happens in the Muslim quarter, where the camera wanders into a shop filled top to bottom with genie lamps (I could be wrong about the inventory.) In the back, two shopkeepers play a friendly game of backgammon... presumably, without a care in the world. I longed to be there. Thanks to Ferguson, I feel like I almost was.

Jerusalem 3D opens today at the Samuel C. Johnson IMAX Theater (National Museum of Natural History.) Click here to purchase tickets.