For years, producers of the new documentary film “Jerusalem” toiled to secure permission to shoot in special locations to create a memorable portrait of the Holy City. The result: an IMAX film from National Geographic Entertainment that presents rare and breathtaking images of Jerusalem.
The film features three young women who live in Jerusalem - Nadia Tadros, a Christian, Revital Zacharie, a Jew and Farah Ammouri, a Muslim – along with American archaeologist Jodi Magness who explore “the most contested piece of real estate on earth,” as narrator actor Benedict Cumberbatch says in the film.
The website for the film, which was directed by Daniel Ferguson and produced by Taran Davies and George Duffield, explains just how difficult it was to make:
We knew filming extraordinary images of Jerusalem and the Holy Land from the air was vital to the success of a memorable giant screen experience. We worked for nearly a year to secure the permits to fly at low altitude over the Old City – something that has not been done in over 20 years.
Despite being granted the permits, on the day they were supposed to film, the filmmakers were denied the right to do so. Israeli crew members managed to quickly scramble and obtain permission allowing the capturing of “truly memorable images not likely to be repeated anytime soon.”
Ferguson told a Boston audience “there was nothing that was not complicated.”
The filmmakers timed the shooting days to the holy days of each faith. Thus they were at the Western Wall during the Passover Priestly Blessing, at the Via Dolorosa (Way of the Cross) on Good Friday and at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the first Friday of Ramadan.
Besides capturing a birds-eye view of Jerusalem, the filmmakers also descended to the sacred city’s depths, filming underground quarries, tombs and ancient water tunnels.
Here are some of the images seen in the film's trailer:
The crew provided an anecdote from “the most difficult single day of filming” at the Christian Ceremony of the Holy Fire which occurs on Orthodox Holy Saturday at Church of the Holy Sepulchre. They recounted:
Thousands of pilgrims pack the church with candles waiting for the moment when “a divine light” emerges from the traditional tomb of Jesus and is passed around the church in a euphoric frenzy. We scouted the ceremony in 2010 and planned to film it with three cameras. We sought permission from all six churches that have custodial authority (The Greek Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, Latin Catholic, Syrian Orthodox, Egyptian Coptic, and Ethiopian Orthodox). Just to run a power cable to a single light requires permission from each church body. We used 24 lights set on dimmers so not to disturb the event and had to install them almost a week in advance. We then setup in the middle of the night to get the best angles so that other TV crews and journalists would not block us. Once the church was full, we had to politely convince pilgrims to put down their iPads and camera phones in front of us or not to set our cameras on fire as they waved their torches!
The Boston Globe wrote that the film also includes “impressive CGI ‘reconstructions’ show[ing] how these temples might have appeared in their heyday.”
Here is the official film trailer from National Geographic:
(H/T: Daily Mail)