If you love the City of David, then the giant screen documentary, “Jerusalem,” is a must-see motion picture.
But not for the reasons you may think.
Presented by National Geographic Entertainment, the 45-minute IMAX film narrated by British actor Benedict Cumberbatch (“Star Trek Into Darkness” and “Sherlock”), which just opened at the Carnegie Science Center’s Rangos Omnimax Theater, takes its audience on a tour of Jerusalem unlike any other.
You will see the city from the air, its narrow streets and shuks and, perhaps most intriguingly, from underground — A Jerusalem many of us have never seen and may never see again.
It uses the latest digital technology to show the audience what the Temple of Jerusalem might have looked like, not to mention other holy sites.
To say this movie is a feast for the eyes is an understatement. It overwhelms your eyes, to the point where they don’t know where to look next.
But what makes this film worth seeing is the human story, and who’s telling it: Three beautiful young women — a Jew, a Christian and a Muslim — each living in their own separate quarter of the Old City. They each tell us their own personal story, through which we learn the history of three faiths and why each is so intrinsically tied to this little city high in the Judean Hills.
Taran Davies, co-producer of “Jerusalem” who conceived the idea for the film while making another giant screen picture about Mecca, said the production team didn’t set out to cast three women in the main roles of the film, but their stories were compelling, as was the idea of letting women tell the story of their city and their faiths in a place where women traditionally don’t take center stage.
“It’s just very unexpected,” Davies told the Chronicle, “not only to hear the spiritual beliefs spoken about by these three young girls, but in this part of the world it’s surprising to hear from three young girls.”
We follow these women to their Passover seder, their Ramadan feast and their Easter dinner. We watch as they pray at the Western Wall, enter the Dome of the Rock or follow Jesus’ final journey to what is now the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Around them, the film crew, consisting of 10 to 80 people, got incredible access to all the nooks of the Old City, where most of the film was shot, and where only 40,000 of the city’s 800,000-some residents live. They were given rare access to some of the holiest rituals, to rarely seen spaces beneath the city and several of its ongoing archaeological digs.
“Did you know Jerusalem is the most excavated city on earth?” Davies asked. “There are 2,000 active archeologicial sites in and around Jerusalem.”
“Jerusalem” never strays into the political struggle behind the ancient city, and make no mistake, this not a Jewish film. All three faiths are treated with equal respect. The three women tell their stories separately, never intermingling, like the quarters they live in.
And that leaves the audience to walk out of the dome-shaped theater with a lingering question: Do they ever meet?
The filmmakers never quite answer that question, but they tease, suggesting that if these three women could reach beyond the walls of their quarters, maybe the political issues would take care of themselves.
Whatever the answer, “Jerusalem” is a fresh and exciting look at the city that more than half the world looks to for their spiritual destiny. Regardless of your own faith, chances are, you’ll walk away from the theater with a greater appreciation of all three. And if that’s possible, what else is?
Want to go?
Where: Carnegie Science Center,
Rangos Omnimax Theater
When: The film will be shown much of this year.
Call 412-237-3400 for times, dates and tickets.
(Lee Chottiner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)