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Jerusalem Documentary Takes San Diego On Eye-Opening Tour

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November 18, 2015 1:10 p.m.

Jerusalem Documentary Takes San Diego On Eye-Opening Tour

GUESTS:

Daniel Ferguson, director/writer/producer, "Jerusalem"

Jodi Magness, archaeologist, "The Archaeology of the Holy Land"

Related Story: Jerusalem Documentary Takes San Diego On Eye-Opening Tour

Transcript:

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

This is PS midday edition, I am Maureen Cavanaugh a plot of Earth less than 50 mi.², let it dominates headlines, beckons pilgrims and is sacred to almost half the people on the planet. It is the ancient city of Jerusalem. A new IMAX film opening at the summit center tries to move beyond the politics and controversy that surrounded city and bring us images of Jerusalem in a way never seen before. It takes us inside the dome of the rock, the church of the holy sepulcher. It provides where aerial footage of the Western Wall. Joining me is the director, writer and producer of the film Jerusalem. Daniel Ferguson
Thank you Maureen.
What made you want to make this film quick
Goodness, the format, IMAX format I think is the greatest film format ever created. Taking people to places they could never go. I think Jerusalem is on many people's list, the ultimate bucket list destination. We are fascinated by it, we hear about it all the time, yet the opportunity to explore it beyond the clichés is something we welcomed. It belongs on the giant screen. It's a question of timing. We were fortunate to make this film when we did of course.
One of the questions you wanted answer with the documentary is why. Why Jerusalem, why this city. The center is the of trade world great religions.
It took a great deal of research. That means listening to people, listening to the different narratives in the city. I think that we tend to see the city to the lens of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Yet we forget this is a city that is continuously inhabited for 5000 years. There is so much blood and ink over the city. We are fascinated, whether we're just can't question, Muslim or secular. You are related to it in some way, poetry, songs, literature that inspire Western culture comes from this place as you mentioned. It forces you to ask the question why peers
So did you come up with any answer?
I don't want to give it away, people become to the movie. That's what fascinated all of us in making this, how can we use the format. Individual immersive way to answer these questions, or to get you to think about answers. There is no simple answer to this. Everyone relates to the city in their own way, that is what gives it so much power as well.
Throughout the film, we hear the voices of three young women. A Muslim, a Jewish and Christian. About what it's like to live in Jerusalem. Here are their voices
Jerusalem to me is adventure. I know it is a place -- [indiscernible]
Catholics, Orthodox, Armenian, Jews, everybody lives here. You can hear 60 different languages passing by. I feel very connected to the city. Maybe because of the beauty. Maybe it's history. Maybe because it is my home. My ancestors are from here.
Those voices from the new IMAX film Jerusalem, and the writer director and producer Daniel Ferguson is here with me. Those three girls have a great sense of presence, and they are marvelous storytellers. I am wondering why you decided to present what is like to live in Jerusalem from their perspectives peers
These three girls -- who were wonderful. I learned so much from them and their families. We wanted to do this in a way you did not expect. I think to make something is counterintuitive. We have assumptions of what Jerusalem is like, many of those assumptions are as a patriarchal, very a city -- austere city. We very seldom hear from women, let alone young women, going to the city with these oral narratives inherited. Yet they live close to one another in separate Jerusalem's. That was something we wanted to explore, in a way that disarms you as the bugler. By the end of the film you really have become smitten with these three young women. And there Jerusalem's. That is the point, it is a human city, not just the city of stone. A city of stories and attachments, emotion and passion. If you understand why people love the city in their own way, you are very quick to read the headlines the
It is quite remarkable to imagine what it must be like to grow up and have Charleswood, to have your school and your family live in this city that is basically dripping with history and culture. So much the weight of history, and really the promise of history.
Absolutely. Each of these three young women and their families, they represent it in unique ways. We follow the life of the city through time. We explore the city that Jerusalem is many cities buried one on top of the other. Also side-by-side. You get to experience the high points of the Jerusalem calendar year. Passover, Easter, Ramadan. But through the eyes of these young girls and a way you can relate to emotionally. If I told you in the beginning you would follow a Muslim family, a Jewish family, you might wonder, you might have questions and think about politics. In this case we have tried to remove that and say what about humanity. These are people you can relate to. Often sadly our portrait is Israelis, politicians, soldiers or radicals. We don't get a chance to hear from moderates, let alone young women who have aspirations, are curious about one another.
Another thing we learned is that Jerusalem may be diverse but it is not a melting pot. Here is another clip from the film, narrated by --
Today the world is at the heart of Jerusalem, a mosaic of cultures and beliefs. Where Jews, Christians and Muslims live side-by-side. Yet in separate causes. Each in their own Jerusalem.
That is the point. This documentary makes, one of the girls also says, that people in the different quarters in Jerusalem don't interact. I know you lived in Jerusalem for some time making this film, is that we you experienced quick
I did, but I had the fortune of being outside and having a sort of neutral position, where I could go on Shabbat for example, or break fast with a family in East Jerusalem, or go to an Easter dinner. I was welcomed by all communities, our crew was. It was very inclusive Israeli, Palestinian, Jordanian, international. It is a testament to the format that people are excited about IMAX. A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. So you can into the life of the other for the world's most immersive format. I think I did experience that and I was completely shocked by the encounter. Every trip I took I made 14 over several years, and the essence of what Jerusalem was slipped out of my fingers, very elusive. I think you could spend a lifetime to make 10 movies without scratching the service you
One of the aspects of this film is you got these aerial shots the first aerial images allowed in 20 years peers
Aerials were essential in the IMAX format to the give you a new UNIX perspective. -- Unique perspective good you can never understand the proximity of the holy places. It takes you above, a low altitude aerial. At something we were told know this will never happen, we presented the demands to the military authorities, Jordanian government, everyone said the same thing. You are crazy you will never get this. Slowly through hundreds of cups of tea, diplomacy, and trust building, we were able to achieve these aerials that people can see.
One of the people featured in the film Jerusalem is archaeologist Jerry Magness, the author of the archaeology of the holy land. Now she joins us on the line. Welcome peers
Thank you.
In the film you say Jerusalem is like a giant puzzle with most of its pieces missing. You been trying to put those pieces together. What are some recent archaeological discoveries made in Jerusalem quick
There is an archaeological discovery made all the time in Jerusalem, literally you cannot put a stake in the ground and not come up with something agent. There is layers of civilizations, one on top of the other it every time someone builds a house, or digs to repair a pipe on the underground. Antiquities are found. The most recent and most exciting archaeological discovery was just recorded last week. The remains of the fortress called the opera. It dates to the period after the conquest of Alexander the great and is connected with the Maccabees. The same family that is connected with the celebration of the holiday of Hanukkah. Anyway these excavations have been ongoing and the part of Jerusalem just to the south of the Temple Mount south of the old city. They brought to light remains of the Jedi neck fortress of the opera was a fortress. It looks like were waiting for the publication, but for the announcements they have made in the media, it looks like in fact this might be the very same opera portrait connected with the story of the Maccabees. That is really the most recent big archaeological discovery. There are all sorts of things going on all the time. Really a moving target if you're trying to keep up.
In the film Jody we see you walking with tourist alongside the second Temple. The answer computer animation the second Temple built by great -- king Herod comes to live. Made me wonder, do we know how Jerusalem used to look through all of its many incarnations?
Of course the information is incomplete. That is why studying archaeology in general in particular Jerusalem is a puzzle. We only have little bits and pieces. We try to put them together and figure out, fill in the parts that are missing. That is true if we try to reconstruct what it looked like in its history. There are periods where we have more information and periods where we have less information. But for the late second Temple., The time of Jesus, we actually have quite a bit of information, both Arctic ideological and literarily. The computer-generated model you saw in film has a lot of solid basis to it. We have a pretty good idea for that particular reconstruction you saw it
And Jody, working in Jerusalem, it sounds like an archaeologist dream. I would imagine there are some challenges working there. Can you share.
The biggest challenge to working in Jerusalem is like working in any living city, in the Mediterranean world. If you think of Rome or Athens Istanbul, Alexandria, cities that have been continuously occupied for thousands of years literally. That have a modern living city on top of them. As an archaeologist for example, I would love to be able to dig up the entire part of the city of Jerusalem to find out. You cannot tear down people's houses and shops, the streets of the city to find out. That's why the knowledge is fragmentary. We don't get to open up the whole thing, we just get its and pieces and they come to light. Usually during the process of the construction of something. Such is the opera fortress, is part of an excavation going on in connection with construction projects. A parking lot was there they took up the parking lot and the digging underneath. So that is really the biggest challenge I think. As an archaeologist, being able to figure out what the city look like to answer the questions you want to answer, when your evidence is so limited in many ways peers
Jody . thank you so much for joining us.
Thank you for having me.
You with me again is David Ferguson, writer producer per director of the IMAX film we are talking about. Jerusalem. Daniel, the fact that Jerusalem is not always a safe place to visit the is that one of the reasons that you made this film?
I think we certainly are aware of that. My impression of Jerusalem, starting this project, was exactly that. I wasn't sure if I wanted to embark on this journey, especially 5000 years of history impacted info desk every five minutes. -- 45 minutes. We were fortunate on this film between 2009 in 2013, it took us five years and multiple trips. We cannot make this film today, that is clear. The trust required is gone. Even as you mention the security situation, we could not have a clue and people not be comparable
We were lucky and people have tried to make IMAX films about Jerusalem before and have failed the cause of those reasons. Yet that curiosity remains, people are fascinated. I am amazed at how many disparate groups from all over the world are fascinated by this place, and want to know why. They want questions that are very personal to themselves, to be answered the that's what we hope to do is to make this inclusive, so it doesn't make you choose the allegiance. It allows you to ask questions about your own assumptions of this place. The belief about your history, where your views come from. As Jody does eloquently, she asked the question how do we know what we know about Jerusalem peers
To you have a favorite image from the film?
I have several. Several that are personal triumphs of the film crew, that were heroic in every way. Certainly when I see the aerials, when I see is entering the doors of the dome of the rock, going underneath the church of the holy sepulcher, that for me, I can't believe it. I pinch myself that we were there, that we captured that you'd also the intimacy that we enter the lives and these three William -- women and their families. It is universal. Whether you are here in San Diego, or in the Middle East, wherever you are, you can relate to something people sitting down for a ritual family meal that everyone can relate to that. Whether you are religious or not. And the thrill of feeling like you are there. IMAX does that so well. It tricks you into thinking you are in Jerusalem.
The IMAX film opens this Friday at the Rubin H science Center. I have been seeking the speaking today no Ferguson, the film producer. Thank you very much.
Thank you Marlene.