MONTREAL — The giant-screen film Jerusalem, written and directed by Montrealer Daniel Ferguson, had its Canadian premiere at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau on Sept. 23 before opening to the public.
The sold-out gala evening was hosted by the Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Ottawa chapter, and benefited joint medical research projects between that university and the University of Ottawa.
Among the guests in attendance were Jason Kenney, minister of employment and social development, as well as multiculturalism; Eliav Luf, chargé d’affaires, and Eitan Weiss, first secretary, from the Israeli embassy; and MPs Mauril Bélanger and Irwin Cotler.
Jerusalem, a National Geographic Entertainment feature, is described as the first ever giant-screen 3D/2D film on this ancient city sacred to Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
Narrated by British actor Benedict Cumberbatch, Jerusalem was a beloved project of Quebec-born Jake Eberts, the multiple Academy Award-winning Hollywood producer (Chariots of Fire, Gandhi, Driving Miss Daisy, among numerous others).
Eberts, who served as executive producer of Jerusalem, died in September 2012 at age 71. He did not live to see it in IMAX and other large-format cinemas.
Jerusalem opened in September in a half-dozen U.S. cities, including the National Geographic Theater in Charlotte, N.C., and is now playing throughout the United States. It’s scheduled to be screened in Paris later this month and in London, England, in January.
Ferguson hopes it will be seen in Toronto and possibly other Canadian cities next year.
Several members of the Eberts family, including his wife Fiona, son David and sister Beth Stikeman were in attendance at the Museum of Civilization premiere.
Eberts, who was not Jewish, was fascinated with Jerusalem ever since the couple spent their honeymoon there 45 years ago. Fiona Eberts spoke about her husband’s hope that the film would promote greater understanding.
Jerusalem centres on the lives of three teenaged girls who call that city home: Farah Ammouri, Revital Zacharie and Nadia Tadros, representing the three major religions.
Audiences see the city intimately through their eyes and from different perspectives. The film also offers spectacular aerial scenes of Jerusalem and its surroundings.
Jerusalem is presented as a place where history, religion and, in modern times, science and the arts intersect.
Ferguson is also co-producer of the film with Taran Davies and George Duffield. A McGill University graduate in history and comparative religions, Ferguson has worked on numerous giant-screen films, including Journey to Mecca, but Jerusalem is his most ambitious personal project.
At a fundraiser for the film in Montreal two years ago, Ferguson said, “We want to shift the discussion of Jerusalem beyond the politics to why this relatively small city captivates us so much…
“On the theological, political and community levels, we are determined to get it right, and it is complex. Every word [in the film] is looked at closely.”
Since 2009, he has made 14 trips to Jerusalem and spent six months living there with his family.
As Canadian Friends president and CEO Rami Kleinmann explained, the producers and National Geographic collaborated with his organization in the film’s development and Hebrew U academics played an advisory role.
“Working together on this project will enable us to educate audiences worldwide on Jerusalem’s historical, spiritual, cultural and artistic uniqueness and, most importantly, it will highlight the diversity and harmony among all those who hold Jerusalem close to their heart.”
For more information on the film, visit www.jerusalemthemovie.com.