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November 1, 2013 - 

Do you wish you could visit the Holy Land but find the expense a bit of an obstacle? For the cost of an IMAX theater ticket, you can take a 45-minute trip to the center of it all, the walled Old City of Jerusalem.

National Geographic’s Jerusalem is richly filmed with gorgeous aerial shots from low-flying helicopters. The camera brings viewers into marketplaces and religious celebrations teeming with life and color. This is particularly unusual because the city is a no-fly zone; apparently it took years to work out the logistics and permissions. Three young women—one Jewish, one Muslim, and one Christian—tell a bit about their lives, their faith, and how these intersect with the history and beauty of the city they love.

The movie includes footage from several different religious celebrations, including Passover, Ramadan, and Easter. For North American Christians, this is a unique opportunity to experience the Orthodox pageantry and mystery of the Ceremony of the Holy Fire at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre or the journey down the Via Dolorosa on Good Friday.

The showing I attended was populated predominantly by older viewers, but I took my three children, ages 10 to 16, with me, and they found it quite fascinating. An added bonus for them was the narration by popular actor Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays BBC’s “Sherlock” and who will shortly be known as the voice of the dragon Smaug in the second theatrical installment of The Hobbit.

It’s fairly obvious that the movie’s noble intention is to foster understanding and tolerance among different religions as the three women navigate the same city center. However, the highlight for me was seeing the places and spaces that figure so largely in my own sacred history, offering a good jumping-off point for discussion with my family. (National Geographic Entertainment)

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