Daniel Ferguson's film makes full use of the grandeur of the large format. It opens with a stunning aerial view of the city of Jerusalem and it closes with that same image. But by the end of the 45-minute film, places on that view have been defined so that the scene is familiar as well as beautiful and exotic. Ferguson was also one of the writers for the film, which is narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch. Ferguson's script covers 5,000 years of history from the time spring water brought people to the site. He subscribes to the theory that the name Jerusalem refers to the "city of the god of the setting sun," not the more commonly understood "city of peace." He describes the Crusades, the Jews, the Romans.
Ferguson tells part of the story through the points of view of three young women, a Christian, a Jew and a Muslim: Nadia, Revital, and Farah. They guide the viewer through the quarters dedicated to their ancient faiths, visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Dome of the Rock and the Jordan River. They admit that they do not know much about each other's sections, and a tiny moment of poignance occurs at the end as each young woman passes the other at a slight distance, together but apart. Everyone, they say, tells a different story of the same place, for Jerusalem is many cities.
In addition, the renowned archeologist, Dr. Jodi Magness, explains the work of archeologists to find the smallest titbits of history.
Ferguson, who made 14 trips to Jerusalem to film, takes viewers on high in aerial shots and down below, through dark tunnels He shows Christians lighting holy fire the night before Easter; he follows Muslims at Ramadan with the moon rising over the city of prophets; he attends Jews at the Western Wall. Ferguson exploits the IMAX technology, even fortuitously to the ceiling of the Science Center, which echoes domes of the holy places in the film, and to the sound system when a choir sings in reverberation or a muezzin calls for prayer.
"Jerusalem" is breath-taking, highly informative, and beautiful. As a Christian, I was moved by the film, and I can only assume "Jerusalem" will be just as inspiring to Jews and Muslims and followers of other faiths.