Daniel Ferguson’s “Jerusalem” – A Review

This is a documentary I had been wanting to watch ever since I saw the trailer online in early 2014-ish. One of my favorite cities (as a history-lover – I’ve never actually been), with narration by Benedict Cumberbatch…what more could I want? It’s like this documentary was made for me.

I’ll begin by stating the obvious. A film made by National Geographic for the IMAX setting, “Jerusalem” oozes with beautiful imagery and breathtaking cinematography. The viewer gets everything from incredible aerial views of the “city on a hill,” to close up footage of the interior of the Dome of the Rock, to perusals of Jerusalem’s many historic gates and cobblestone paths (so $4.99 not horribly spent, if you ask me).

That being said, it’s just a 45-minute-long film, and it glosses over/completely leaves out SO MUCH. The film aims to provide a tourist’s survey of how one would find Jerusalem today (with its four different quarters: Armenian, Christian, Jewish, and Muslim), and to show how, although Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have distinct customs and traditions, they are not so different after all. Consequently, the film does not really discuss Jerusalem very much in a theological context, and it doesn’t really try to explain its current political situation. It sort of hints at it the end (“Jews, Christians, and Muslims, have often found themselves in conflict, yet they share a heritage and a love for the land that nourished their beliefs”), but one wouldn’t grasp or perhaps even know about Jerusalem’s turbulent and highly controversial political status just by watching the film.

Another thing the film didn’t talk about much that I wish it did was the Crusades, the whole point of which was to reclaim the Holy Land (at least as much as Iraq was about finding weapons of mass destruction, in that that’s what everyone thought it was about). It also doesn’t mention how the walls surrounding Jerusalem’s Old City were built under Suleiman the Magnificent in 1538, which I feel is a pretty important fact.

Overall, I’d give it 3.5 stars out of 5. It’s worth a watch and a nice starting point to understanding Jerusalem, but try getting it for free if you can.

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