BYU students experience ‘Jerusalem’ in a whole new way

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Neil Reed and Jared Maxfield enthusiastically dressed up in traditional Arab clothing to get the true "Jerusalem" experience. (Photo by Taylor Hintz)
Neil Reed and Jared Maxfield enthusiastically dress up in traditional Arab clothing at the premiere of “Jerusalem” to get the true experience.
(Photo by Taylor Hintz)

Hundreds of BYU students have experienced Jerusalem in two major ways — they either made traveling plans to see the Holy City and all of its holiday traditions, or they actually went there.

Of course, the traveling plans were as simple as driving out to Thanksgiving Point to see the new film “Jerusalem” in 3D, but several students said the film, which premiered Oct. 18, was surreal.

“It was like re-walking through the city,” said Kara Bischoff, who first walked through the city as a BYU student in the Jerusalem Center. Bischoff, a senior majoring in family studies, said one of the opening scenes felt like a memory being replayed as the camera goes through the Damascus gate into the Old City in first-person perspective.

The film explores the Holy City’s most significant archaeological sites, churches and mosques. It was filmed specifically for IMAX 3D by Provo resident Reed Smoot and narrated by actor Benedict Cumberbatch. Smoot has worked as director of photography on several motion pictures, including “Homeward Bound: The Great Journey,” and he also specializes in large-format filmmaking.

“So much research, so much homework went into this production,” said Smoot. “Dragging equipment around Jerusalem was a huge problem.”

Smoot said the ability to shoot inside some of Jerusalem’s holiest places was a special privilege that was only attained after serious petitioning for permission. Smoot and his team were trapped inside one of the main Christian churches overnight because the church still strictly followed its policy of closing and locking the doors from 9:00 p.m. until 5:30 a.m.

“Jerusalem” showed not only the holiest sites but also some of the most quotidian scenes. Many former Jerusalem Center students remembered the odd shops and street-markets that decorated the roads of inner-city Jerusalem.

Jared Maxfield went to the Jerusalem Center last fall and said that despite Jerusalem’s religious significance in the world, there are still some less religious people who live inside its walls.

“We found a cheeseburger place, which is like the quintessential ‘no-no’ in Jerusalem,” Maxfield said.

“Jerusalem” has regular daytime showings at Thanksgiving Point Monday–Saturday for the next several months.

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