Journey To Mecca - Behind The Scenes

  • “Everything was difficult…” Line Producer Daniel Ferguson

    Line Producer Daniel Ferguson began setting up the Saudi Arabia shoot of Mecca in October 2007 in Jeddah. The crewing of the film was a Herculean task because Ferguson had to find three local crews to shoot in Mecca, all had to be Muslim and all had to have knowledge of film. The total Muslim crew in Saudi Arabia numbered 85, all of whom had to be trained in less than a month before the Hajj began on December 17th.

    "Everything was difficult. We had to obtain permits to get permits, permits for meetings; sand bags, cars, things we take for granted in the West. They worked so hard. There was a force behind it. It was a shoot that was meant to happen."

  • “The most challenging film…”, Producer Jonathan Barker

    "It is certainly the most challenging film I've ever been involved in," explains Jonathan Barker who has worked on films where IMAX® cameras were put on a space shuttle and sent up to dock with the Mir Space Station. "But this one was extraordinarily difficult and complicated because, first of all, we had to have an all-Muslim crew and to date there have been very few Muslims with experience in the IMAX® medium. We were fortunate to find three really wonderful and talented Muslim Cinematographers who we flew to Los Angeles and trained.”

  • “What I didn’t expect…” Cinematographer Afshin Javadi

    "What I didn't expect were the challenges we faced working around millions of Hajj pilgrims, in many cases, making the most important journey of their lives, the pilgrimage to Islam's holiest site, the Ka'bah. Initially, the process seemed arduous and frustrating, until I looked beyond the chaos and discovered how the pilgrims flowed, not as many, but as one. Once my crew and I began going with "the flow," both figuratively and literally, we managed to capture the essence and the beauty of Hajj. I went as far as doing a steadicam shot of the holy Ka'bah, while circumambulating it with tens of thousands of pilgrims, a shot never done before. The footage was mesmerizing and monumental."


  • “The desert opened its arms…” Cinematographer Rafey Mahmood

    "The desert opened its arms and welcomed us. I felt my unit members were like fellow travellers on a cosmic journey. We had come to witness, record and share an age long spiritual practice of great inner and outer movements and we were happy to be doing it on the wondrous IMAX®. The promise of sharing these great images on the biggest screen kept me inspired each day. One night waves of faithful pilgrims went around the holy Ka'bah in Tawaaf, as we tried to calculate a time lapse shot from one of the minarets. Can this event be a symbolic replica of some timeless pulsation of our reality? But one thing I knew for certain in crossing the Arabian Sea from Mumbai, I had covered an important part of my own journey as an Indian Muslim and as a Cinematographer. I welcome all to Journey to Mecca!"


  • “It was the first time ever…” Ghasem Ebrahimian, Cinematographer

    "It was the first time ever the Saudi Arabian authorities allowed any camera to be that close to the Ka'bah from the air. We almost touched the minarets when we shot the Tawaf (the circumambulation of the Ka'bah)," says one of the cinematographers, Ghasem Ebrahimian, who directed the pilot to fly counterclockwise to follow the Tawaf. "Seeing people from some 100 different countries all merge in one spot like a flowing river was quite an event. Some have saved their whole lives to get there. Altogether the helicopter made 20 flight paths over Mecca over five days, shooting a total of 60 minutes of film," says Ebrahimian. "As the IMAX® film magazine lasts for a little over two minutes, we had to come back to base and reload. We would change film while the helicopter was still running and then we would take off and do more shots.