Journey To Mecca - Reviews

  • The Washington Examiner, Jan 13, 2010

    It is difficult to remember a time when religion and culture meant community rather than politics. It is especially difficult to read about Islam in the Western media after 9/11 without the filter of terrorism applied to a crass political calculation. In his inaugural address President Barack Obama signaled a new day, a way forward. Yet the way forward is a path littered with a comfortable ignorance requiring little thought or reflection. Without a guide, without the proper tools it seems an impossible journey; until now.

    Popular culture can inform, infuriate, motivate and educate. Too often it simply attempts to entertain in the belief that the audience is looking for escape. But some films break through that common milieu. Journey to Mecca, an IMAX® film opening tomorrow, January 14 at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History’s Johnson IMAX® Theater in Washington, D.C. is such a film.

    Journey to Mecca tells the story of Ibn Battuta, (played by Chems Eddine Zinoun) a young scholar, who leaves Tangier in 1325 on an epic and perilous journey, traveling alone from his home in Morocco to reach Mecca, some 3,000 miles to the east. Ibn Battuta, the famed 14th century Moroccan traveler, set out in 1325 from his native Tangier on an epic journey to Mecca, the historical and cultural center of Islam. By the time he returned 29 years later, he had traveled the world from West Africa, Spain and
    India to China and the Maldives, covering some 75,000 miles and three times further than Marco Polo. At the instigation of the Sultan of Morocco, Ibn Battuta dictated his reminiscences, which became one of the world’s most famous travel books, the Rihla.

    Producer Dominic Cunningham-Reid believes the film transcends the current political climate: “The genesis of this film was to promote a better understanding of Islam in the West. At the same time, and as importantly, it is to present on the big screen the heart of Islamic heritage to the Muslim world. My personal view is that there is a sense that the Muslim world today is a little under-represented in the media except on political issues. What we want to do is showcase the cultural and spiritual and historical elements of the Islamic world in a non-political way...”

    The IMAX® format meets the scope of the project says Producer Taran Davies; “One of our goals was to show the Hajj on the giant screen as a way to strip away barriers between cultures. And when it is there on that 25-meter high screen, it is so powerful, yet so peaceful. And that is one of the big things that struck us as non- Muslims, learning how harmonious the Hajj is. Three million people from around the world and all walks of life mixing together in peace,”

    When ignorance stands in the way of progress; only education can move it aside to show society the way forward. The Smithsonian Institution exists to meet that mandate and the screening of Journey to Mecca meets that lofty and necessary goal.

    Journey to Mecca isn’t just a film; it’s an opportunity to face the challenge of history.

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