Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Fernbank Museum Offers Rare Glimpse into a Land Steeped in Mystery and Myth in Thought-Provoking New IMAX® Film, ARABIA

A land steeped in mystery and myth is revealed in stunning dimensions in the thought-provoking new film ARABIA, which opens in Fernbank Museum’s IMAX® Theatre on March 12, 2010. The film unfolds the story of an extreme desert environment that through the riches of global trade, a deep devotion to faith and its people’s thirst for knowledge, has become one of the most powerful, yet least understood, regions on Earth today.

This kaleidoscopic portrait of Arabia delves into the storied past and impending future through a mix of contemporary images of modern-day life, epic historical recreations, and visual effects that will allow theatre-goers to ride the dunes with a camel caravan, dive into the treasure-laden Red Sea, explore the ruins of a towering lost city, hurtle back into the Islamic golden age of invention, join three million Muslims on the Hajj pilgrimage, and get to know the young Arabians transforming tomorrow’s world. The result is a surprising and illuminating journey that not only unveils an often hidden world -- but also serves as a bridge between two cultures that have long misunderstood one another.

“While no single film could possibly capture the entire story of life on the Arabian Peninsula, this film provides an insightful overview of the geography, history, religion and culture that have combined to shape this region and its inhabitants,” said Fernbank curator Bobbi Hohmann. “Through dynamic programming like ARABIA, Fernbank strives to expose our visitors to the diversity of culture that exists on the planet, including people living today as well as those from the past.”

For most people, ARABIA will be a first chance to experience life in a part of the world often glimpsed solely through news clips.

“No other medium can convey the culture and atmosphere of another land as well as an IMAX® Theatre film. We spent months shooting where no cameras of any kind have ever been, so that
we could better understand this important part of the world for ourselves,” said the film’s Academy Award-nominated director, Greg MacGillivray. “I think we have brought back a fresh portrait of Arabia’s remarkable people and history, its culture based on strong family ties, its moving devotion to faith, and its struggle to balance ancient values with the modern world. This is a film full of surprises, including the surprise of how much, underneath it all, our people share in common.”

The story of ARABIA spans 2,000 years of Arabian history but is told by three vibrant, modern-day Arabian citizens, each invested in learning more about their history and culture. The film’s real-life guides are Hamzah Jamjoom, a Saudi Arabian film student at Chicago’s De Paul University who returns home to make a film about his heritage; Nimah Nawwab, a writer, poet and photographer who provides a young woman’s perspective on Arabia; and leading Arabian archaeologist Dr. Daifallah Al-Talhi, who is digging into his people’s incredible past in the lost Nabataean city of Madain Saleh.

The journey begins with Hamzah’s trek from his home city of Jeddah into the remote desert to explore his tribal roots among the Bedouins, the famously generous nomadic people who live in tent camps with their families and animals. After riding on camels and hunting with falcons, as well as encountering desert baboons, he heads to the coast where he will literally dive into another unseen realm of Arabia: the uniquely salty Red Sea. Under Arabia’s waters, Hamzah will explore a different world of dazzling coral reefs, distinctive marine life and ancient shipwrecks with stories to tell.

To better understand his people’s past, Hamzah meets up with archaeologist Dr. Al-Talhi at a site in Arabia like no other: the lost city of Madain Saleh, where soaring stone tombs cut into the cliffs and the ruins of a sophisticated oasis city have much to reveal about the origins of Arabian culture and its emphasis on trade and education. Here, in an age of enlightenment, the mysterious Nabataeans built a global center of learning, literacy, art, invention and commerce with the wealth they amassed from trading frankincense and spices with the vast Roman Empire. Largely unseen by the world, even by Arabians, Madain Saleh’s ruins come to vivid life for the first time on the IMAX® Theatre screen.

Filmgoers continue to traverse through Arabian history as the film delves into a second enlightened age of Arabia, the Islamic Golden Age, which began in the Middles Ages after the founding of the Islamic religion. CGI allows the audience to time-travel back to an extraordinary period when a vast Islamic empire made mathematical, medical, engineering and philosophical discoveries that rocked the world and paved the way for modern science and technology.

For a glimpse into current times, writer Nimah Nawab takes up the narration, as she makes a deeply personal pilgrimage to the Hajj, one of the most spiritually-charged events on the planet, when three million Muslim pilgrims make their way to the holy city of Makkah (Mecca) to reaffirm their faith. This profound experience of human communion, rarely seen by outsiders, is witnessed in all its emotions and stark humanity by the IMAX® cameras.

As the unforgettable journey of ARABIA comes to a close, a question lingers: is Arabia now in the midst of another prosperous period of transformation, a third golden age? While the future remains unwritten, Hamzah, Nimah and Dr. Al-Talhi leave the audience with much to ponder about how the desert carved the Arabian soul – and how Arabian souls are reconciling with the modern world.

ARABIA is produced and distributed by MacGillivray Freeman Films. The film is directed by Greg MacGillivray and produced by Greg MacGillivray and Mark Krenzien from a screenplay by Jack Stephens.

ARABIA shows in the IMAX® Theatre at Fernbank Museum of Natural History from March 12-July 29, 2010. Fernbank Museum is located at 767 Clifton Road NE in Atlanta. IMAX® ticket prices are $13 for adults, $12 for students/seniors, $11 for children ages 12 to 3, $8 for Members, and free (based on seating availability) for children ages 2 and under. Tickets are available at and 404.929.6400.
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