Saturday, June 5, 2010

Nat'l Geographic Coolness

Last week, Sandra called to tell me there was an event at the American Language Center featuring a documentary director and her movie, Inside Mecca.  Shot for National Geographic, Anisa Mehdi's 50-minute piece tells the story of three pilgrims who travel from opposite corners of cultures and continents to Mecca, Saudi Arabia for the Hajj.
The point of the exercise was to give students at the ALC a chance to see an English language documentary about a place many of them know well.  The bonus was that the director, who is a Fulbright Scholar and Emmy award winner working in Amman, could introduce the screening and take questions afterward.  She made it clear to the mostly local group that this was shot for an American TV audience which has very little understanding of the inside workings of Mecca or the ritual pilgrimage made by millions of people each year.  A quote from the movie gives a little perspective into what it takes to pull off this annual event:
"If you can, imagine having twenty Super Bowls in one stadium where two million people will come to the same stadium. … [A]dd to that [the fact] that these two million people will actually be taking part in playing the game as well. It may give you a glimpse of the preparations needed for hajj." - Iyad Madani, Minister of Hajj for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
The Q&A session afterward was insightful and spirited.  Of course, I was most curious about the crew & gear and got a chance to talk briefly with Anisa about her experience.  You can see production shots  on her site and learn more about her work in Amman on her blog.

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