The heart of the world: The star of Jerusalem 3D talks about her hometown and seeing herself on the Giant Screen for the first time

Farah Ammouri and her brother Mohammed after viewing Jerusalem 3D in our Giant Screen Theatre for the first time.

If you haven’t yet heard the mountains of praise for the wildly stunning Jerusalem 3D movie, climb out from under your rock right now. This epic film from National Geographic Entertainment whisks and winds you through one of the world’s most important cities with arguably one of the most storied pasts of all time.

But in a city as multifaceted and layered as Jerusalem, how do you do justice to its many tales without focusing on its politics?

Well, you hear it from the perspectives of those who live it every day.

The production team of Taran Davies, George Duffield, and Daniel Ferguson said in a press release, “Our goal is to look at the roots of the universal attachment to Jerusalem: Jewish, Christian and Muslim. We hope the juxtaposition of these different religions and cultures — all with profound spiritual and historical connections to the city — will reveal how much Jews, Christians and Muslims have in common and inspire all of us to better understand each other.”

So the team asked three girls — a Christian, a Jew, and a Muslim — to lead them around their city for a day. Each girl revealed surprisingly different perspectives — perspectives that form the backbone of Jerusalem 3D‘s magic.

Farah Ammouri, an 18-year-old Muslim, was one of these young women. She spent her entire life in Jerusalem, and she currently attends college in Dallas. We sat down to talk with Ammouri after she traveled to Houston for her very first viewing — ever! — of Jerusalem 3D.

So this was the first time you’d seen the full movie. What did you think?

It was awesome. I loved it. Most of my own footage I’d seen — they’d shown me the clips of what was happening and how they were filming — so I was up-to-date on how it was going to be. But I didn’t see [any of the other girls'] footage; [Director Daniel Ferguson] only showed me mine.

How did you end up in the movie anyway?

First of all, I’m not an actress, obviously. [laughs] I went to a Catholic school, and our nun asked for girls whose families originate from Jerusalem to be interviewed for a movie. A lot of my good friends were auditioning for the movie. It was awkward for awhile, being selected out of a lot of girls that you know. I auditioned in October and I found out in January of the next year. It was a shock; I didn’t know what to expect. [Ferguson] told me about the movie; that it was going to be about religion but nothing political, and I was fascinated by the idea.

You didn’t want to be a part of it because you have acting aspirations?

Nooooo. [giggles] The girls who casted for the movie … we’re all going into something scientific. I have no aspirations to become an actress.

Did you know either of the other girls [Nadia Tadros, from a Greek Orthodox and Catholic family, and Revital Zacharie, a Jew] before the movie?

I knew the Christian girl [Nadia Tadros]. She’s really good friends with me; she used to go to my school and graduated two years before me. I didn’t know she was a Christian girl, and once I knew, we started talking to each other even more. She helped me a lot [throughout the filming of the movie]; we would give each other mental support and encourage each other.

Has your life changed at all as a result of the film?

It has given me experience. I’ve met a lot of new people, and I’ve learned a lot. My personality has gotten stronger from the movie. Imagine seeing yourself walking down the stairs [referring to a scene in Jerusalem 3D], and everyone looking at you and they are trying to tell them not to look at you. When they don’t look at the camera, they’ll be looking at me, and they tell them, “Don’t look at the girl; act normal.” It’s funny.

How do you view your relationship with Jerusalem now that you’re in the United States?

I’m a bit homesick. I do want to go back to live. I came here to study Genetic Engineering and it’s really hard to study that in Jerusalem. After that, I really want to go back home to my family.

Explore the cherished land of Jerusalem in our Giant Screen Theatre. Get your tickets to Jerusalem 3D.

Coming Dec. 12 – The Birth of Christianity: A Jewish Story

When did Christianity begin and what do we know about its origins? Did it begin with Jesus? And, what do we know about him? During the 20th century, a number of spectacular archeological discoveries in the land of Israel have greatly increased our knowledge of ancient Israel, culture and lifestyles.

When The Birth of Christianity: A Jewish Story, a new special exhibition, opens at the Houston Museum of Natural Science on Dec. 12, you’ll have a chance to explore these new discoveries for yourself, through the display of ancient scrolls, objects and artifacts. In the following video, Guest Curator Matthias Henze, Ph.D., discusses how the artifacts gathered in this premiere exhibition are “the closest we can get to the historical Jesus:”

Guest Curator Matthias Henze, Ph.D., Chair in Biblical Studies at Rice University, is a foremost scholar in The Dead Sea Scrolls, as well as the diverse eschatological branches of Early Judaism, including the Qumran community; Enochic Judaism; and nascent Christianity. In the video above, he also discusses how important it is to understand the “Jewish roots of early Christianity;” and the many commonalities these two religious traditions share to this day.

Artifacts on display will include one of the original Dead Sea Scrolls; original New Testament manuscripts, including an excerpt from the Gospel of Luke that contains the Christmas story; a large-scale, stone model of Jerusalem during the Second Temple period; and an ossuary bearing the inscription “Alexander, son of Simon of Cyrene.” According to the New Testament Gospels, Simon of Cyrene was forced to bear Jesus’ cross on his way to be crucified. However:

“What makes this exhibition so compelling…are not the objects alone. It is the story we are telling that brings the objects to life,” said Henze. “For example, an oil lamp remains just that – unless the visitor makes the connection that this object was used during the time the King Herod, who expanded the Second Temple complex in Jerusalem and is known from the New Testament for the notorious massacre of innocent babies.”

Judaism and Christianity are two of history’s most influential religions – discover their stories, and the connections between them, in The Birth of Christianity: A Jewish Story, on display Dec. 12 – April 12, 2009.