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Originally published Thursday, September 26, 2013 at 3:08 PM

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‘Jerusalem’: a dazzling tour without the conflicts

A review of the “Jerusalem,” a visually dazzling tour of Jerusalem’s holy places, busy street life and sacred rituals that explains why the city is so important to several major religions.

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie Review 3 stars

‘Jerusalem,’ narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch. Written and directed by Daniel Ferguson. 45 minutes. Not rated. Pacific Science Center Boeing IMAX Theater.

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I saw this IMAX movie and it is great. but if you want to see/visit closely the holy... MORE

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“Jerusalem,” a new and spectacular IMAX documentary, is laudable for turning armchair tourism into a breathtaking experience — a viewer can truly feel as if he or she has gone inside a number of fantastic, ancient places.

But there is something odd about the way the unhappiest chapters in a long history of territorial disputes are avoided in deference to loftier goals.

You’d never know that, while watching glorious footage of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City, there are specific conflicts — particularly between Jews, Christians and Muslims.

Where “Jerusalem” succeeds is at answering large questions: Why is the city considered so important to several cultures and three major religions? Why are some of the most sacred sites in the world all packed within one place? Above all, for those of us who will never go there, what do they look like?

Narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch, “Jerusalem” looks at family life and annual sacred rituals. The filmmakers — granted rare access to certain views of the city as well as holy sites — take us to the Western Wall, the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (where the euphoric Ceremony of the Holy Fire becomes the film’s most dazzling scene).

Ultimately, “Jerusalem” is as much about an ideal future of mutual understanding and tolerance as it is about history. Still, skirting ugly, present-day realities leaves a gap in the experience.

Tom Keogh: tomwkeogh@gmail.com

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