Sometimes you just need to watch a truly inspirational film, a work of cinematic art that leaves you in complete awe of the spiritual richness of life. Last weekend, that film was Journey to Mecca, the story of Ibn Battuta, a young scholar who leaves Tangier in 1325 to travel from his home in Morocco with his ultimate goal of reaching Mecca, about 3,000 miles to the east.
Played by Chems Eddine Zinoun, Ibn embarks on the classic epic journey enduring several obstacles in the way while trying to attain his goal. Ibn travels across the North African desert, parched and exhausted, and meets a stranger referred to as the Highwayman (played by Hassam Ghancy) who becomes a bodyguard and later on, a good friend. Throughout this journey, Ibn faces violence and dehydration, but continues in search of spiritual nourishment.
Eventually, Ibn meets Damascus Caravan and keeps traveling to Mecca with thousands of others who share the same goal. Eighteen months later, Ibn finally reaches Mecca, and transforms into a being unified with other beings, as he understands the absolute timelessness of Mecca. To emphasize the indefinite significance of Mecca, the film then shows present-day people who continue to visit Mecca hundreds of years after Ibn did.
Thirty years later, Ibn returns home. In that time, he had been to over 40 countried and revisited Mecca five more times to perform the sacred Hajj. His legacy lives on, as his travels surpassed those of Marco Polo's.
The cinematography is simply breathtaking and almost dream-like as we visualize Ibn's journey through several aerial shots. It's a beautiful film revealing how universal and powerful faith is and how far it can take you.
What critics have to say about Journey to Mecca:
"Journey to Mecca is sure to gladden the hearts of spiritual-seekers. Mere popcorn enthusiasts will like it too."
- Stephen Cole of The Globe and Mail
"The footage is gorgeous. Massive sand dunes, rock formations, caravans of people, and incredible panoramic views and time-lapsed film of the holy site and thousands of pilgrims circling the Kaaba at the end are among the many visual delights movie-goers will experience."
- The Arab American News
"The detail, in everything from clothing to architecture, is meticulously researched. So is the re-creation of the storied Damascus camel caravan that took pilgims across the desert to Mecca for centuries. Most importantly, religious consultants ensured that the filmmakers properly represented the Muslim faith."
- Toronto Sun
Release date: January 7, 2009
Duration: 40 minutes
Director: Bruce Neibaur
Producers: Jonathan Barker, Dominic Cunningham-Reid, Taran Davies