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MFF completes principal photography for Arabia 3D


Written by: MacGillivray Freeman Films
Date: July 21, 2008

The film is slated for release to IMAX and IMAX 3D Theatres in June 2009.


Category: Press Releases

Film Crew Brings Back Rare Images from the Ancient Tombs of Madain Saleh, Recently Named Saudi Arabia's First UNESCO World Heritage Site

LAGUNA BEACH, Ca. (July 21, 2008)—MacGillivray Freeman Films has completed principal photography for its ambitious and thought-provoking giant screen film for IMAX and IMAX 3D Theatres about the history, culture, and religion of Arabia. At a time when images of the Middle East in the Western media are often synonymous with extremism, ARABIA 3D offers a broader understanding of this distant land by journeying deep inside its culture to reveal and explain the origins of a way of life largely hidden from our view.

An epic combination of historical recreations and contemporary scenes of everyday life, Arabia 3D follows the story of charismatic 22-year-old Arabian filmmaking student Hamzah Jamjoom as he returns home from Chicago's De Paul University to make a film about his native culture. As Hamzah discovers the roots of his people's ancient traditions, audiences will learn how Arabian society developed through history into what it is today and discover a visually striking world of fascinating heritage.

"The Arabian culture is steeped in history and unique customs not found anywhere else in the world," said two-time Academy Award®-nominated producer/director Greg MacGillivray. "With our film we hope to build a bridge of understanding between the cultures of the West and the Middle East and break down some of the myths and misperceptions. No other media can take audience members to environments and cultures as well as IMAX Theatre films can. Past films shot in space or underwater or at locations like Mt. Everest, the Nile, or the Grand Canyon have given millions of people a true experience of a place and culture. Arabia 3D will do the same. We are pleased to be working with several sponsors and a group of private investors who are helping us with this important educational project."

"Arabia 3D uses the most powerful film medium in the world to transport audiences to a spectacular land that most will never experience on their own," said Shaun MacGillivray, MacGillivray Freeman Films co-producer. "We filmed at some of the most important cultural sites in Arabic history, sites that are little known outside the Arab world. The immersive IMAX Theatre film format was designed for stories like this with such unique and stunning visual quality."

The MacGillivray Freeman film crew wrapped production after four months of shooting on the Arabian Peninsula where they captured unprecedented giant screen images of this desert region. Among the highlights are rare images of the little-known ancient tombs of Madain Saleh in Saudi Arabia, where early Nabataean nomads established the region's first camel way-station along the frankincense trade route more than 2,000 years ago. Madain Saleh was a precursor to the more widely known Nabataean city of Petra built in what is now modern-day Jordan. UNESCO announced last week it had added Madain Saleh to its list of more than 800 World Heritage Sites, officially recognizing the ancient city's unique historical and cultural value.

"Arabian culture today is still very much rooted in the traditions of its early nomadic heritage and Bedouin way of life," added Shaun MacGillivray. "Because there is no real filmmaking infrastructure in Arabia, we brought with us a Hollywood art-direction team to build intricate sets that were historically accurate to the times 2,000 years ago. This was a daunting challenge, and we expected we might get, at best, 60% of our dream shots but because of our long and careful preparation and our luck with good weather, we got 95%. We are more than thrilled with the results."

The MacGillivray Freeman production crew spent two months in the oasis village of Al Ula recreating historic Bedouin markets and villages where Arabian frankincense merchants riding camels sold their wares to the Romans after enduring a 1,000-mile trade route. Scenes of weathered Bedouin goat-herders, fierce desert sandstorms, and colorful camel caravans paint a portrait of life and survival in this harsh desert landscape 2,000 years ago when the Arabian identity was beginning to emerge.

Arabia 3D also portrays vivid scenes from contemporary life. Audiences will travel to the Red Sea to explore ancient shipwrecks with underwater archaeologists who are searching through this sunken museum for clues to the past. They'll join a festive henna party for a new bride-to-be, and visit with Hamzah's family and sister, Dr. Saja Jamjoom, who runs a clinic for disabled children in the city of Jeddah.

In one of the film's most powerful scenes, viewers will experience the extraordinary pilgrimage known as the hajj where every year 3 million Muslims arrive in the holy city of Makkah to reaffirm their faith. The filmmakers use stunning time lapse cinematography to reveal the magnitude of this human gathering, which is the largest single human gathering on Earth.

"Arabia is a diverse land with a resilient people who have learned to thrive in one of the harshest environments on our planet," added Greg MacGillivray. "Our film will hopefully pioneer a greater understanding of Arabic history and culture and promote peace and tolerance in a powerful new way."

Arabia 3D was filmed entirely in the highest-quality 15/70mm film format and is slated for release to IMAX and IMAX 3D Theatres in June 2009. The film is produced and distributed by MacGillivray Freeman Films, directed by Greg MacGillivray; produced by Greg MacGillivray and Mark Krenzien; script by Jack Stephens; directors of photography are Brad Ohlund (topside) and Howard Hall (underwater).

About MacGillivray Freeman Films
MacGillivray Freeman Films is the largest, most experienced independent producer and distributor of giant screen 70mm films in the world. Throughout the company's 44-year history, its films have won numerous international awards including two Academy Award nominations. In 1998 the company's blockbuster film Everest achieved unprecedented box office success and is currently the highest grossing giant screen film of all time. MacGillivray Freeman films are known for their artistry and celebration of science and the natural world.

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