MAN: Okay,
stand by everyone. I’m ready to go. Camera’s rolling. Action! Action! Camera’s rolling. Action! That looked good. NARRATOR: For the first time
in history, a team of IMAX filmmakers
led by Greg MacGillivray was given the opportunity
to capture the grandeur and ancient beauty of a country
long shrouded in mystery to the Western World
Saudi Arabia. A group of Saudis
approached the filmmakers to make a movie that would
introduce the world to the Saudi Arabian people and show them where the country
has been and where it’s going. The film needed to answer
the common questions about this region of the world–
the history, culture and religion of
the Arabian Peninsula. The goal was to make a film
that would introduce the West to Arabia and increase
appreciation for it. Despite remarkable
technological advances and large-scale urban
development of the region during the 20th century, Saudi Arabia is currently home
to only one movie theater. This project was the first film
about Saudi Arabia, shot in Saudi Arabia
to capture the majesty of the desert kingdom. Even the most famous film
that takes place in the region, ‘Lawrence of Arabia,’ was actually
shot in Morocco and Jordan. The MacGillivray Freeman
film crew found themselves facing new technical challenges
posed by the Arabian Desert– heavy winds, blistering heat
and of course sand. Sand’s in everything, in my ear,
in my nose, in my gape. We’re constantly
in cleaning mode. This camera is cleaner
than my house. The most challenging thing is, I think, being in the desert
under the Sun. Getting rid of tire tracks
and footprints. It’s always hard when it, there is a sandstorm and we have
to hide behind the tents and we have to
coordinate with camels and to keep the Bedus
calm in this environment. [singing in Arabic] MAN:
Action! NARRATOR: Having never
seen a film crew or equipment of this scope, the
Arabian locals were intrigued by the large operation and
the sheer size of the equipment. MAN:
Roll camera. Action! NARRATOR: The Muslim Hajj,
the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, is by far the most populous
annual event in the world, but it had never before
been captured on film to this degree
or magnitude. Capturing the Hajj
was both a technical and physical challenge–filming
amongst three million people assembled for the largest
spiritual gathering anywhere. One camera position was
on top of a 30-story building that was still
under construction. It focused down into the center
of the Grand Mosque and the Kaaba,
the sacred structure at the center of the
holiest site in all of Islam. The crew was perched
on the edge of the building, with the camera facing down
at very steep angles. Any misstep or dropping
even the smallest object would have been disastrous. Utilizing a state-of-the-art
camera package weighing over 1,000 lbs, the film crew took their journey
of exploration underwater. One of the most
important elements of the Arabian Peninsula
is the Red Sea. The filmmakers wanted
to capture not only its beauty but its importance to the
development of Arabian culture. That was amazing. -You liked it?
-Yeah. This is the first
time at 90 feet, huh? -Okay, how did you find it?
-It’s good. -Easy to breathe in that depth?
-Yeah, it’s easy to breathe. Okay, that’s great. Congratulations you’ve
become a certified diver. Thank you. NARRATOR: MacGillivray Freeman
launched an underwater shoot with Howard Hall, the world’s premier underwater
photographer and filmmaker. Traveling by barge,
the crew used a crane to lift the camera and the
housing in and out of the water. They spent every day for
three weeks at a new location, discovering strewn across
the seafloor ancient artifacts that haven’t been touched
for hundreds of years. MAN:
Here comes Peter. Yeah, I got this nice little
hickey all around my face. I think I’ve really-‑ this is the first time to see
a camera on that big size and four professional guys
that take care of it, you know, so amazing to watch them
doing that job, you know. NARRATOR:
From the sea to the air, the helicopter footage the
MacGillivray Freeman team shot over Arabia’s cities and desert
was the first aerial photography ever filmed of the country using the gyro-stabilized
SpaceCam technology. TECHNICIAN:
This is a Bell 212. We’re installed on
this helicopter because it’s one of the
only helicopters available here in Saudi Arabia
that will accept the system and that can be organized
to do the filming. We have the SpaceCam on the
front and with the R.A.M.S. arm, which is the “roll augmented
mounting system,” we end up with about
a 300 lbs weight at that point. That has to be counterweighted
so that we maintain balance. NARRATOR: Far from the coast is
the silent city of Madain Saleh. Here, the ancient
Royal Tombs of Petra have existed for
thousands of years. These Roman pillars,
carved from solid sandstone some 2,000 years ago,
dot the high desert terrain. We are about to film a scene
where we light up 1,000 candles. MAN:
Hey, camera’s ready, guys. Tony, hold the air please. Grab the bucket. NARRATOR: Those appearing
in the scene were not actors, but real people. Even historic recreations
of the Nabataean Kingdom of 2,000 years ago,
featured ordinary Arabs, portraying people
who lived millennia earlier. With hopes of ushering a spark
of interest and consciousness to populations
largely unfamiliar with the Arabian lifestyle, the MacGillivray Freeman crew capture a snapshot
of Saudi life. In doing so, they have created
what will be for many, the first strand of appreciation
and curiosity between two
not-so-distant lands.