Faith in a flight of fancy reality for filmmaker
2nd December 2008
Faith in a flight of fancy becomes reality for Wellington filmmaker
Documentary lovers will be glad to know that a man and his movie camera is now on his way home to New Zealand to show his debut film The Wayfarer. Jess Firth has just completed an epic journey that started with a “bit of travel through the Holy Land” and culminated in a documentary on the Baha'i faith. Having just screened the film in London and managing to get out of Thailand via a gruelling overland journey he looks forward to showing it to his home audience.
“This film is almost split two ways,” says Jess. “Although it focuses on the wonderful differences and similarities between all kinds of people who make up this world and later, more about the Baha’i faith – I first of all started out to document what many a young Kiwi will do – head off all over the world.
“Although maybe not so many New Zealanders would be as keen to put up with certain border controls as much as I have,” he adds.
The Wayfarer has taken Jess all over the world Filmed in the US, the UK, India, Israel, Egypt, Jordan and Palestine, this story will not only stimulate the viewer’s theosophical senses, but they’ll also be taken on a stunning visual tour through some of the world’s most revered historic and modern locations
Jess initially went to the Middle East, with friend Alex Hedley in tow, to visit an old friend of theirs, Chantelle Brader. Chantelle had just dedicated two years of her life to working at the Bahai World Centre in Haifa, Israel. Jess’ anthropological background and Alex’s background in journalism naturally led them to conduct a series of interviews with Chantelle and anyone else who would agree to talk to them.
“It was like opening a can of worms - especially for someone like me who had never even heard of the religion,” says Jess. “As soon as we started interviewing the massive cross section of nationalities who were living and serving there, we found we had to carry on with this story.”
The Baha'i faith is based on the teachings of Baha'u'llah in 19th century Persia and the interpretations that have come since his death. Baha'u'llah stated that the time had come for the people of the world to put aside their differences and unite under his teachings. He also claimed to be the Supreme Manifestation of God.
“It seems to be one of those faiths that tries to collate all of the main religions into one peace-loving movement,” says Jess. “All the big names in the larger religions, be they Moses, Mohammad or Jesus are all recognised prophets.
“So while trying to make this documentary as objective as possible, it was hard not to be impressed with the international collaboration involved in this movement.”
The journey is littered with Jess’s own experience of his travels from lugging twice his body weight’s worth of camera equipment around the Middle East and through near-impenetrable international boundaries to interviews with the most unlikely of people.
“One of the most bizarre moments was in India. While we were already being blown-away by the cultural climate and soaking up everything we possibly could – Cherie Blair walked into the centre and actually agreed to be interviewed for the film,”says Jess.
“It just completely added to the experience of the film, both for us and for the viewers. Apparently she doesn’t usually like to do interviews at all – I guess I was just lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time,” he says.
“And maybe just a little cunning.”
The Wayfarer will be screened on 13 December at the Film Archive at 7pm.