Monday, April 23, 2012

Mar Musa Monastery: documentary film "Schiech Ibrahim, Bruder Jihad".

It is unusual for me to write about film. That is usually my husband, Vic's domain ( But I watched a documentary with my team mates since coming to Iraqui Kurdistan this time. And since I had the privilege of talking with the film maker I thought that I would tell you a bit about it. If this piques your interest it is available for sale at : Also, if you speak German or French his website is at the same address without the /dvd.html. For those of you in Winnipeg, I will have a copy with me when I come home. I wanted to share this film with Vic and to see it on a larger screen then the laptop affords.

Andres Rump gifted us with a copy of the documentary. Schiech Ibrahim, Bruder Jihad,  and we watched it as a team. We were all very impressed with its beauty, and artfulness. My teammate, Patrick compared the feeling of the film to another one he had seen, Into Great Silence. I even stayed awake through the whole thing (82 minutes) and  those who know me will know this is a miraculous event!

Rump shows the everyday  lives of these two men and slowly tells their stories, planting them into the enviroment where they live. They come from very different backgrounds and have different beliefs but have a strong respect for each other and find common ground in their conversation.
Schiech Ibrahim, Bruder Jihad (photo credit- Andres Rump)
There is some conversation and soliliques in Arabic, which are subtitled into English (or German or French), but even though I felt the wisdom of the men coming through, I really loved the glimpses of the life around them. There is a scene on the street in Damascus where we watch people passing by: children, a very old woman with a cane who greets a teenage girl with a kiss, a couple of young mothers carrying babies. All through this we just hear the sounds of the street and birds.

 Despite the fact that the viewers are witness to religious celebrations and rituals, it does not feel like cameraman is a voyeur, but that he is someone who has lived with the men and who they felt safe with to tell their stories. Andres told us of the privilege of being invited to join Bruder Jihad to his cave and joining him in the tiny close intimacy. We see this in the final moments of the film.

Another part I loved was the juxtapostion of two everyday events in the mosque and monastery. The first is the preparation of a thick soup in the hugest pot I have ever seen. The man preparing the meal used a very long stick to stir the soup before beginning to hand out bucketfuls to those needy persons coming to the mosque. Immediately afterward we see Bruder Jihad, in the monastery, stirring a bubbling pot of washing with a similar stick.
Ladling out the soup in the mosque (Andres Rump)
At Mar Musa, the long shots of the monastery gives the viewer the feeling of the expanse and isolation. We watch Ibrahim walking up the long, long flights of steps to the community to join his friend for the day. And yet we can also see the close  human community that has been built in the ancient buildings.
Mar Musa Monastery- Syria (Andres Rump)

I spoke with Andres about the filming of the documentary. He lived in the area dividing his time between Ibrahim and Jihad for around 3 months. The early part of that time was spent learning the rythm of their life and planning the parts that he wanted to shoot. He said that sometimes things appeared in wonderful ways and other times he left the filming too late. One example was the last occasion he had to film the  Eucharist service in the monastery. A women stood right in front of the camera. He did not feel that is was right to ask her to move, so there she is in the middle of the shot.

This film was a student work but has achieved affirmation. Andres says that the best one was being accepted as part of the 2011 Visions du Reel in Nyon, Switzerland. This is a prestigious documentary film festival. The film also received a commendation from the Interreligious Jury at the festival.

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