NEW YORK — SACRED, a feature-length documentary that explores religious ritual at birth, adolescence, marriage, aging and other key milestones of human life, premieres at three major film festivals in November: the Tokyo International Film Festival, the prestigious DOC NYC festival in New York, and the IDFA film festival in Amsterdam. SACRED is an experiment: a sweeping global film for which the director, Academy Award® winner Thomas Lennon, never once left his office in New York, instead commissioning or sourcing contributions from top international filmmakers in order to capture more than 40 diverse stories dispersed across the globe. Sweeping in its global reach, yet intensely intimate, the film is a tour de force that unifies these disparate scenes into a single work, told without narration, without experts and, for long stretches, without words at all.
At a time when religious hatreds dominate the world’s headlines, this film explores faith as primary human experience: how people turn to ritual and prayer to navigate the milestones and crises of their own lives. Opening with a young Muslim father from Cairo chanting the call to prayer to his baby who is only minutes old, the film’s approach is both lyrical and linear as it drives forward in time from the initiations of infancy (bris, baptism, and more) to coming of age ceremonies in Mandalay, Jerusalem, and the San Carlos Apache Reservation, featuring boys and girls at the cusp of adolescence. In Spain and then India, the film encounters teenagers as they lean on their faith to navigate the most intimate pressures of their lives– the strains between two parents, the prohibitions of dating. The film arcs through marriage and the trials of adulthood through to the rites—some of them solemn, others riotous and drunken—by which we remember and honor our dead.
SACRED is a featured production at the following international film festivals in November:
- Tokyo International Film Festival – (Toho Cinemas Rappongi Hills)
- DOC NYC 2016 – Saturday, November 12 at 4:45 pm and Monday, November 14 at 12:30 pm (IFC Center)
- International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) –
Friday 18 November 2016 15:45 Tuschinski 5
Saturday 19 November 2016 10:00 Tuschinski 5
Tuesday 22 November 2016 22:15 Tuschinski 1
Saturday 26 November 2016 10:30 Munt 09
“Today, not many people would dispute the importance of religion,” said director Thomas Lennon, “But we in media usually look at it socially and politically. Here the goal is to plunge the viewer into a series of private experiences of faith and hopefully the intensity of that encounter shakes up our reactions, triggers something fresh.” Lennon has been nominated three times for an Academy Award, winning in 2007.
The film’s production method leaned heavily on the Internet to manage intricate exchange across borders and cultures, combining a centralized directorial vision with far-flung, decentralized filmmaking by top filmmaking teams all across the world.
“These great filmmakers brought an intimacy, a local knowledge far beyond what we in New York could ever achieve on our own,” says Executive Producer and WNET President Emeritus, Dr. Bill Baker, who launched the project over five years ago. “We know how divisive the subject of religious faith can be. Here instead it became an opportunity for collaboration.”
SACRED hopscotches across the globe to capture the crisis of faith triggered by the recent Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone, the stubborn determination of an ascetic in the Philippines to subject himself to pain, and the comforts that faith offers to prisoners in Angola prison in Louisiana who face life-sentences without prospect of parole. Epic and kaleidoscopic, the film journey comes to rest where it began –with the birth of a child, another life initiated into the rituals of prayer and faith.
“This is a truly captivating collaboration by filmmakers from around the world who never met or spoke with each other, yet work to tell a unified human narrative,” said Executive-in-Charge Stephen Segaller. “This unique filmmaking format enabled the production team to tap into a deep knowledge of local customs and authentic expressions of spiritual traditions to create a vast, worldwide story that could not have been achieved otherwise.”
“We gambled ambitiously to find talented filmmakers all over the world via You Tube and other online resources because we wanted a film that was visually stunning,” said Executive Producer Julie Anderson. “And it worked.”
SACRED is a production of WLIW LLC in association with WNET and Japan’s WOWOW. Director/Producer is Thomas Lennon. Co-producer is Jessica Wolfson. Executive Producers are Julie Anderson and William F. Baker. Executive-in-Charge is Stephen Segaller. Supervising Editor is Maeve O’Boyle. Editors are Nick August-Perna and Maeve O’Boyle. Music is by Edward Bilous.
Major funding for SACRED is provided by the Gerald and Janet Carrus Foundation, George and Abby O’Neill, the David M. Milton Charitable Trust, Rosalind P. Walter and The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations. Additional support was provided by Lise Strickler and Mark Gallogly, The Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation, James and Judy Boyle, and Knowlton J. O’Reilly. Musical score produced with the generous support of the Stephen and Anna Maria Kellen Foundation and Fordham University.
WNET is America’s flagship PBS station and parent company of THIRTEEN and WLIW21. WNET also operates NJTV, the statewide public media network in New Jersey. Through its broadcast channels, three cable services (KidsThirteen, Create and World) and online streaming sites, WNET brings quality arts, education and public affairs programming to more than five million viewers each week. WNET produces and presents such acclaimed PBS series as Nature, Great Performances, American Masters, PBS NewsHour Weekend, Charlie Rose and a range of documentaries, children’s programs, and local news and cultural offerings. WNET’s groundbreaking series for children and young adults include Get the Math, Oh Noah! and Cyberchase as well as Mission US, the award-winning interactive history game. WNET highlights the tri-state’s unique culture and diverse communities through NYC-ARTS, Reel 13, NJTV News with Mary Alice Williams and MetroFocus, the daily multi-platform news magazine focusing on the New York region. In addition, WNET produces online-only programming including the award-winning series about gender identity, First Person, and an intergenerational look at tech and pop culture, The Chatterbox with Kevin and Grandma Lill. In 2015, THIRTEEN launched Passport, an online streaming service which allows members to see new and archival THIRTEEN and PBS programming anytime, anywhere: www.thirteen.org/passport.