"Jerusalem: Center of the World" is central casting of history and histrionics as the city of light shaded in shrouds of secrecy and succession is brought to broadcast status this April 1 on WHYY-TV 12, beginning at 10 p.m.
Mecca for monotheism as well as myths, there is nothing singular about Jerusalem, for more than 40 centuries central landscape of the soil and souls of Jews, Christians and Moslems.
Andrew Goldberg, the two-hour special's executive director and producer, is no stranger in a strange land as he lands his broadcast crew on such holy turf. His Two Cat Productions has found catnip in Jewish topics and concerns, as well as acclaim as his 2007 "Anti-Semitism in the 21st century: The Resurgence" can attest to.
Next month in "Jerusalem": His current documentary is no wailing wall of sound, echoing the pains of the past and anticipating the screams of the future. There is hope as well as heartache in Goldberg's sterling examination of how three religions and peoples have co-existed yet co-opted what they determine to be theirs and only theirs.
The semiotics of Semites are everywhere as is the crux of Christian life. And, in two hours, he takes a microscope to each microcosm of this motley land, bringing into focus Mount Moriah; the Western Wall; the Church of the Holy Sepulchre; and the Dome of the Rock.
"Religious groups for so many centuries have seen this as their land by the will of God," he says, "which, actually, speaks more about human nature than anything else."
It also bespeaks the filmmaker's interest.
"Do I do anything else?" he laughs of documenting in the past not only the world raising the ante on anti-Semitism, but finding the yin and yang of yuks and yearning in the Emmy Award-winning "A Yiddish World Remembered."
His bio bulges with other, more secular accomplishments as well. But there's no denying that this "filmmaker, who is Jewish, but not a Jewish filmmaker" knows his frames of reference.
"It's all a natural progression," he says of the triumphant Jewish trifecta.
The race of religion is a dervish of a derby as each group watches its steps while trying to choreograph its own way to a bed of roses. But "Jerusalem" is no jeremiad; it is a song of songs that sings of diversity and diversions.
"All roads point there," says Goldberg of the points made in his film.
But sometimes, the points are barbed as in talks with those whose Jerusalem journey is one of everyday life. Yet one thing unites them all: "They love to tell stories," says Goldberg of the shopkeepers and shoppers he meets among the mobs of the mixed life that is the city's. And the story of these people is that "they are passionate about life there."
There are surprises of how passion plays itself out among Jews and Muslims, historically hating each other without relief. But as "Jerusalem" points out, cooperation between the two proves that maybe, ultimately, Rodney King was right and that, yes, we can all get along.
But not so fast. This is no Pollyannish play on people's emotions; the hardscrabble life of a land whose locus has been fought over for centuries is central to a reel — and very real — depiction of such a historic homeland.
"The narrative shows moments that are relevant to today's conversations," claims Goldberg.
He became conversant with facts he hadn't known. "I was surprised to see, repeatedly, that there was much less violence under Islamic leadership than under Christian."
Turning the other cheek: He also reveals issues "that may prove problematic for the far-right Jewish viewer."
Rights and wrongs … a central road map of religions. Jerusalem, with pieces of history everywhere you look, is a city with scrapes and scripture. It is an open book of revelations and revolution and, in the process of purveying the image, "some people may get upset," concedes Goldberg.
"But then, agendas and truth live in two different worlds." Surely, with peoples worlds apart, someone must be getting the last laugh. Is Jerusalem God's little trick on mankind?
Goldberg demurs. "I leave that," he says, "to the rabbis."