Stepping out in faith is a challenge. Doing it at 17,000 feet is an extreme challenge, but the crew of "Finding Noah: An Adventure of Faith" took it on and found how far they could reach.
Director and producer of the documentary, Brent Baum of Los Angeles, will participate in a question-and-answer session following the screening of "Finding Noah" on Saturday night at Cinemark 16, just northeast of Interstate 10 at U.S. 49 in Gulfport. It's the final presentation at this year's Sun & Sand: The Mississippi Film & Music Festival.
"Finding Noah" will screen about 6:20 p.m., immediately following the screening for the short film "Ron Taylor: Dr. Baseball" at 6 p.m. "Finding Noah," at 97 minutes, is not rated but is Dove approved for ages 12 and over, receiving its Faith Friendly Seal. "Ron Taylor" also is family friendly, said Bobby Benton, Sun & Sand Festival CEO. Tickets are $10 for adults, $7.50 for seniors and retired military and $5 for children ages 14 and under.
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"I had hesitated to call it a documentary because it's much more an adventure film, but it's dealing with real life," Baum said. While he was an active part of the experience, he said the film is not about his participation.
"I made a decision early on it's not about us. I tried to keep myself out of the film as much as possible," he said. "This is a unique story to tell about these guys."
Noah's story as presented in the Old Testament of the Bible has been a subject of speculation and mystery for thousands of years, and the ark's resting place recorded as Mount Ararat has added to the interest. Marco Polo was among those who have made reference to it. The story of Noah and the ark has been a part of Baum's life since childhood.
"When I was a kid, I remember us being taken on the bus to see 'In Search of Noah's Ark' -- you know, where you have this guy with a professorial voice says, 'And here we have Mount Ararat,' but does he actually go up on it? We had a motto during the journey, 'If you don't go, you won't know.'"
The possibility of Noah's ark actually being encased in the ice atop the mountain opened several questions Baum wanted answered.
"Could wood actually survive intact for thousands of years?" he said. For answers, he talked with experts at the University of Southern Mississippi. He also consulted with volcano experts and those who research polar ice caps and glaciers.
"We had to include the science," he said. "For us, it was an education and a process."
Baum and the crew also were aware of the volatile climate surrounding Eastern Turkey, where Mount Ararat is. They hired Kurdish guides and bought Kurdish food and supplies to maintain friendly relations as they hiked up 17,000 feet. The team was made up of average men: entrepreneurs, school teachers, those in the medical field, pastors.
"We were literally walking into a war zone," he said. "It's just at the border with Iran. We had to meet with local tribal leaders. The people dangers were below.
"As we went up, we left those dangers for the danger of nature. These huge boulders were continually falling down. You could hear them at night in your tent and just prayed that one didn't hit your tent."
The crew stayed for a month atop the summit, where supplies of oxygen were short. Falling boulders no longer were a problem, but they were replaced with ice falls, crevasses and temperatures down to 50 below.
"Only 60 percent of the film crew made it to the top. We had camps along the way where people could stay if they needed to," he said.
Did the crew find the ark? Baum has an answer for that.
"Everyone wants to know if we found the ark. There's a reason I called it 'Finding Noah,'" he said. "The investors asked me if we didn't find the ark, would the film be ruined. If you find the ark, you find a piece of wood. This group of guys and I went in search of Noah, not a piece of wood. It was a chance to put faith into action.
"The other thing I'm asked is, does it change your faith if you don't find it? Not at all. I wanted to document the journey. We don't need to find evidence of an ark to enhance my faith. For people of faith, whether God wants us to find the ark or not is not the question. He wants us to look. Where the learning occurs, faith is built.
"We all have mountains to climb in life," he said. "Whatever mountain is in your life, it can be conquered one step at a time."