Producer Eberts reminisces over Westmount years

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By David Adelman

The Montreal Science Centre's IMAX Theatre was fully packed on Monday night as 37-time Academy Award-winning film producer Jake Eberts calmly stood before the audience and looked around the room. In a low, almost inaudible voice, Eberts greeted the audience in English, French, Hebrew, Yiddish and Arabic.

Denys Arcand (left) presents Jake Eberts the Key of Knowledge Award on Monday night.

"I have to first apologize for my voice; I blame P.K. Subban entirely for the problem I am experiencing," Eberts joked. "I went to the hockey game on Saturday night."

Eberts was on hand to receive the Key of Knowledge Award by Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, which was presented to him by filmmaker Denys Arcand at a special presentation of Eberts's current project, Jerusalem.

Upon the completion of his 2009 IMAX documentary, Journey to Mecca, which illuminates the phenomenon of the Hajj pilgrimage, Eberts decided to continue down the spiritual road by retelling the story of the ancient holy city of Jerusalem through the magic of movies. "A truly unique place, Jerusalem can teach us a great deal on how to live together in peace," said Eberts.

Jerusalem The Movie is said to be one of the biggest visual productions about the city ever to be created. A not-for-profit film, half of its $8-million budget has been raised with the help of Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. For Carolyn Steinman, the CFHU's eastern region executive director, the match was serendipitous. "The event tonight was organized to present Jake with the Key of Knowledge Award for his constant strive to pursue truths and uncover the secrets of the world," said Steinman.

 

Fond memories of Westmount

 

The acclaimed producer spent the first four years of his life living on Westmount's Montrose Avenue. After moving around Quebec, his family returned to Westmount in 1958, settling on Carleton Avenue, and Eberts enrolled in McGill University's Chemical Engineering program. 

"My fondest memories were walking from Carleton Avenue to McGill, no matter the season or weather," reminisced Eberts - but listening to the crunching of the falling autumn leaves weren't the only memories. "I didn't meet a Jew until I was at McGill. When I lived in Lac-Saint-Jean or when I went to Bishop's College School, there were no Jews. In fact, my first true heartthrob was a Jewish girl whose parents didn't approve of us seeing each other," says Eberts, who remembers planning ways to see her. "My experience at McGill at the age of 17 permeated my whole being because I never met a single Jew or a single black person. That's how limited I was growing up."

Little did the 17-year-old Eberts know at that time, but his daily Carleton Avenue-to-McGill walks through Montreal's streets would impact his vision to bring meaning and emotion through the camera lens in award-winning classics such as Chariots of Fire, Gandhi and Dances with Wolves to the documentaries such as Prisoner of Paradise, Oceans and March of the Penguins.

All proceeds upon release of Jerusalem The Movie will fund the Hebrew University's Institute of Medical Research between Israel and Canada among various charities in Jerusalem and abroad.

For more information of Jerusalem The Movie visit: www.jerusalemthemovie.com

Organizations: Hebrew University of Jerusalem, McGill University, Jerusalem The Movie IMAX Chemical Engineering Penguins Institute of Medical Research

Geographic location: Westmount, Jerusalem, Carleton Avenue Montrose Avenue Quebec Lac-Saint-Jean Montreal Israel Canada

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