On the Magi’s route: guided by the star

Setting out on the Magi’s route, guided by the star, has deep and mysterious meanings in this new year. After a very difficult, painful and alienating 2020, the journey of the Magi can be a good stimulus to set out on the road again in life, inventing new things and finding vigorous nourishment in the contemplation of the mystery.

I feel great attraction to the Magi and their part in the Gospel. They are men of action, enterprising travellers, curious about the world, clever and wise. At the same time, they are men of pure contemplation: they observe and penetrate the secrets of the sky. And they are enchanted by the comet. Then they grasp the messages “beyond” and follow it without knowing their destination. They come to contemplate the Child carrying the gifts, gold, frankincense, myrrh. Action and contemplation.

Action and contemplation

“Back to the light’, the book

15 years ago, my first book came out: “A ritroso verso la luce – Cinema e vita sulla rotta dei Magi” (Backwards towards the light – Cinema and life on the route of the Magi), published by Àncora. In the first lines I wrote: “Sand as fine as dust, ancient stones scattered here and there mark the trace of an almost invisible path. The sound of footsteps vibrates and amplifies in the immense space of the desert…. You can set out on this journey at any time, you choose the way… All you have to do is choose to leave…

For Proust, ‘the true voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes’. In my journey backwards towards the sources of light, I have tried to look with new eyes to see glimmers of wisdom among the people of the East and to discern a road map of peace in the unspeakable tangle of hearts’.

The book is a ‘return journey of the Magi’ from Bethlehem to Iran via Jerusalem. In this journey, I meet women and men involved in inter-religious dialogue, artists who break down the walls of prejudice with their films, builders of bridges. But what has happened in these 15 years?

Going back to the light

The protagonists of the book, yesterday and today

In Bethlehem, I tell the story of the creation of Religion Today Film Festival, of the motivations that led to its creation in 1997, the first festival of inter-religious dialogue. Today it is a well-established festival, a world reference point for spiritual and dialogue cinema. It is run by a good group of young people who are preparing for the 25th edition in 2022. A story about the Iranian director Reza Mirkarimi, and his film “Here a Shining Light”, then in its first international release, now one of Iran’s most awarded directors.

In Jerusalem, I write about my first trips to Israel and Palestine, with my father, Sergio, amidst the curfews and clashes. And I talk about Anthony Mazzella’s music, with its deep and intense pieces. I walk through the streets of the Old City and meet Gilli Mendel and Amos, Hedva and Rabbi Vardi.

In Persia, I imagine that the Magi returned home, bringing with them the gift of peace. So I talk about my travels to Iran, of filmmakers like Dariush Yari, the encounter with a deeply spiritual culture and the first encounter with Rumi.

I close the book with an excerpt from Messer Marco Polo’s Milione, who in 1298 in chapter 22 writes ‘Della grande provincia di Persia e de’ tre Magi’ (About the great province of Persia and the three Magi) and his encounter with the Zoroastrians and the fires on the mountain.

Isfahan, in Persia

15 years later, was it worth it to set out on the route of the Magi, guided by the star?

Travelling both physically and on the inner journey always requires a great deal of effort. First, you have to make the decision, move from words to deeds. Second, you step out of your comfort zone. Third, you face your fears.

Travelling to promote dialogue between cultures and religions requires an extra effort, that of trying to understand the Other, to listen to him, to walk a stretch of road together.

Was it worth it? Yes, without a doubt. So far it has been a wonderful journey, full of difficulties, struggles, clashes, but infinitely rich. The route of the Magi fills the heart with gifts of the East, with the poetry of life, with unbreakable rings, even if at the price of suffering.

Jerusalem, a different perspective

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