Discovering Turkey's ties with Christianity

December 04, 2008|By CRYSTAL SCHELLE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Shenandoah Films founder Victoria Barrett promises that her latest documentary "Journey of Faith ... on the Trail of Christianity in Turkey" is more than a story.

"It's a historical travelogue shot on Super 16 mm film," she says in a telephone interview from her Hedgesville, W.Va., home.

The movie that took Barrett nearly 10 years to complete, to 15 locations throughout the world and surviving an earthquake, will make its debut at 7 tonight at Trinity Episcopal Church in Martinsburg. Those who miss the screening have a chance to watch the film Saturday, Dec. 6, on West Virginia Public Broadcasting, during the pledge drive. The show should start about 9 p.m. after "Classic Gospel."

Barrett spent nearly six years living in Turkey, learning about its people and its customs, before beginning the film. It's from her spending time in Turkey that she was inspired to do this film about rediscovering historical Christian sites in the country.


Barrett says she started the film in the 1999 with the working title of "The Forgotten Holyland." That's a nickname Turkey rightful deserves, she says: "Turkey has the second most biblical sites next to Israel."

Raised as a Christian, Barrett says she knew of Christian doctrine, but never knew that these places in the Bible were real. Mt. Ararat, the final resting place of the Ark in the biblical story of Noah, is in Turkey. So are early church sites Ephesus, Antioch and Colossae. Tarsus, the original home of Saul, who became Paul the Christian evangelist, is also in Turkey. Many Christian-era structures still stand, at least partially, Barrett says.

She started on "Journey of Faith," but had to put it aside because of a hitch in her funding. Documentaries depend largely on grants, Barrett's notes. Then other projects demanded attention, and her Christian film project went on the back burner.

Her film work includes "Desperate Hours," about Turkey's part in helping Jews escape from the Nazis during World War II; and "The Guilt of the Innocent," which recounts the early years of Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, the man who became Pope John XXIII. She's currently working on a project about the Pentagon and Sept. 11, 2001.

She says she knew that the "Journey of Faith" project would always be there.

"This story is over 2,000 years old, and the story is never going to change," she says.

Barrett says she's happy that she waited until now to make the documentary. She says doing her other projects allowed her to be a better and more experienced filmmaker, which allowed her to tell the story she wanted to tell with this film. Computer-generated imaging, such as 3-D mapping, wasn't even something a fledgling documentarian could have thought to include in a film.

One aspect, she says, has never gotten easier. "Raising money is the most difficult part," she says. "Everything else is a pleasure."

Although the film is about religion, Barrett says that shouldn't turn viewers off. "It's not an evangelical piece," she says.

Instead, she says, she's just showing another piece of Turkish history to the outside world.

As a filmmaker, Barrett wants to do more than simply inform viewers about a segment of Turkish history.

"I really want people to be surprised at how entertaining the movie is," she says.

If you go ...

WHAT: Special screening of "Journey of Faith ... on the Trail of Christianity in Turkey"

WHEN: 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 9

WHERE: Trinity Episcopal Church, 200 W. King St., Martinsburg, W.Va.

COST: Free

CONTACT: For more information or to watch a trailer of the movie, visit

MORE: A DVD will be available sometime in 2009.

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