Spotlight on FINDING NOAH doc & interview with director Brent Baum

This year’s Twin Cities Film Fest could very well be a Documentary Film Fest given how many of them are screening in 2015. I’m glad this one is one of them as not only is the subject matter close to my heart, but it’s an insightful and beautifully-shot film.

A group of intrepid explorers go on a journey of discovery and excitement as they climb and live atop Mt. Ararat’s 17,000 ft. summit in Eastern Turkey to conduct a scientific expedition to determine the final resting place of Noah’s Ark. 

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Shot in never-before filmed locations and in the harshest of conditions, this unprecedented feature-length documentary shows just how far men are willing to go to discover the truth. Narrated by Academy Award nominee Gary Sinise, FINDING NOAH is more than a quest for answers, it is a testament of the human spirit, where belief and the need for exploration transcend risk and limitation.

Check out the trailer:

I have to include one of the songs featured in the doc by Aussie Christian band For King & Country:

 


TCFF Screening Time(s): 
10/25/2015 (12:00 PM)
10/31/2015 (10:10 AM)


I had the privilege of chatting with director Brent Baum about the challenges of bringing this film to light, collaborating with Gary Sinise and For King and Country, and the origin & significance of the film title.

THANK YOU Mr. Baum for taking the time to share these wonderful and fascinating insights about your film.

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What inspired you to tackle this project? I’d love to know how the initial process was, how you came to find the arkeologists/explorers/experts etc featured in the film?

Like all people who grew up hearing the story of Noah in Sunday School, ​I had always been curious as to these stories surrounding the remains of Noah’s Ark. Don’t I read every few years how it has been already found?  Well, one day I got a random call from an acquaintance who ​was part of the excursion team…the Arkeologists as we like to refer to them. He mentioned that he was going and asked if we would like to buy the rights to film the expedition. My interest was certainly piqued. Wanting to go film this incredible journey was not the hard part, finding the funding to do so was the most difficult.

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Brent Baum (in baseball hat) on the set of Finding Noah

As you can imagine, sitting in front of a group of investors and asking for money to film the search for Noah’s Ark is not an easy thing.  But we were blessed with open minds who understood from the beginning, that this movie was not about finding a piece of wood, rather an opportunity to look into the hearts of those men who feel compelled (by science, faith, a sense of adventure or whatever their reason) to go and look for this immensely significant artifact.

What’s been the most challenging aspect of making this? The climb itself looked incredibly daunting, not to mention the fact that the Kurdish Rebel pose a threat to the explorers. Was there any filming delays due to unforeseen circumstances, be it weather or other political issues?

​Well, yes, first and foremost is the simple fact that we had no agreement with Mother Nature to play nice with our crew and timing. Climbing a peak the size of Ararat is a feat on its own, yet to live at 17,000 feet and work for 30 days is a whole other realm of physical and mental demands.

We were in the middle east for three months, 2.5 of which was in East Turkey on and about the mountain.  We had members of our team on the summit at varying times, the longest of which were up there for 30 consecutive days. The remainder of which was spent filming in Israel, Jordan and Armenia.

 The Kurds are the good guys… On one side of the hill they are fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria, on the other side of the hill they are considered terrorists because of their decades long battle with Turkey for independence. Hence the uproar when the Turkish air forces would bomb Kurd positions on their way back from NATO sorties against ISIS in recent news.

For most of us, the Ararat experience is a metaphor for life and for faith. Mountains are put in front of us and we can chose to climb them or succumb. On Mt. Ararat I was honored to film those who chose to bravely climb them one step at a time exercising their faith with each dangerous step.

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The documentary addresses spiritual/faith aspects of the expedition as well as the science/archaeological aspects, was that a conscious decision on your (and/or the producers) part?

​Yes, from the very start of the film, ​we made a conscious decision to walk down the middle, to tell the science and the spiritual sides of this story.  I remember sitting in the production office and telling the crew over and over that in regard to this film, we had to operate more like a news room than a film production. There is just so much science and religion, historical sightings and myth, false claims and intrigue surrounding the story of the Ark; we had thousands of years of history to break down. So off we went to interview world experts on volcanoes, glaciers, wood preservation, satellite imagery, and the history of the region as well as leading scholars from Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Our first cut of the film was 4 hours in length.  There is just so much information and intrigue surround this story.

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I love the narration by Gary Sinise and the music by For King & Country. How did those collaborations come about?

​Gary and the 4K&C guys did such a wonderful job. We have been big supporters of Gary and the work his foundation does on behalf of veterans over the years.​ ​So when we were looking for a narrator and he just seemed like the best choice. He has a very distinct voice that we thought would lend to the thoughtfulness and tone of the film.​

With 4K&C it was a bit more round about. We had been searching for months for a song for the end credits of the film and could find nothing I was happy with. I was in a meeting with our lawyers discussing an entirely different film and they asked me if I would mind taking a call with one of their friends who was producing an independent movie that had a faith-based theme to it. So I spoke with the producer and he told me that he was working on a movie with the guys from the band 4K&C. When I got back to the office, I asked the staff to look up the band and their songs. We were just amazed at how uniquely the message of their music fit with the tone of our movie.  It is as if the lyrics were written for us. We immediately called the band and went to see them in concert…ever since we have all been big fans. We ended up putting three of their songs in the movie.

Lastly, what’s the significance of the title ‘Finding Noah’ which focuses more on the spiritual journey as much as the physical one in finding the Ark?

​Finding a title for the film was one of the most difficult parts of the production. We agonized over this.​ ​The Search for Noah’s Ark was such on over-used title in media over the years for movies and History Channel Unknown Mysteries type of shows.  It was just about so much more than the Ark. I found myself saying to people along the post production process something along the lines of: When you search for the Ark, you find a piece of wood; but when you search for and find the metaphorical Noah, you find something much deeper. In the Bible, Noah alone was chosen (because of his faith) to restart humanity in a world that had become corrupt and evil. And much like Noah, many of the men on this journey got a chance to start their lives again.


What are your thoughts of Finding Noah? 

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11 thoughts on “Spotlight on FINDING NOAH doc & interview with director Brent Baum

  1. Gary Sinese is a personal hero–his love for veterans and his directing and film history is honorable to me. I’d watch this doc just because he narrated. But the premise and cinematography look breathtaking! Bravo, Ruth for another great article.

  2. Wow! That really sounds great. I have always appreciated Gary Sinese. Love seeing his name attached. Also really interested in the spiritual side of the story. And the screen shots look incredible. Definitely interested in this one. Fine interview Ruth!

    1. Hey Keith! Gary Sinise is a great actor and a decent human being, so yeah, seems appropriate that he narrated this doc. It’s truly a beautifully-shot film that has so much interesting substance, boy it made me want to go to Mt Ararat, though I probably won’t survive mountain climbing :\

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