Much has been made about director Richard Linklater's 12-year journey to make Boyhood, which follows a young boy growing up literally in front of our eyes. Director Tim Mahoney went on his own 12-year journey for the upcoming documentary Patterns of Evidence: The Exodus, where he searches for answers on whether or not the Old Testament Exodus story really happened. What he found may change how many view history and the Bible itself. The film is getting a unique release through Fathom Events, playing in over 600 theaters nationwide on Monday, January 19, with a 30-minute pre-show debuting before the film, and a panel discussion with expert scholars and theologians after the movie ends. There will also be special screenings on Tuesday, January 20. I recently had the chance to speak with filmmaker Tim Mahoney about this unique film before Fathom Events rolls out this documentary nationwide. Take a look at what he had to say below.
This sounds like quite an immense undertaking. I read this film was 12 years in the making, so I was wondering if you could talk about how this story came to be, and why you felt it needed to be told?
Tim Mahoney: I didn't actually start off thinking I was going to tell this exact story. A lot of times, documentaries happen that way. I think documentary filmmakers, such as myself, are just curious about the world. I started to look for the route of the Exodus. I heard the people were searching for the route of the Exodus, and I grew up hearing about the stories in the Bible. As a child, my mother would always tell me these stories, and I was always fascinated by them. I began there, as the route, but when I got to Egypt, people said, 'Wait a minute, why search for the route of the Exodus, when these stories never really happened in the first place?' That was sort of the shocker. I went to the actual location where the Bible says the Israelites lived, and the archaeologists there said there really wasn't any evidence for it. I came back to my home, and that seed of doubt sort of grew in me. So, eventually, I heard there was another Egyptologist that interpreted that information in a completely different way, and that began this 12-year journey of my own, finding people like that who have incredible insights into the information, and started to reveal evidence. That's how it all got started.
What can you say about the filming process itself? I can't imagine you expected to film this for 12 years, but can you talk about the things you did to prepare for this?
Tim Mahoney: Well, when you're going overseas as a filmmaker, you're always thinking, 'What am I going to have?' Because I'm not going to have a store to basically get resources there. So, you've got to basically think about the type of materials you're going to bring as a filmmaker, what you're going to need in filming in the desert with dust. I've had one of those desert wind storms with dust coming at me, and I remember running with all I could to get to the bag that we had to cover over the camera. Those kinds of things, preparing to go there, was exciting, it was an adventure, so there were technical things I was trying to do to help me become a better filmmaker, and get the kind of imagery I needed to in Egypt and the deserts.
Can you talk a bit about the release of this? You have this through Fathom Events and it will be presented in 600 theaters around the country. I've heard about these kinds of releases before, and they're very innovative, so can you talk about why this is the right venue for this to be seen?
Tim Mahoney: Yes, for me, as a documentary filmmaker, I tried to make a cinematic documentary, so it's actually my story. It's documenting my story, my journey, investigating this event. I think that Fathom Events, which is my partner in this, for this one night only event, has been amazingly helpful, because they put it in 600 plus theaters nationwide, select theaters, and what I'm able to do is have a panel discussion afterwards, because there's so much about this film, and there's so much information about it, that it allows the audience to be able to discuss it and listen to the panel discussing this information. That's going to happen at the end of the showing, and I also wanted to have an intermission. I was able to have an intermission in this film, just because the material is so complex that it gave the people a chance to think a little bit.
A lot of documentaries don't even get anything close to this type of a release, so it's rather amazing to have them put this together.
Tim Mahoney: Yeah, this is a big deal. I'll tell you what, Brian, I always believed that this was a special film. I believe that the story was like real estate, and it was golden, and the information around it was amazing. There's a much larger audience in this story, an international audience, and I just had to believe in it and treat it with enormous respect, and that's what I did. Some of the shots, some of the things we did, like I said, we have 12 years worth of production value that we poured into this film, like filming maps for like a week, on tabletop, all sorts of things. Animations that re-create exactly, according to the archaeological dig sites, cities, rebuilt cities. I just believed it was an important film, and I think that's why it's gotten the type of excitement that it has. It's a beautiful looking film.
Any movie that has anything to do with religion is always examined very closely by various religious communities. I was curious if you've had any interactions with religious or Biblical communities about the film, and how they've reacted to it?
Tim Mahoney: I have. What I did was I tried to treat it, believe it or not, I mean, it's a religious story, but I tried to treat this with a scientific approach, and allowed there to be a balance. I wanted to hear the truth of what they had to say, and I gave a lot of different people a lot of screen time, on both sides of this issue. I didn't actually, in the beginning, talk with any religious people. I talked with archaeologists and Egyptologists. I do tell the story of the Bible in the film, so you'll know what we're looking for in the patterns. Some of what they're saying today is that this film, for many of them, is a game-changer. The balanced discussion and approach and what's coming to the surface is a game-changer, it's a big deal, and I've had some people in the Jewish community say it's one of the most important films ever made, because of its approach. I'm not saying that, but they are saying that, and other people in the Christian community are saying a lot of things and getting behind it because it's a big deal.
Obviously this is fact-based, but can you see any sort of narrative film being developed out of this at all?
Tim Mahoney: You know, I always said that this is a hybrid. I'm trying to make a hybrid between a narrative film and a documentary. I've always taken the narrative approach to telling this story. Yes, it possibly could be, but, right now, I've been at it for so long that I've found other patterns of evidence, so the plan here is to move from this part of the story, to the next part of the story, and moving on. The devices that we've created, the approaches that we have, are giving us the opportunity to continue this on as a whole series of films on Patterns of Evidence.
Oh, wow. That's amazing. Have you already started work on the follow-up for this then?
Tim Mahoney: Yes, we've got a lot of this material shot, so, what happens after this is we continue to move on. I also took the script and I thought, 'Why not do a book?' I worked so hard on this script, so I ended up putting in all the things I couldn't fit into the film, for time, and the extended interviews and behind-the-scenes, what it took for me to get an interview with, let's say Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel, or getting into Egypt and all the things that happened, during the times I was there. I was in Egypt during the revolution, filming, and all of those different things I put into the book. I decided to try to allow more of this information to get out.
Do you have a timetable for the book's release?
Tim Mahoney: Yes, hopefully it's within the next few months. In fact, if you go to PatternsOfEvidence.com, first of all, that's where you can sign up for tickets and buy tickets ahead of time there, you can find your theater near you. And we have a sheet where you can sign up for all the different products that are coming out, and we're going to contact people as the releases are coming out.
Is there anything you'd like to say to anyone who might have heard about this film and might be on the fence about it, about why they should give it a shot?
Tim Mahoney: I think the story of the Exodus is really a foundational story, it's an origin story. I think that just from being a person who is curious about the world and wants to be up on things, this film will give you, whether you're a believer or someone who doesn't have faith or anything like that, an insight into a very important legacy and story of our culture. That's the reason why people are going to it, and I've had atheists who have said that this is an excellent film that they will recommend to their friends. I've had both sides, both extremes, so I think there are a lot of reasons why people will want to see this film, and even just watch the trailer and see what you think of that, at PatternsOfEvidence.com, to give some people a taste of it.
Excellent. Well, that's about all I have. Thanks so much, Tim.
Tim Mahoney: Thank you.
Patterns of Evidence: The Exodus will be released in theaters on January 19 and in special screenings on January 20. You can visit PatternsOfEvidence.com and FathomEvents.com for more details on the film and information on where the film will be playing near you and how to buy tickets.