Au Nom Du Même Père

Born of the One Father

The critical success of Shalom Salaam was more noted in Continental Europe than in the UK and it was not long before an approach came from veteran journalist/producer Philippe Alfonsi who proposed a collaboration on related if very different material.

Having covered the siege of Tripoli from the PLO side in the shadow of Yasser Arafat, Alfonsi was acquainted with Middle East affairs and the confessional divides of the region. Knowing he and Jones shared a history there, Alfonsi suggested an ambitious documentary on the thwarted history of Jews and Christians, an apparently remote subject that had acquired an intense current interest.

As the Arab/Israeli conflict deepened, Palestinian Christians of the ancient Holy Lands were faced with choices which threatened their continued existence as a community; simultaneously anti-semitism inspired by age-old Christian doctrine was resurfacing in the European world and especially in the newly liberated former East Bloc, where differences of interpretation between Jews and Christians were rendering the Holocaust a subject of immediate grief as well as troubled memorialization.

Au Nom du Même Père Episode 2
Au Nom du Même Père Episode 3

Through their independent production companies Alfonsi and Jones raised production funds from TF1 and Channel 4 respectively. The creative team was completed by the recruitment of two essential elements: star author Thierry Pfister, who had shot to political and literary fame with his observation of the early Mitterrand years in La vie quotidienne à Matignon au temps de l’union de la gauche (Everyday life at Matignon in the days of the Union of the Left); and researcher Nadine Camel-Toueg, whose personal knowledge of the Middle East and ability to batter down the doors of even the most reluctant interviewees ensured a startling variety of often extremely incautious testimony elicited by the director Gareth Jones, who never appears on camera. It was his decision to dispense with a voice-over narrative and to let the inter-faith dialogue speak through its antiphonal adherents.

This was matched by priceless original footage of the principal locations involved. Shot over a nine-month period during 1990 in Israel, Palestine, France, Poland, Czechoslovakia and the USA, using local crews but homogenous in style, Au nom du même père recorded such iconic sites as the Temple Mount, Yad Vashem and the Holy Sepulchre, as well as the Christian and Jewish communities of Cracow and the infamous remains of its neighbour Auschwitz-Birkenau.

The series was screened on Channel 4 to appreciative audiences but was never shown on TF1, where it was deemed inflammatory and/or commercially unviable.  It is a sad fact that little has changed in the intervening years.  The diverse voices of Au nom du même père hold much the same positions today as then.

The experience left a mark on its makers, who are still close friends.  Twenty years later Jones returned to the subject matter with his Cambridge Ph.D. thesis Rites of Recuperation (2011) and his novel Our Lady of the Apocalypse (2016).

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