A sci-fi search for the holy A.R.K.

A Jewish ‘Da Vinci code’ project’: A filmmaker turns his archaeological passion into a short film that’s heading to the festival circuit

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

Harry Moskoff being interviewed inside the Western Wall Tunnels, the presumed location of the long-lost ark (Courtesy Harry Moskoff)
Harry Moskoff being interviewed inside the Western Wall Tunnels, near to the location presumed by some of the long-lost ark (Courtesy Harry Moskoff)

There have been other movies about the search for the lost ark of the Temple, but none featuring a teenage girl with a keyboards affixed to her forehead, battling a squadron of preschooler soldiers.

That’s only one of the lasting images in the alternate universe created by filmmaker Harry Moskoff in “The A.R.K. Report,” a 30-minute science fiction film about a bleak world run by a children’s army. Young Karmi is charged with helping find the long-lost A.R.K., whose ancient secrets will save humanity.

With brief sections filmed in the Western Wall tunnels, as well as in coal mines and abandoned factories of Allentown, Pennsylvania, by a Jewish East German director who used his favorite music from Israeli trance superstar band Infected Mushroom, and produced by Canadian-born Beit Shemesh resident Moskoff, the film has a script based on a lengthy archaeological report researched by Moskoff, who found himself delving into the mysteries of the biblical ark while still living in Toronto.

“I came up with a theory via Maimonides as to where the ark is located, which I later discussed with rabbis and archaeologists in Israel,” said Moskoff. He eventually wrote a paper on the subject.

According to the Bible, the Ark of the Covenant — which God commanded Moses to build while the Israelites were in the desert — had spiritual and practical uses. Once the Israelites reached the Promised Land, the ark was placed in the First Temple, where it remained until the destruction of the Temple during the Babylonian conquest in 586 BCE.

There has been a range of theories about what happened to the ark, from Ethiopian Christians who claim to have it to local archaeologists who believe it is hidden on the Temple Mount. It was brought into the realm of pop culture with Steven Spielberg’s 1981 movie “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” which tied the ark to Hitler and the Nazi regime.

The ark, as depicted in 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' (Courtesy YouTube screengrab)
The ark, as depicted in ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ (Screenshot via YouTube)

“In a way, ‘Raiders’ was a good thing because it paved the way, broke the ice to the whole ark story,” said Moskoff. “It showed that it’s not only science fiction, it actually existed and leads people. It’s a renaissance theory, but when Elijah the prophet comes, he’ll tell. It’s just a matter of inspiring people.”

The mild-mannered Moskoff is something of a renaissance man himself — a jazz musician by training who earned a degree in jazz composition from Boston’s Berklee School of Music before studying information technology, a more lucrative field that’s “creative enough to make me happy,” he said.

Now a systems analyst and patent agent, he describes himself as “quirky,” a guy who’s always trying to be on the leading edge. The delving into biblical archaeology began as a hobby, stemming from his own interests in investigative journalism and Torah.

The topography of the water channels where the ark may be hidden, drawn by Harry Moskoff (Courtesy Harry Moskoff)
The topography of the water channels where the ark may be hidden, drawn by Harry Moskoff (Courtesy Harry Moskoff)

“The ark was inspiring to me,” said Moskoff, adding that he was on a “voyage” of getting more inspired religiously during his ark studies. “I drew diagrams and maps, I started to gather clues and theories, and I wanted to do something with all of it. It was a Jewish ‘Da Vinci Code’ type project.”

Once he made aliya to Israel seven years ago, he began discussing his theories with archaeologists who have worked at the Western Wall, and thought about making a documentary, but wanted something more innovative, “on the edge,” he said.

Film directors in his hometown of Toronto, “Hollywood North,” as Moskoff calls it, advised him not to make an overly religious or spiritual film. The material is “obviously sensitive,” said Moskoff, but needed the right kind of touch. He eventually commissioned Shmuel Hoffman, a German-born Jewish director living in the US, who helped him develop a science-fiction concept that included documentary-style interviews.

In the movie, “terrorism is spreading and the ark is coming to sort of save the world,” said Moskoff. The narrative is “representative in many ways of the good within a person, that people should find their own ark.”

“We wanted it to be funny as well,” he added, though “the ark is taken very seriously. I told the director it should be educational, with clues as to where the ark really is.”

The movie follows the search for the ark by Karmi, as masked child soldiers threaten to find her and her mentor, a member of a secret government agency. Played by a cast from the US, it has the look and feel of the sci-fi television shows “Quantum Leap” and the “The X-Files,” albeit with a simpler wardrobe and a murkier script.

Karmi, the heroine of 'The A.R.K. Report (Courtesy Harry Moskoff)
Karmi, the heroine of ‘The A.R.K. Report (Courtesy Harry Moskoff)

Moskoff hopes the 30-minute film will reach the small screen as a pilot for a TV series. As the primary investor in what he calls his “mini-budget feature film,” he said he didn’t have to spend too much money on the project, which has garnered interest from Christian networks in the US given its resonant subject matter and family-friendly approach.

“My kids can see it,” said Moskoff. “It’s sci-fi, drama, time travel; it’s really about how to get out of everyday life and find your mission.”

The original topography of the Hakra, as drawn by Harry Moskoff (Courtesy Harry Moskoff)
The original topography of the Hakra, as drawn by Harry Moskoff (Courtesy Harry Moskoff)


Family members and friends advised him not to invest too much time or money in the project. “‘Put it into real estate, your kids’ education, a wedding,’ they said,” laughed Moskoff. “The family doesn’t think I’m crazy anymore. They know me. Every once in a while, I embark on these projects.”

Completed in less than a year, the film is starting to gain traction. It was screened and won the Gold award in the Feature/Shorts category at the recent 46th annual WorldFest-Houston International Film & Video Festival, better known simply as WorldFest. He’s hoping to get “A.R.K.” into the Montreal International film Festival and the Jerusalem Film Festival, and it has already been accepted for screening at the Monaco International Film Festival next December. He also just signed an alliance with Lightcatcher Productions, a Texas-based firm that’s planning on producing four films in Israel.

Now that he’s entering the festival circuit, Moskoff believes his movie may be part of “that 3% of films” that make it into the theaters… and the even smaller percentage, he said, that inspire people.

“The A.R.K. Report,” directed by Shmuel Hoffman; produced by Harry Moskoff; written by Layla O’Shea. Cast: Cast: Katy Castaldi, Pascal Yen-Pfister, Ayden Crispe.

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