British Filmmaker Jack Jewers Gives Ancient Poetry New Life In His Video Series ‘inVerse’

"Love Song" is based on the poem "The Flower Song" Anon. Egypt, c. 1400 BCE. (Abridged).
"Love Song" is based on the poem "The Flower Song" Anon. Egypt, c. 1400 BCE. (Abridged).
Credit Jack Jewers

A new series of short films, “inVerse,” explores ancient poetry as a prism through which to understand our modern world.

Writer and filmmaker Jack Jewers created the series and joined “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes to talk about the five films.

Interview Highlights

About creating this project: 

“The genesis of the project began when I stumbled across this lovely line of poetry. And it just said ‘Girls in silk. Little fans in hand frolic with fireflies in flight.’ And I thought that was so beautiful, and I did this little double-take when I saw underneath the age. It said eighth century A.D., and it’s Chinese by a poet called Du Fu. That led me down a rabbit hole,” said Jewers.

He continued, “That wasn’t even the oldest poem. They go much further back than that. And then other cultures: Mesopotamia, Indian, Egyptian, and really I trolled through these until I found the ones that spoke to me. I developed this into a series of films that really spoke to the connection of today with our truly ancient past. It also gives us perspective on time.”

The purpose of this series: 

“The voices of our distant ancestors feel so modern; they feel so connected to us. We can imagine ourselves, them, just as we can actually imagine them in our shoes now. And the point to that is, whatever hardships we are facing … this terrible time that we’re living through, they went through worse. And humanity survived. And that was kind of the hidden message of this: Don’t worry, it really is going to be OK.”

Official press release of the five films:

• “Love Song” — An Egyptian love poem written in 1400 BCE reveals a meditation on the meaning of relationships and gender in 2021.
• “Long Wall” — A poem about loss and suffering from the Han Dynasty in China opens up a conversation about Europe’s refugee crisis.
• “My Heart” — Originating from ancient Mesopotamia, “My Heart Flutters Hastily” is a delightful reminder that those giddy, dizzy feelings you can get when you really like somebody are nothing new.
• “The Look” — A first century poem taken from Ovid’s “Ars Amarosa” is reimagined as a celebration of inclusivity and tolerance.
• “The Dawn” — The ancient Indian poet Kālidāsa’s “Salutation to the Dawn” transforms into a rallying cry for a better tomorrow led by young street protesters.

You can read all five poems on the “inVerse” website: 

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