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Secrets of the Code, feature documentary, screened at Hot Docs documentary film festival in
Toronto, Agence France Press

TORONTO : A new documentary film screened this week in Toronto about author Dan Brown's hugely popular "The Da Vinci Code" reveals a widespread dissatisfaction with organized religion, the director told AFP.

"This was a spiritual road trip, a search for meaning," said Emmy award-winning veteran director Jonathan Stack at the packed screening of his film "Secrets of the Code" at Toronto's Hot Docs film festival.

Many documentaries have been made about the book, he said, but their aim was to debunk it.

"We were not trying to prove Dan Brown wrong or right, but to understand the root causes of the phenomenon," he said Monday night.

Referring to a Vatican correspondent interviewed in the film, Stack says that although the novel is superficial and riddled with errors, its popularity is a sign that people are dissatisfied with religion and looking for spiritual meaning.

The film moves through the ancient catacombs of Rome, to churches in France and Scotland, and to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, but it is not a travelogue. It is a series of interviews with experts passionate about the themes and issues raised by the best-selling book.

Christian churches have condemned "The Da Vinci Code" as an attack on their faith and an aide of Pope Benedict XVI has called it a "perversely anti-Christian novel."

The 90-minute documentary is based on the book "Secrets of the Code", which has outsold all other guide books to "The Da Vinci Code" combined.

It includes a range of intellectual, political and religious interpretations of the novel's references and possible messages.

Author Dan Burstein is also one of the documentary's producers.

A last-minute entry into the festival, the second largest in the world after the International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam, the film is called "a work in progress", but the main changes to the final version will be a new narrator -- actress Susan Sarandon -- and improved sound and visual quality.

Prominent in the novel is the idea that Mary Magdalene was Jesus' wife and the mother of his children; her womb was the legendary Holy Grail, and she herself appears in Leonardo Da Vinci's painting, The Last Supper.

The documentary includes these details but there is a more general emphasis on the sacred feminine, once a feature of ancient religions, now degraded.

"The sacred female was reduced to a temptress," the narrator says.

Stack told the audience he had approached author Dan Brown but did not get a response.

"I hope he sees the film and gets back to me," he said.