Friday, January 20, 2006

New Jesus film: Son of Man

Regular readers will not be surprised to hear of my excitement at the news of a new Jesus film, Son of Man, already mentioned in November by Peter Chattaway on Filmchat, Jesus comes to Johannesburg, and now with more information in a fresh post announcing the arrival of the film in the USA, at a festival in Utah:

Son of Man comes to Sundance -- an update

So what do we know so far? IMDb have pretty scant information: Son of Man (2006) but there is more on the Sundance Film Festival website, linked to by Peter Chattaway:

World Dramatic Competition: Son of Man
South Africa, 2005, 86 Minutes, color

Mark Dornford-May

Mark Dornford-May, Andiswa Kedama, Pauline Malefane

The story of Jesus reclaimed as an African fable: a simple concept becomes a remarkable cinematic experience in Son of Man. This is the second installment from the collaboration of director Mark Dornford-May and the South African theatre company, Dimpho Di Kopane. The moniker means "combined talents," and it aptly describes the incredible creative energy on both sides of the camera. Shot against the backdrop of a violence-riddled township and with text updated to modern time, Son of Man delivers one indelible impression after another. Mary conceives the Christ child during a militia attack on a grade school, Jesus asks for the surrender of handguns from his apostles, and the angel Gabriel is a precocious child marked with simple white feathers. Equally intriguing is the melding of the crucifixion and resurrection–alluding to the fact that in today's Africa, political dissidents, as Jesus was, are conveniently made to disappear. In song and originality, the spirit of Son of Man is contagious, a life-enriching elixir for Christians and non-Christians alike who feel mired in the unyielding bigotry of fundamentalism. By modernizing one of the world's most famous stories, Son of Man creates lasting resonance and imparts a significance that is truly glorious.— John Cooper
Peter also links to a Reuters article:

Black Jesus film preaches politics over religion
Billed as the world's first black Jesus movie, "Son of Man" portrays Christ as a modern African revolutionary and aims to shatter the Western image of a placid savior with fair hair and blue eyes.

The South African film, which premieres on Sunday at the U.S. Sundance festival in Utah, transports the life and death of Christ from first century Palestine to a contemporary African state racked by war and poverty.

Jesus is born in a shanty-town shed, a far cry from a manger in a Bethlehem stable. His mother Mary is a virgin, though feisty enough to argue with the angels. Gun-wielding authorities fear his message of equality and he ends up hanging on a cross.

"We wanted to look at the gospels as if they were written by spindoctors and to strip that away and look at the truth," director Mark Dornford-May told Reuters in an interview.

"The truth is that Christ was born in an occupied state and preached equality at a time when that wasn't very acceptable."
I suppose spoil-sport Historical Jesus scholars will want to point out that Israel was not "an occupied state" (e.g. see E. P. Sanders's excellent article, Jesus in Historical Context), or that it is an oversimplification to think of Jesus "preaching equality" (e.g. see John H. Elliott's Jesus was not an egalitarian), but hey, it's a new Jesus film and there's plenty to be excited about. It's an interesting comment that this is "the world's first black Jesus movie". I can't think of another off-hand, though one that comes close is !Hero, a rock opera that is available on DVD (filmed stage show) and record, and -- as I've commented before -- it's well worth the purchase if you don't have it yet.

Update (Saturday, 01.24): there is more here:

dimpho di kopane :: film :: Son of Man

The page includes a PDF press kit, stills from the film and more.


Connie Clark said...

Hello Mark, I saw the film today at Sundance. It was a beautiful piece of work, very moving, and in many ways a believable rendition of Jesus' life and ministry into another culture, time, and place. I had the opportunity to ask Mark Dornford-Mays, the director, the one question that puzzled me: Why did we not hear in Jesus' preaching or teaching any reference to God, prayer, or religious observance? Did he mean to imply that Jesus was not the Son of God as well as the Son of Man? Mr. Dornford-Mays answered that Jesus referred to himself as the Son of Man, and pointed out that Jesus is pictured praying twice, and that other elements of the film (such as the frequent inclusion of angels) point to his divinity. I would love to see the film again and may do so if I can snag a ticket on Friday morning, the last showing.

Mr. Dornford-Mays said the stage version of "Son of Man" will be touring the U.S. next January-February. He did not say anything about the release of the film but I will be looking for that information. It is definitely worth seeing for anyone interested in Christianity.

BTW, I'm a deacon in the Episcopal Church and chaplain at the Wyoming State Hospital, about 50 miles from Park City where Sundance is centered.


The Gospel According to John said...


just browsing Bloggers talking about Jesus movies.


Constance McIntosh said...

What are the words of the song that the women sing after the sister pours precious perfume on Jesus' feet?