Saturday, January 21, 2006

Black Jesus film preaches politics over religion

Got the original article from The Dick List.

By Rebecca Harrison

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - 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.

I don't know about you people, but I have always thought of Jesus as having brown hair and brown 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.

Ok. Going from a relatively stable environment of Roman occupied Judea to something like... Somalia. Why don't I think Jesus would have lived too long in the face of armed gangs running around, raping, looting, other things African warlords enjoy doing?

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.

Ok, but Jesus was put on the cross to suffer for the sins of mankind, not for speaking up about equal rights.

"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.

So, to unspin it, you spinned it?

"The truth is that Christ was born in an occupied state and preached equality at a time when that wasn't very acceptable."

He preached equality? Where is that? I think I need to make a few calls to people more religious than I am. The Romans were far more concerned with rebellions than with the idea that the subjugated were equal. As far as they were concerned you were either a Roman citizen or you were not.

By portraying Jesus as a black African, Dornford-May hopes to sharpen the political context of the gospels, when Israel was under Roman occupation, and challenge Western perceptions of Christ as meek, mild and European.

Dornford-Mays wants to be a rabble rouser. Or just get attention. He could be needy.

"We have to accept that Christ has been hijacked a bit -- he's gone very blonde haired and blue-eyed," he said. "The important thing about the message of Christ was that it is universal. It doesn't matter what he looked like."

I have never seen a picture of a blonde haired, blue eyed Jesus. Can anyone find me one?

In fact, there was a film called "Black Jesus" made in 1968 and starring Woody Strode, but it is described as a political commentary rather than an interpretation of the life of Christ.

It probably tanked.


Made by the same theater company behind last year's award-winning "U-Carmen eKhayelitsha", Son of Man is in the tongue-clicking Xhosa African language and English and was filmed in the sprawling black townships near Cape Town.

So... you plan on using sub-titles I hope.

Jesus begins his public ministry after an encounter with Satan -- who appears cloaked in black leather -- during his traditional Xhosa circumcision rite.

How much you want to bet that Satan is a white boy?

He gathers followers from the factions of armed rebels across the country and demands they lay down their guns and confront their corrupt rulers with a vision of non-violent protest and solidarity.

Which would get them killed in reality.

Dornford-May, who says he subscribes to Christ's teachings without necessarily believing he is the son of God, says the Jesus in the film is a divine being who rises from the dead.

Ok, he is not a Christian, but is making a movie about Christ to educate the world on what he belives is the Europeanization of Christ. What do you call a person like that?

His resurrection is meant to signal hope for Africa, the world's poorest continent which is sometimes dismissed by foreigners as a hopeless mess of conflict and corruption.

Because it is a hopeless mess of conflict and corruption. It needs fundamental changes in the thinking of the ruling elite before they are going to get anywhere.

"The ending is optimistic but realistic. There is an incredible struggle to get to the optimism," he said.

I, for one, am not to optimistic about this movie. Or should I say, propaganda piece.

Dornford-May says focus groups of church leaders and ordinary Christians in South Africa, where Christianity often comes in a conservative form, broadly praised the film, which he hopes will prove a hit on the continent and worldwide.

I think he is in for a shock. At least when it comes to the US.

Mary, played by the star of U-Carmen, Pauline Malefane, gets a beefed-up role as the inspiration for Christ's politics and humanity, compared to her fairly brief biblical appearances.


And Malefane, who is married to Dorford-May, makes a smooth transition from playing the seductive heroine Carmen to the world's most famous virgin, he said.

Ah! That explains it. Its ummm.. I can't remember the word... You know, where you give work to your relatives so they get money.

"They are both women who are prepared to stand outside of society. They may be different sides of the coin but they are still the same coin -- but I'm not going to be very popular for saying that."

No, your definitely not going to be popular.


Post a Comment

<< Home