Jesus (alternately called The Jesus Film), is a 1979 motion picture which depicts the life of Jesus according to the Gospel of Luke in the Christian Bible. It was co-directed by Australian Peter Sykes and Englishman John Krisch.
The film's origins can be traced back to 1950 when Bill Bright, who would go on to found Campus Crusade for Christ, wanted to create an entertaining, but biblically accurate film about the life of Jesus Christ that could be translated and shown globally.
In the mid-1970s, a team of 500 scholars and leaders from secular and Christian organizations began to research historical elements for the film. The film was produced at a cost of $6 million, most of which was donated. Filming took place over the course of several months throughout the Middle East.
Jesus was produced by John Heyman, a German-born Jew. British Shakespearean actor Brian Deacon was hired to play the critical role of Jesus. Deacon, whose mother was Catholic and father was Protestant, says neither's religious view were pressed on him as a youth and he was encouraged by both to find his own way. Former Jesus Film Project director Paul Eshleman, who was on location during much of the principal photography and even had a small non-speaking role as a Roman soldier on horseback, claims that Deacon was so committed to the film and its inspirational message that he often read several Bible translations in order to make certain that he properly presented Christ's teachings. Eshleman also says that Niko Nitai, who played Peter, became a believer during filming.
After each day's filming was completed, the footage was sent to a panel of biblical scholars for review.
Instead of creating a parallel story for the film or embellishing the biblical account, like other religious epics such as The Ten Commandments, the filmmakers chose to adhere as closely as possible to the Gospel of Luke. Virtually every word of dialogue spoken in the film comes directly from Luke, which was chosen after John Heyman sought advice from clergy and scholars. Many responded that the screenplay should be based on just one Gospel, and that Luke should be used because of its completeness.
Scenes for a version of the film for younger children, called The Jesus Film for Children, were shot concurrently with the main production.
Inspirational Films released the film in U.S. theaters in 1979, where it earned $4 million (US) at the box office. On release it was praised for its "meticulous attention to authenticity," but also criticized as "painfully monotonous."
In 1981, Bill Bright organized the Jesus Film Project with the goal of accurately translating the film into other languages and showing them around the world. The first translation was done for the Tagalog-speaking people of the Philippines. The organization works with thousands of missionaries around the world to show the film, sometimes to audiences who have never seen a motion picture. Distribution in the United States is also a priority, as millions of unsolicited tapes have been sent to addresses around the country. In 2003, the organization made the film available for viewing on its website in over 300 languages. Both The Jesus Film and The Jesus Film for Children are available in DVD and VHS formats. Audio dramatizations are also available.
Translating The Jesus Film Edit
Unlike a majority of other films, the process of translating The Jesus Film is not a simple matter of overdubbing. Months of painstaking research by linguists goes into each new translation project in order to maintain the strictest accuracy. When a script is finally approved, special care is taken to synch the new dialogue spoken by the carefully chosen voice actors with the mouth movements of the English-speaking actors in the film as precisely as possible so that not only do the actors in the film sound like they're speaking the viewer's language, but they look like it as well. Sometimes words have to be changed, but the translators take care to ensure that Christ's message is kept accurate and concise.
In 2001, a new opening sequence depicting the creation of man, the expulsion from Eden, Abraham's aborted sacrifice of his son, and the angel telling the three wise men of the birth of their Savior was filmed to show, as Paul Eshleman states in the audio commentary, how Jesus' life fits into the span of history.
An edited DVD version of The Jesus Film packaged with Jesus: Fact or Fiction was produced in 2003 by Inspirational Films. It features a section called the "Journey of Spiritual Discovery." Biblical scholars, historians, philosophers, and ministers answer specific questions relating to God, Jesus, Christianity, the archaeological, scientific, and historical accuracy of the Bible, and also features testimony from many Christian men and women. Viewers can browse the numerous topics individually, or they can watch the film and activate a special "discovery glass" feature that, when prompted, will allow the viewer to access the comments of these experts during relevant scenes in the film.
The Jesus Film Project states that The Jesus Film has been viewed almost 5.6 billion times (including repeat viewings). This is based on:
- The number of translations (1015) of The Jesus Film in DVD, VHS, and audio-only formats.
- The number of showings by the Jesus Film Project's volunteer film teams, who have presented the film in 229 nations.
- Over 230 million people have indicated decisions to receive Christ after viewing the film.
Vinay Samuel, executive director of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Mission Theologians, told the New York Times that in his opinion, these statistics are "to say the least, not gathered in a social-scientific way."
- Jesus Film Project website
- Jesus: Fact or Fiction? - Version of Jesus Film including expert interviews
- Jesus at the Internet Movie Database
- Inspirational Films website
- WorldMAP - detailed maps of JESUS Film translation for each country of the world
- Most-Translated Film in History
- ↑ DVD audio commentary
- ↑ Putting Jesus in Every Mailbox
- ↑ NYTimes.com Article: The Passion's Precedent: The Most-Watched Film Ever?
- ↑ The New York Times, July 22, 2003, page 1AR "1979 Bible Film is the Most-Watched Movie of All Time"
- ↑ BBC News: The most watched film in history
- ↑ Jesus Film Project's statistics page
- ↑ New York Times - Baptism by Celluloid