Black Entertainment : Black Jesus Film Makes Waves at Sundance

Discussion in 'Black Entertainment' started by I-khan, Jan 19, 2006.

  1. I-khan

    I-khan Well-Known Member MEMBER

    Dec 27, 2005
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    Black Jesus Film Makes Waves at Sundance
    By Rebecca Harrison
    JOHANNESBURG (Jan. 19) - 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."

    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.

    "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."

    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.


    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.

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

    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.

    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.

    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.

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

    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.

    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.

    "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."
  2. Therious

    Therious Banned MEMBER

    United States
    Feb 22, 2004
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    this sounds very interesting. i have my own concept of a modern jeus film. id love to see this.
  3. Sun Ship

    Sun Ship Well-Known Member MEMBER

    Aug 31, 2003
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    There was also a Black Jesus short-film made in 1992 titled, The Second Coming. It starred Blair Underwood as Jesus (Yeshua). Rosalind Cash also acted in it, with James Earl Jones doing the narration.

    Be a person is a believer or non-believer, Black filmography of this caliber need not be dismissed and should get more support, especially in these days of more blaxploitative buffoonery and “The Passion Of Christ”. Dr. Ben Yosef Jochanan once said, [paraphrasing] “that we need to be knowledgeable of the Bible and capable of critiquing it properly, because this is were most of your people are religiously”.

    If our people are mostly spiritual believers using the Biblical construct, than they should not only conceive Jesus as African (as any prophet in that area had to be!), but also as a liberator and revolutionary, as did Nat Turner, Denmark Vesey, Gabriel Procter, Harriet Tubman, Vernon Johns and even MLK (his more radical thoughts). There has been theological scholarship over the years, that has challenged the given pacifist-nature of Jesus and view him more as a militant or Zealot.

    Regardless of the faith, be it Christianity, African Hebraism, African traditional, Islam or Buddhism, if liberation theology and better yet ACTION, has not been historically exemplified or practiced in “real time” by its initiates, then it is a questionable doctrine, belief or practice.

    Sometimes as we run from one thing, we don’t make a truthful critical analysis of what we’re running to.

    A movie page gave this short outline about the movie (I’ve seen this movie before):

    The authorities accuse a Black man wearing dreadlocks who calls himself Jesus of being a lunatic.

    (H_mmm_??? I remember they finally incarcerate this Black Jesus figure... Sounds like a story about the orisha Obatala, I once heard…)