• Bible Films Blog

    Looking at film interpretations of the stories in the Bible - past, present and future, as well as current film releases with spiritual significance, and a few bits and pieces on the Bible.

    Wednesday, December 31, 2008

    Bible Films Blog Review of 2008

    On a personal note, 2008 has perhaps been the best of all years and the worst of all years. The birth of my son, Digory, getting to know my daughter Nina on a whole new level, and moving in to what we hope will be our long term family home will mean that, in all probability we will look back on this year with extreme fondness. Yet at the same time it's been unremittingly tough - out house still unsold after more than 12 months on the market, and worth far less than it was when I wrote last year's review. I've also been trying to hold down three jobs, two of which have largely been a source of misery. On top of this my mother-in-law will be spending the New Year undergoing her second batch of chemotherapy, whilst my dad seeks to recover from the stroke that he suffered just a couple of weeks before his 60th birthday.

    But one of the highlights of the year for me was Bible Film related. Easter saw the BBC broadcast The Passion - a dramatisation of the week leading up to Jesus' death. I'd been following the story for almost two years, and had, sadly, had to turn down an opportunity to visit the set, and so it was tremendously exciting to see it finally appear on the small screen. And I was invited to the premiere (where I got to spend some time with Mark Goodacre), and got some work out of it as well. The updating of the ReJesus website means that my work for them on this film is temporairily unavailable, but hopefully it will see the light of day again soon. The programme itself lived up to its promise. A strong leading performance by Joseph Mawle, a script that combined sound history with good drama, and a treatment of the resurrection that was so close to the biblical accounts that it left many from all over the theological spectrum a little uncomfortable. Two separate DVD releases followed, but no news yet on when this will air on the other side of the Atlantic.

    Aside from The Passion, it was a relatively quiet year for dramatised Bible stories. Albert Serra’s retelling of the wise men saga, Birdsong (El Cant Dels Ocells) played at a number of Film Festivals (including London's), but Christmas came and went without any news of a wider release. Other than that, only the spoof short Prop8: The Musical gained any kind of release, although Hamlet 2 did feature Steve Coogan playing a music teacher, playing Jesus. There were also Jesus allegories with Prince Caspian (see my intereview with Douglas Gresham), The Dark Knight and The Day the Earth Stood Still. Next year looks like it will have a much stronger contingent, including two films based on Genesis (Year One and The God Complex) and two TV series in Kings and Ben Hur. At least one of the Noah films in production and one or two of the smaller productions may also make it, but it's difficult to tell.

    Also thin on the ground were books about Bible Films. There may have been others besides Thomas R. Lindlof's "Hollywood Under Siege: Martin Scorsese, the Religious Right, and the Culture Wars", but if so, I missed them.

    A number of films did get DVD releases this year for the first time. The Ten, The Final Inquiry, Son of Man, Color of the Cross 2 and
    Dante's Inferno all got released, as well as the two disc version of Quo Vadis?.

    Despite the paucity of new dramatic treatments there were a suprisingly large number of documentaries on the Bible. Easter saw Robert Beckford in action with Secrets of the 12 Disciples, which dared to go head to head with the final episode of The Passion. But it was Channel 5 who provided most of the interest in this areas. Their September series Secrets of the Cross featured 4 documnetaries: Secrets of the Jesus Tomb, Who Really Killed Jesus?, Mary Magdalene: Saint or Sinner? and Trial of the Knights Templar. In America The Bible's Buried Secrets aired on PBS continuing the use of the word "secret" in the year's documentary titles. The Channel 5 shows were all repeated at Christmas along with another repeated documentary on King Herod (which I still need to watch). All 5 showed early in the morning, leaving the later evening schedule for the BBC's Star of Bethlehem, and Beckford again in The Nativity Decoded.

    Finally, 2008 also saw us saying a sad farewell to two of the great actors of all time. Paul Newman may only have starred in The Silver Chalice, but his body of work desrves celebration, but in the death of Charlton Heston we lost a man whose name was synonymous with the kind of biblical epic we are never likely to see again.

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