Fourteen years later Channel 4 revisited the subject, broadcasting The Passion, Films, Faith and Fury presented by Robert Beckford and included two excerpts with me. Participating in that documentary got me thinking about trying to track down the older one. The problem was that all I could remember was th subject matter, the approximate year and Jesus of Montreal. I also seemed to recall Baryy Norman's involvement but that seemed to clash with the idea that it was on Channel 4. Eventually I worked out that it must have been Jesus Christ Movie Star from Channel 4 in 1992, but any attempts to get hold of it failed.
Then yesterday when Неделковски Ѓорѓи let me know that some wonderful person has posted it up on YouTube. It's in six parts (due to the way YouTube do things) and runs for just short of an hour. There are a couple of bits missing, presumably due to someone not starting the video again after the advert break, but the only major omission is (I presume) the section on Jesus Christ, Superstar, which is ironic given the programme's title.
The documentary itself was actually quite good, with interviews with those involved in all of the recent major Jesus films: Max von Sydow, George Stevens Jr., Enrique Irazoqui, David Greene, Lew Grade, Robert Powell, Terry Jones, Martin Scorsese, Willem Dafoe and Denys Arcand. There were also a couple of experts: Harvey Cox (Harvard) and Sheila Johnston (then of The Independent now of The Telegraph) and it was narrated by Ian McShane who has a bit of experience with Bible films himself.
For an hour long documentary it covers quite a lot of ground, and there are some real gems in the interviews. It was also apparent that someone had actually worked quite hard on McShane's script. There were a number of fine turns of phrase, perhaps all the more notable because of the relative paucity of well-crafted words in most documentaries today.
I was also pleased to see a bit of footage from a film I was not at all familiar with, James B. Sloan's Barabbas from 1935. It prefigures 2001's The Cross and the film about Mohammed The Message with it's use of Point of View shots in order to comply with a ban on showing Jesus on screen.
I'm not sure how long this film will remain up for, as it's not on the official Channel 4 YouTube Channel. That's good news for those outside of the UK as they will be able to watch it, but it's possible that 4 might ask for it to be taken down at some point. It is of course well within their rights to do so, but it would be a little churlish if they never intended to make it available in another format, so lets hope not.