• Bible Films Blog

    Looking at film interpretations of the stories in the Bible - past, present and future, as well as preparation for a future work on Straub/Huillet's Moses und Aron and a few bits and pieces on biblical studies.

    Matt Page


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    Thursday, July 08, 2010

    Big Book Media

    For ages now I've been meaning to write something about Big Book Media, known in the US as The Liturgy Series. They've produced a series of films about Jesus' life, available on DVD or for download, for churches and for schools. So far they have either concentrated on key moments in Jesus' life (The Story of the Nativity, The First Easter) or the Gospel readings from the Lectionary.

    Big Book sent me a couple of their DVDs to review, and I like what I've seen. The films themselves are shot with high quality film (or digital equivalent!) on location in Ouarzazate, so the producers have clearly invested heavily in the project, and this is obvious from watching them. In addition to looking authentic, almost every shot is really well composed.

    The films themselves, at least those that I have seen, narrate a section of scripture over the top of the action on screen, so there's almost no diegetic sound. The result is rather curious giving the films a documentary feel which is well suited to their intended use in churches and schools, though it might not be quite what everyone is looking for. It's possible to turn off the narration, but keep the background music and sounds which might work well to accompany some kind of meditation.

    The schools-targeted DVDs, branded as 3 Wise Camels, feature ex-Blue Peter presenter Diane-Louise Jordan doing the voiceover, but the images are just the same. The website suggests that these are suitable for 3-11s, but my feeling is that this is a little low. My daughter is four, and pretty bright, but I think most of this would be above her head. Likewise I could imagine that a good number of those aged 12 would appreciate it too.

    British actor Selva Raslingam (currently appearing in Prince of Persia) makes an excellent, middle-eastern Jesus, moving well away from the sadly still typical blondish haired, blue eyed Anglo-Saxon of so many other portrayals, and the fact that he is not typically good-looking all adds to the sense of authenticity. Incidentally, Raslingam also played the lead role in Channel 5's The True Story: Herod the Great.

    The series has been put together by David Batty, who both produced and directed Channel 4's Christianity: A History series last year as well as a number of Robert Beckford's documentaries such as Secrets of the 12 Disciples and The Hidden Story of Jesus. Delirious? fans may also recognise these films from the video to their Easter 2010 hit "History Maker" which, I suppose, is a good place to go to get something of a feel for these films.

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