• 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.


    Name:
    Matt Page

    Location:
    U.K.










    Monday, April 06, 2020

    Brazilian Biblical Telenovelas


    For some time now I’ve been meaning to write about the various biblical telenovelas that have emerged from Brazil in the last decade. As their description implies, telenovelas are extremely long running TV series – somewhere between a US TV series and a soap opera – which may run for between 30 and 200 episodes. Whilst the first, 1951’s Sua vida me pretence ("Your Life Belongs to Me") originated in Brazil, they have been popular across South America since the 1960s and more recently have gained growing audiences in various other parts of the world, notably Asia and the Iberian peninsula. Indeed while Wikipedia’s claim that telenovelas are the "most popular non-English-speaking scripted forms of entertainment in the world" is both unsourced and unlikely (given books, music and video games all fall into that category), it nevertheless gives you a suggestion of the form’s popularity across the world despite most of the English speaking world being entirely unfamiliar with the term.

    The development of biblical telenovelas is interesting not least because it represents a seventh type of format for biblical screen drama1. The sheer running length means that the vast majority of the material is invented. Huge casts play fictional roles in made-up sub-plots supporting an overall narrative which combines the silver thread of a biblical episode with other archetypal plots such as the love-triangle, rags to riches etc.

    What's remarkable about all of these biblical telenovelas so far is that they have all been made by the same company - Rede Record. Prior to beginning these series, Record TV was a significant way behind Brazil's leading production company, Globo. Indeed, not only did Globo specialise in telenovelas, they also had so much market dominance that the only programmes in the annual top ten ratings were those made by Globo a dominance that dates back to the 1960s.2 Record had tried to compete with telenovelas set in contemporary times, it was only when they struck on the idea of producing biblical telenovelas that they started to get places in the top ten.

    So far Record have produced the following biblical series:
    -A História de Ester (Esther, 10* 2010)
    -Sansao e Dalila (Samson, 18, 2011)
    -Rei Davi (David, pictured, 30, 2012)
    -José do Egito (Joseph, 38, 2013)
    -Os Milagres de Jesus (Jesus' Miracles, 35, 2012-14)
    -Os Dez Mandamentos (Moses, 242, 2015-16)
    -A Terra Prometida (Promised Land, 179, 2016-17)
    -O Rico e Lázaro (Daniel†, 181, 2017)
    -Apocalipse (Revelation, 155, 2017-8)
    -Lia (Leah [and Jacob], 10, 2018)
    -Jesus (Jesus/Acts, 193, 2018-19)
    -Jezabel (80, 2019)
    *First number cited is the number of episodes for each story.
    †The title translates as "The Rich (man) and Lazarus" - the parable which Jesus tells, but the story is set in the time of Daniel in exile in Babylon with Nebuchadnezzar on the scene.
    That's a reasonably comprehensive list, though if you look at some of the popular stories that haven't been covered yet - Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Lot - are all in Genesis. I don't know if Rei Davi (2012), which I wrote about in 2014, goes so far as to include Solomon, but otherwise most of the stories that have been covered before to a significant level have now been done.
    Moreover, adding up all those episodes gives a total of 1171 episodes, and each episode has at least a running time of about 30 minutes. Wikipedia says Os Dez Mandamentos (The Ten Commandments, 2015-16) lasts for 60 minutes. Given it featured an incredible 242 episodes that means it ran for around 242 hours - more than an hour of material for every minute of Cecil B. DeMille's famous epic of the same name. Perhaps it's not surprising that of all the stories these telenovelas have told, it was this one that was edited into a feature film. Os Dez Mandamentos - O Filme (2016) cut all that material down to just 2 hours (according to IMDb) and then again to 78 minutes for the DVD. Whilst some good samples of these shows are available from the Record TV website, US Netflix or on YouTube etc. this film is the only complete material with English subtitles that can be bought in permanent form, at least that I have found. I'm expecting my copy any time now.

    What's also interesting is that Record TV is owned by the founder of Brazil's Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG) an evangelical group that is part of a growing conservative movement in Brazil - jumping to around 22% of the population in the 2010 census vs 70% Roman Catholic. Officially the country is secular. This is a very different background to the UK and it's hard to think of, say, The God Channel finding itself in such a position.

    This becomes more significant because telenovelas have a reputation for being used in the past to shape social attitudes. The most famous example of the former is the Mexican telenovela Acompañame (Accompany Me, 1977-78) which promoted family planning, saw a very significant rise in family planning-related activity in those years, and commissioning of further family-planning messaged productions.3 As a result another four series were made with similar aims.

    It's the kind of thing that liberal/atheists hate and conservative/evangelicals love. It's either a great step in evangelism and making inroads into the culture, or it's a worrying trend aligning with a move to the right in many countries at the moment. It's hard not to see the rise of such telenovelas as part of a wider cultural movement that saw a right-wing, Catholic-turned-evangelical win Brazil's 2018 presidential election.

    In any case I'm interested to find out more about the subject and hope to review Os Dez Mandamentos - O Filme once my copy arrives. There's an interesting chapter on these productions by Clarice Greco, Mariana Marques De Lima and Tissiana Nogueira Pereira in "The Bible Onscreen in the New Millennium" (ed. Wickham Clayton) for those seeking more information, and enough material to watch on Record TV's website to get a good feel for the phenomenon.4

    =======
    1 - In addition to feature films, short films, television series, mini-series, TV plays, live broadcast stage-productions. A further potential format is the soap-opera, but I know of no such venture based on the Bible.
    2 - Greco, Clarice, Mariana Marques De Lima and Tissiana Nogueira Pereira (2020) “The Phenomenon of Biblical Telenovelas in Latin America” in Clayton, Wickham (ed.) The Bible Onscreen in the New Millennium: New Heart and New Spirit. Manchester: Manchester University Press p.71.
    3 - Basten, Stuart (2009) "Mass media and reproductive behaviour: serial narratives, soap operas and telenovelas". The Future of Human Reproduction: Working Paper #7.St. John’s College, Oxford & Vienna Institute of Demography. p.4-6
    Retrieved from http://web.archive.org/web/20121119022224/ https://www.spi.ox.ac.uk/fileadmin/documents/PDF/Soaps_-_Number_7.pdf
    4 - My tip would be to search for the individual titles listed above on the Record website and then watch the various video clips. Google translate is useful for getting the gist for those who, like me, don't speak any Portuguese.

    Labels: ,

    11 Comments:

    • At 12:00 am, June 10, 2021, Anonymous Anonymous said…

      Hi!. Do you know where can I watch -Jesus (Jesus/Acts, 193, 2018-19) in english or english subtitles ????

       
    • At 5:18 pm, June 20, 2021, Blogger Unknown said…

      Where can these be watched? Are they available on dvd

       
    • At 8:17 am, September 03, 2021, Blogger Matt Page said…

      Sorry about the delay in replying - your messages got caught in my spam filter!

      I got hold of a copy of "Os Dez Mandamentos" from eBay, but many of the episodes are available from the Rede Record Tv website linked to in the post. I thin if you search certain titles on the website you'll find others. That sad I guess streaming might not be available in your country.
      Matt

       
    • At 5:43 pm, January 27, 2022, Blogger Pixie_dust said…

      Thanks for the article and resources as I really love these Biblical dramas from Brazil as they are much more accurate and true to the Bible and represent a more authentic and detailed depiction of the cultures, traditions, nuances, slangs of the various nations mentioned, than the Masonic Hollywood’s productions- remember their version of Noah with Russell Crowe? 🙄😡.

      I also find the Brazilian productions really interesting, dramatic and engaging especially when they quote Bible verses at the bottom of the screen in critical scenes of the plot.

      However, I just wish these dramas are widely available all over the world. In the UK watched them on an obscure Sky cable channel called MyTV which just vanished without any warning about 2 years ago and I was devastated and searched for other ways to buy them but to no avail. I just wanted to share them with family and friends and if I could find a streaming service that had all of them, that’s one subscription I wouldn’t mind paying for! I think many people wouldn’t mind.

      The image above scene is of King David and Bathsheba after they got married, not Esther. Also to say all the sub plots are invented isn’t quite true as a lot of the supporting storylines are based on historical facts.

       
    • At 9:43 am, January 29, 2022, Blogger Matt Page said…

      Hi Pixie Dust,
      Thanks for your comment and all the extra detail you've provided. I didn't know some of these had been playing in the UK. I'm disappointed I missed them now as I'd really like to see more of them. For a while you could watch them on the Rede Record website, but I don't recall there being subtitles so you had to guess.

      I've updated the note about the picture (thanks for that).

      Incidentally, I didn't say "all" the sub-plots are invented, but I also probably shouldn't have said "the vast majority" as I don't really have direct evidence for that. In terms of "historical facts" we're mainly relying on the Bible for that, as there's not much historical evidence for some of the older stories aside from that. I imagine some of the extra material is based on old traditions and other writings, so while "invented" isn't quite right on the one hand, "historical fact" isn't quite the right term either, in my opinion at least.

      Thanks again,

      Matt

       
    • At 8:20 pm, May 03, 2022, Anonymous Anonymous said…

      Hi Matt, my name is Leo I am writing you from Kissimmee, FL. I first saw Je'sus on the Spanish TV channel here and fell in awe with the depiction and production. I have since watched all of the Biblical series on YouTube but get spotty episodes. I am interested in purchasing all of the Bible DVD series for my wife and I but can't nit find the distributor. Matt can you direct me to the right site to purchase them please. Thank you Leo Madera.

       
    • At 5:43 pm, May 14, 2022, Blogger Matt Page said…

      Hi Leo,
      Thanks for your message.
      Do you mean the Brazilian series I discuss above? If so, I'm afraid I can't help you. The only one of these I've been able to get hold of is the film version of Os Dez Mandmentos (The Ten Commandments).
      If you find another source then please do pop back and let me know.
      Matt

       
    • At 3:22 pm, July 02, 2022, Anonymous Anonymous said…

      I totally agree and loved watching those tv dramas from Brazil I would really like to know how to watch them via YouTube etc . Great biblical stories is there any reason why people aren’t able to hear their message . Maybe Satin is still at work trying to stop people hearing the word and stories of God just a thought .

       
    • At 8:45 am, July 04, 2022, Blogger Matt Page said…

      My guess would be that the potential audience demand for them is perceived as low. Even a niche Christian production company would find subtitles unpopular and dubbing adds further expense while worsening the product. Also, due to the length DVD releases etc would be costly as there would be multiple discs.~
      Matt

       
    • At 11:09 pm, July 21, 2022, Anonymous Anonymous said…

      If you are in the US you can watch the Brazillian ten commandments is on Fios on channel 794 at 8 pm eastern nightly in English and Jesus at 10 pm. The dubbed it well. The ten commandments is also on on weekend for 2 hours... its an amazing series.

       
    • At 7:46 am, July 22, 2022, Blogger Matt Page said…

      Thanks, that's really helpful I've just tweeted it in case anyone else wants to know.
      Matt

       

    Post a Comment

    << Home