• 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


    Saturday, June 06, 2020

    Nollywood Jesus: Our Jesus Story (2020)

    The Nigerian film industry, often dubbed Nollywood, is one of the largest in the world. Reliable statistics are not that easy to come by, but UNESCO claim that in 2009 it produced more films than any other nation on Earth except India and it's been claimed that, in 2013 at least, the Nigerian industry is/was third in terms of revenue behind India and the US, largely off the back of strong home video sales. So given that around 45% of the country's 191 million people are Christian, I've long wanted to do a little digging to find out about any biblically themed Nigerian films.

    As, it turns out I didn't need to search very long or very hard. There are a number of titles, which I'll investigate more closely in future posts, but among them is a film which premiered in March this year. Our Jesus Story has been produced by Ojiofor Ezeanyanche's O.J. Production and was directed by Tchidi Chikere. Chikere has over 100 films to his credit (though IMDb does not yet list a lot of them, including Our Jesus Story).

    There's a trailer up on YouTube, from which it looks like the film mixes ancient and modern imagery - the trailer's opening scenes feature men dropping from trees and firing rifles, but in other places the costumes more closely resemble first century Judea. Precious 'Mamazeus' Nwogu reads the trailer as establishing "a plot twist of ritual killings and a story of a Christian missionary trying to fight the system". 

    Four, things stand out to me from the trailer. Firstly, that aspects of Nigerian culture will be in the foreground, which will make for fascinating, and hopefully challenging, viewing. That ties in a little to the second point, namely that the supernatural looks to be a prominent element of the film. We're shown Lazarus raising and at least two instances of lightning/electricity type effects. Thirdly, given the masses of footage circulating on social media in the last week of authority figures violently assailing, unarmed black men, the footage of Jesus screaming in agony as he is beaten and crucified feels particularly visceral.

    Finally, the start of the trailer features a number of Jesus' quotes about relational division. Jesus tells the women of Jerusalem to "weep for your daughters" and this is followed up by the quote "I've not come to bring peace but the sword". This is followed by a moment from one of the subplots where a man acknowledges his father, and the father replies "So you have come back here to challenge me".

    There's also a news report from the Première on March 26th including an interview with Frederick Leonard who plays Jesus. Perhaps the most interesting part of it is when he recalls being asked what he found most challenging about the role and he replies that it was "the fact that he's very soft-spoken, very meek, yet very authoritative, very strong, very stern, and very direct. So how do you portray all of those emotions without coming off as brash? It took a lot of work." From the snippets of Leonard's work in the trailer it looks like a really good portrayal.

    I'm hoping to be able to review this film, but as Nigeria went into lockdown just a few days after the première I imagine the film has not yet even had a proper release.

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