• 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


    Sunday, February 11, 2024

    Which Bible Films Celebrate a Significant Anniversary in 2024?

    This should really have been a start of the year post, but I'm thinking about possible screenings I could introduce or films reaching significant milestones this year that might be good to write about / talk about at festivals / discuss on podcasts etc. so I thought it would be good to create a (non-exhaustive) list of the main ones.

    100 years (1924) 

    Die Sklavenkönigin (The Moon of Israel, Michael Curtiz)
    Quo Vadis? (Gabriellino D'Annunzio & Georg Jacoby)

    75 years (1949)

    Samson and Delilah (Cecil B. DeMille)

    70 years (1954)

    Day of Triumph (John T. Coyle & Irving Pichel)
    Demetrius and the Gladiators (Delmer Daves)
    The Silver Chalice (Victor Saville)

    60 years (1964)

    Il vangelo secondo Matteo (The Gospel According to Matthew, Pier Paolo Pasolini)
    Saul e David (Marcello Baldi)

    50 years (1974)

    Moses the Lawgiver (Gianfranco De Bosio)
    The Story of Jacob and Joseph (Michael Cacoyannis)

    40 years (1984)

    Samson and Delilah (Lee Philips)
    Second Time Lucky (Michael Anderson)

    35 years (1989)

    Jésus de Montréal (Denys Arcand)
    Visons of Ecstasy (Nigel Wingrove)

    30 years (1994)

    Al-mohager (The Emigrant, Youssef Chahine)
    Genesis: Creation and Flood (Ermanno Olmi)
    Jacob (Peter Hall)

    25 years (1999)

    La Genèse (Genesis, Cheick Oumar Sissoko)
    (Roger Young)
    Mary, Mother of Jesus (Kevin Connor)
    Noah's Ark (John Irvin)

    20 years (2004)

    The Passion of the Christ (Mel Gibson)
    Shanti Sandesham (P Chandrasekhar Reddy)
    Judas (Charles Robert Carner)

    10 years (2014)
    Exodus: Gods and Kings (Ridley Scott)
    Noah (Daren Aronofsky) 
    The Red Tent (Roger Young) 
    Son of God (Christopher Spencer)
    The Savior (Robert Savo)

    I guess there are three that really stand out for me at least. Firstly, the 60th anniversary of Pasolini's Il Vangelo secondo Matteo (The Gospel According to Matthew, 1964). It's a film that has interested me for a long time and one I've written about both here and in print many times, particularly last year when I contributed a (extra-long) chapter on it for Ken Morefield's book "Film as an Expression of Spirituality: The Arts and Faith Top 100 Films".

    Then there's the 75 year mark for Cecil B. DeMille's Samson and Delilah (1949) a film which really kick-started the 1950s revival of classical era historical movies in general and of biblical films in particular.

    The other is the 20 year anniversary of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ (2004). The milestone is much smaller, but the film still looms relatively large in the collective mind and has been quite significant in its impact it's had on what has come to be called "faith-based" films. The experience of that film being released was formative for me -- I learnt so much from the debates and the scholarship that surrounded the movie.

    Anyway, if you're a cinema/church planning on screening any of these films; a festival organiser wanting someone to discuss them; an editor looking for an article on them; or a podcaster who'd like a knowledgeable guest to chat about them, then it would be great to hear from you.

    Lastly, there are obviously a bunch of films I've missed off (some due to debatable dates, but are there any major ones I've not included?). 

    Sunday, February 04, 2024

    Two new biblical shorts announced:
    Jael Drives the Nail and Our Child

    Jael and Sisera (Artemisia Gentileschi)

    Two weekends ago I had the privilege of being a judge for The Pitch film fund, which offers production finance, support and training to filmmakers, particularly those based on stories from Bible. At stake were two opportunities to get £30,000 funding each to make their short film – one for comedy and one for drama. 

    This year we were spoilt for choice and so it's really exciting to know these two films will soon be made, possibly even in the next year.

    Jael Drives the Nail

    The first is Maddie Dai's Jael Drives the Nail a comedy that takes place in Jael's tent in the moments leading up to Sisera's death (Judges 4:17-24). The story has been a long-term favourite of mine and I was so glad to be able to include the only other major treatment of – Henri Andréani's Jaël et Sisera (1911) – it in my book.

    Dai is a New Zealand-born, London-based cartoonist, screenwriter, illustrator and filmmaker, whose cartoons – many of which play with religious/classical ideas – appear in "The New Yorker". As a writer she contributed to the second series of Our Flag Means Death (2023) and wrote the very funny short film Ministry of Jingle (2023) [trailer] which was also her first film in the director's chair.

    Dai's degree was in religious art and hopes to make a feature on the Book of Judith, so expect that to influence proceedings, although The Pitch's announcement promises a "modern dark comedic twist" on the subject, which seems to me a perfect way to approach it. I cannot wait to see the final result.

    Our Child

    I'm also excited to see Anatole Sloan's Our Child, a modernised take on the story of Hagar, Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 16 & 21) relocated to modern day Hong Kong. My favourite take on this story is a comedic one (The Real Old Testament, 2003), so it will be good to see a more serious approach to it, brought into the modern day. Having contributed to an entry for the Encyclopedia of the Bible and its Reception on this subject and written a blog post detailing some of the other takes on it and Sloan's approach seems like an excellent way to approach the story.

    Sloan is of mixed British-Chinese descent and he has explained how his take on the story, which will revolve around a young surrogate mother, will reflect "issues that I saw growing up in East Asia". Sloan has also professed his desire "to draw on the cinematic language of that region".

    Sloan's previous work has been on documentaries, including The Speeches which enabled him to work with an array of household names including Idris Elba, Glenn Close, Woody Harrelson, Olivia Coleman and King Charles III.
    There's a further snippet about these films at the end of this article in Variety.

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