Son of Man

Chrissy and I had a conversation with some friends last night about how we weren’t all jazzed up about seeing End of the Spear, the upcoming feature film about missionary Jim Elliot and the cannibalistic tribes that murdered him. We were intrigued, however, by a film that is debuting Sunday at the Sundance Film Festival called Son of Man.

It’s a modern-day story about Jesus. A Jesus that is black. A Jesus born in an occupied African nation and into turmoil. A Jesus who preached peace. Here’s the beginning of a story ran on the independent film:

Black Jesus film aims to start talk
‘Son of Man’ premieres Sunday at Sundance

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (Reuters) — Billed as the world’s first black Jesus movie, “Son of Man” portrays Christ as a modern African revolutionary and aims to shatter the Western image of a placid savior with fair hair and blue eyes.

The South African film, which premieres on Sunday at the Sundance festival in Utah, transports the life and death of Christ from first century Palestine to a contemporary African state racked by war and poverty.

Jesus is born in a shanty-town shed, a far cry from a manger in a Bethlehem stable. His mother Mary is a virgin, though feisty enough to argue with the angels. Gun-wielding authorities fear his message of equality and he ends up hanging on a cross.

“We wanted to look at the gospels as if they were written by spin doctors and to strip that away and look at the truth,” director Mark Dornford-May told Reuters in an interview.

“The truth is that Christ was born in an occupied state and preached equality at a time when that wasn’t very acceptable.”

By portraying Jesus as a black African, Dornford-May hopes to sharpen the political context of the gospels, when Israel was under Roman occupation, and challenge Western perceptions of Christ as meek, mild and European.

“We have to accept that Christ has been hijacked a bit — he’s gone very blond-haired and blue-eyed,” he said. “The important thing about the message of Christ was that it is universal. It doesn’t matter what he looked like.” (read the entire story here.

I’m excited about this film. I’m excited about a portrayal of a non-white Jesus. I’m excited about a Jesus who, like the real Jesus, is portrayed as subversive and controversial. I’m excited about a story portraying the life of Christ — a radical life — instead of just his death (no disrespect to The Passion of the Christ, but I wonder if we think the meaning of Jesus’ crucifixion is so self-evident that anyone who sees it will be convicted and become a Christian…).

What are your thoughts about this film?


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