Joanna gets a speaking role in Killing Jesus and A.D.

joanna

Quick question: Who discovered the empty tomb, two days after the crucifixion?

Most people, I suspect, would say it was found by Mary Magdalene, and possibly by other women as well. But if they were asked to name those women, they might draw a blank (or they might say, incorrectly, that Jesus’ mother was one of them).

Most Jesus films haven’t been very helpful here, as they tend to focus on Mary Magdalene to the exclusion of his other female followers. Multiple male disciples? No problem. But the women tend to get a single token representative.

That’s why I’m happy to say that there are two films premiering in the next few weeks that will pay more attention to one of those other women, namely Joanna.

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Watch: Simeon and Anna in movies about the infant Jesus

jesusofnazareth-simeon

Today, for many Christians, is the Feast of the Meeting (or Presentation) of Our Lord in the Temple. It commemorates the time when Joseph and Mary took Jesus to the Temple forty days after he was born, and there met Simeon and Anna, two old people who recognized the Christ child and made great predictions about his future.

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The Magnificat, and the politics thereof, in film

vlcsnap-2014-12-25-18h31m18s119Christ is born! Glorify him!

Fred Clark posted a really interesting item this morning, noting that “the true meaning of Christmas” can be found in a poem spoken by Mary not long after she learned that she was pregnant with the Son of God — and he notes that the poem in question has a significant political edge, in which the powerful are brought down from their thrones while the humble are lifted up, and the rich are sent away hungry while the poor are filled.

This got me curious as to how many films have actually reflected the edgier aspects of this poem, which is known as the Magnificat. And the answer is: not many. In fact, there are very few films that incorporate the Magnificat at all, and those that do usually cut out the more politically-charged stuff. Usually, but not always.

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An African Jesus / Reimagined as a political activist.

sonofmananafricanjesusThe story of Jesus has become so familiar to us that we sometimes fail to grasp just how shocking, disturbing, or ultimately motivating it really is. Even films designed to take us back to first-century Judea can tend to come across as soothing or reassuring, which hardly matches how the apostles would have experienced those events. Sometimes it takes a radical reimagining to get us to really think about the implications of that story, and how it might be applied to our present-day reality. And one of the most interesting such reimaginings — certainly in recent years — is Son of Man, a South African production that depicts Jesus as a political activist working in a war-torn modern African country.

Like most independent foreign films, Son of Man has kept a relatively low profile — it didn’t even come out on DVD on this continent until four years after it premiered at the Sundance festival in 2006 — but it can now be streamed on Netflix in the U.S., and it has attracted a fair bit of attention in some circles. The conversation surrounding the film is now further illuminated by Son of Man: An African Jesus Film, a collection of 16 essays that look at the film within the contexts of African culture and the Jesus-film tradition as a whole.

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The Ascension of Christ in film: literalism, symbolism, etc.

Today is the Feast of the Ascension, when Christians remember how Jesus was taken up into heaven 40 days after his Resurrection. It’s one of the stranger bits in the Gospels — both difficult to understand, given our modern cosmology, and difficult to pull off visually — and most of what we know about it actually comes from the Book of Acts. So it’s not too surprising that most films about Jesus have tended to skip this episode.

Nevertheless, a few films have depicted the Ascension, often by mixing it with elements from other stories in the gospels, and even those that don’t depict it have often made a point of ending on a note that suggests Jesus has transcended this life in some way that parallels the Ascension. Here are a few examples.

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Creation, evolution, the Fall and more in a new Noah clip

Six weeks after Noah came out in theatres, the filmmakers have released another clip — and it’s one of the best sequences in the entire film. The Creation sequence begins with a single shot that captures billions of years of evolution, from the Big Bang to the mammals that existed just before humanity came along, and it goes on to show the Fall, Cain killing Abel, and the violence that has continued throughout human history right up to the present day. You can watch the video — and read a few thoughts I have about the significance of this clip — below the jump.

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