Will the new Ben-Hur flesh out the back-story of the thieves who were crucified with Jesus?

moisesariasMost of the casting announcements for the upcoming remake of Ben-Hur have dealt so far with some fairly familiar characters: Judah Ben-Hur, his sister, his mother, his nemesis Messala and a few others like Jesus and Pontius Pilate. Nothing so far has indicated how this new film might be different from previous adaptations. Nothing, that is, until now.

Deadline reports that the filmmakers have cast 20-year-old Kings of Summer co-star Moisés Arias as Gestas, “a teenage Jewish zealot” who is “desperate to fight for his people’s freedom” because his family “has been murdered by the Romans”.

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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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National Geographic unveils the cast for Killing Jesus

killingjesusThe National Geographic Channel’s adaptation of Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Jesus is now filming in Morocco, and thanks to The Hollywood Reporter, we now know who many of the actors are — and they’re an eclectic bunch, to be sure.

In keeping with other recent efforts to depict Jesus as something other than a blonde-haired, blue-eyed European, the part of Jesus will be played by Haaz Sleiman, an actor born in Lebanon who is perhaps best-known for playing a Syrian immigrant in Tom McCarthy’s The Visitor.

Herod the Great, on the other hand, will be played by Kelsey Grammer, who doesn’t seem like a particularly Middle Eastern kind of guy to me. (The fact that he’s best known for his comedic roles on Frasier and The Simpsons doesn’t help!)

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The Prodigal Son: three filmed interpretations (and more)

Today was the Sunday of the Prodigal Son in Eastern Orthodox churches, and once again, I found myself thinking about how our gospel reading for the day had been handled in different films.

The parable of the prodigal son appears just once in the Bible, in Luke 15, so of course it is featured in the word-for-word adaptation of that gospel produced by the Genesis Project in the 1970s. And just as the Genesis Project dramatizes some of the other parables while Jesus recites them, so too it dramatizes this one. You can watch the relevant sequence by clicking here.

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New movie about the young Jesus in the works at Lifetime

Aside from the fact that he went to Jerusalem with his parents when he was 12, the gospels say almost nothing about Jesus’ life between his birth and his baptism at the age of 30 — but that hasn’t stopped filmmakers (and novelists, etc.) from trying to fill in the gaps.

The latest attempt comes courtesy of the Lifetime channel, which, according to Deadline, is developing a TV-movie called The One, described as “a coming-of-age story exploring Jesus’ early life and formative years as he comes to learn he is the Son of God and is destined for greatness.”

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How well have movies depicted Jesus the exorcist?

The History Channel had a huge hit this year with The Bible, but the makers of that mini-series are taking the sequel to another network, so it’s not too surprising that the History Channel turned to someone else to make a follow-up of their own. What is surprising is that their next Jesus-themed series will be made by a bunch of horror-movie veterans, including Eli Roth, director of Hostel (2005-2007), Eric Newman, producer of the Dawn of the Dead remake (2004) and the prequel to The Thing (2011), and Scott Kosar, a writer whose credits include the remakes of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) and The Amityville Horror (2005). Roth and Newman also co-produced The Last Exorcism (2010-2013).

Deadline says the series is currently called The Lost Years and will look at what Jesus was up to between the ages of 13 and 30. The series will also reportedly fit into the horror genre as it explores “a theory about Jesus’ origins as an exorcist.”

Given the pedigree of everyone involved, this could easily be very schlocky (“Jesus The Teenage Demon Slayer,” as Matthew Archbold puts it). And yet I can’t help thinking that performing exorcisms was a major part of Jesus’ ministry, and it’s possible the Jesus-movie genre hasn’t paid as much attention to that side of him as it could.

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