Producers play the Jesus card

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Is the glass half-empty or half-full? This year, more than the usual number of producers are launching religious TV-film ventures, in the “holy hope” that there’s a big enough audience out there for spiritual dramas. In the past, they would have been dismissed as “poison” at the box office, but the situation has markedly improved.


Even as some observers bemoan a global loss of faith and increased reliance on science, others point out that the opposite is true in other areas, with more believers being “born-again.” They realize that the world’s problems have become so overwhelming that divine help and illumination are sorely needed to see us through!

Having written and directed many religious plays and musicals that have been performed to full houses all over the country, we can vouch for this heightened religious ferment and fervor. So, we agree with producers like Mark and Roma Burnett, who have come up with the hit miniseries, “The Bible” and the feature film, “Son of God,” that more viewers are eager to watch meaningful and enlightening religious productions, especially in these “bleak and hopeless” times.

In addition to their best-known productions, the Burnetts have produced “The Women of the Bible” for the Lifetime channel and “The Dovekeepers” for CBS, as well as “A.D. The Bible Continues.”

Their latest series, “Answered Prayers,” was telecast on TLC in July. Up next for 2016 is their new production for the big screen of the epic religious motion picture, “Ben-Hur.”


The Burnetts are currently dominating the “spiritual production” scene, but they aren’t by any means alone in their enlightened and enlightening campaign. Some years ago, before he fell from cinematic grace, Mel Gibson scored big with the “sleeper” hit, “The Passion of the Christ,” which grossed over $600 million worldwide and motivated other producers and financiers to also mine the religious TV and film trend for all the “holy gold” it’s worth.

Most recently, there’s been two films on Pope Francis, as well as plays and musicals on the beloved Pontiff, both local and foreign. Our contribution in this regard is “With Love, Pope Francis,” starring Dio Marco, with performances in Metro Manila and Tacloban.

There have been many plays and films about Jesus Christ through the decades, including a cinematic record of a performance of the historic Passion Play at Oberammergau in 1898.

In all those productions, a sticking point has been how the Son of God Made Man “should” look. For every age, it appears, there’s a right look. Compare, for instance, the coldly ascetic countenance of Max von Sydow in “The Greatest Story Ever Told” to the youthful projection of Jeffrey Hunter in “King of Kings.”

Most popular of all has been Robert Powell’s “passionately elevated” portrayal in Franco Zeffirelli’s “Jesus of Nazareth.” On the other hand, “Son of God’s” Jesus, portrayed by a  Portuguese model, Diogo Morgado, makes some viewers fret, because his dashing good looks could be a distraction from the more relevant significance of Jesus’ story.

Yes, Jesus should be appealing and “accessible,” but he should come across as real, not idealized and pluperfectly photogenic - a stunning photographic and ramp fashion model he was not! Inquirer.net

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