“The Resurrection of The Christ”

(Remnant News Watch February 28, 2010)

Mark Alessio

(Posted 2/16/10 www.RemnantNewspaper.com)
Hoping to replicate some of the box office success of ‘The Passion of the Christ,’ indie producer Bill McKay is mounting ‘The Resurrection of the Christ,’ with a 10-week shoot starting in July, reports Dave McNary in Variety (Jan. 18, 2010):

McKay, through his American Trademark shingle, has set an Easter 2011 release, with Samuel Goldwyn Films handling domestic for the $20 million production. Day-and-date international launches will come through an array of distributors. Scribe Dan Gordan ("The Hurricane," "Murder in the First") is penning the screenplay with a focus on the power, greed and ambition of those involved in the crucifixion – Pontius Pilate, Herod, Caiaphas and Judas. "It's as much about the key players as it is about Jesus," McKay said. "We want to bring in the 'Gladiator' dimension of the first century against the political milieu of the time." Jonas McCord, who helmed Antonio Banderas starrer "The Body," has been tapped to direct. McKay has stated that “The Resurrection of the Christ,” which will be filmed in Israel, Morocco and Europe, will remain faithful to Biblical and historical records. "We think it's a very commercial film that's targeted at an underserved demographic with a lot of crossover potential," he said.

Comment: What can we expect from the people involved in “The Resurrection of The Christ?” It would be unfair to criticize them over a film that hasn’t even been made yet (as did the ADL and others over Gibson’s Passion), but there are some things about this collection of individuals that can give us pause.

Producer Bill McKay’s big claim to fame to date is the 2008 film, “Billy: The Early Years,” a biography of Billy Graham, which McKay co-wrote and co-produced. In an October 10, 2008 review of this film for Christianity Today, Peter T. Chattaway noted that the screenplay “is full of extremely obvious and heavy-handed moments,” and says of the final scene of the film, where Graham calls upon an audience to come forward, It might be going too far to say that Graham eclipses Christ in this scene, but at the very least, the main emphasis does seem to be on Graham's newfound status as the evangelistic equivalent of a rock star.”

Screenplay writer Dan Gordon’s credits include the films “The Hurricane” (1999) and “The Celestine Prophecy” (2006). “The Hurricane” offered a sympathetic portrait of former boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, who served 20 years in prison after being twice convicted of a triple homicide in Patterson, New Jersey. “The Celestine Prophecy,” based on the popular novel of the same name, is a New Age tale replete with the requisite Church-bashing (attention Dan Brown fans). Gordon, a dual Israeli-American citizen who has served as a captain in the reserves in the Israeli Defense Forces, is also the author of many articles on the conflicts and politics of the Middle East.

Director Jonas McCord’s film credits include the 2001 film, “The Body” (which he wrote and directed), starring Antonio Banderas as a priest investigating the possible discovery of the body of Jesus Christ. In an April 7, 2005 review of the film posted at the blog, Nehring the Edge, Scott Nehring wrote:

Screenwriter/Director Jonas McCord apparently had the wisdom to see that his subject matter is sensitive. I credit him with doing something that is very rare in modern filmmaking, he handled Western religion with respect (except Catholics) …. I was very impressed with the interplay of the three modern religions and their warring interests over the possibility of Jesus’ corpse being found in the heart of Jerusalem. Not everyone will find this film to be sympathetic and fair. The film stops just long enough to give the Catholic Church a solid kick in the [expletive]. In a predictable move, this film makes The Vatican a factory of behind-the-scenes conspiracies and lies.

The story of Jesus Christ is more than just the story of the “founder” of a popular religion. It is a tale where the Human and Divine, where God and Man, meet in a unique way. It is this aspect of the film that has baffled so many filmmakers, and has resulted in so many cinematic failures. “King of Kings” and “The Greatest story Ever Told” are mere Hollywood spectacles, sometimes gaudy, sometimes shallow, often times ridiculous. No one will come away from such productions with any insight into Jesus Christ. On the other hand are those filmmakers who would project their own fantasies onto Jesus. The working-class Christ of the vastly overrated “The Gospel According to St. Matthew,” directed by the homosexual Marxist, Pier Paulo Pasolini, could just as well be replaced by Che Guevara.

If one ignores the Divine aspect of Christ, he is left with a rather uninspired story of a confused megalomaniac butting heads with the authority figures of his day – an ancient “John Lennon” figure with a knack for uttering quotable sound bytes. The reason a film like “The Last Temptation of Christ” failed so miserably as drama (let alone history) was that in attempting to force a square peg into round hole, both peg and hole were destroyed beyond recognition.

No, the life and mission of Christ defies interpretation by anyone not in tune with the sound theology to which it gave rise. To put it bluntly, it requires a committed Catholic filmmaker to make such a film work. Recall the 1977 TV miniseries, “Jesus of Nazareth,” which was directed by Franco Zeffirelli. During an October 25, 2007 lecture at the Pontifical Lateran University of Rome, Zeffirelli related that Pope Paul VI "with his discreet network of influence, brought 'Jesus of Nazareth' forward through some difficulties.” Without a doubt, “Jesus of Nazareth” (which had the luxury of taking some six hours in which to tell its story) towered above all previous attempts to film the life of Jesus. But, even in such a fine production, there were problems. The representation of the Virgin Mary in the miniseries was very ill-conceived, most notably in the jarring Nativity scene, which shows Mary wracked with pain in the throes of childbirth, something which runs counter to Catholic teaching. Zeffirelli used a number of theological consultants for his production. It appears that some were either Protestants, or were influenced by Protestant errors.

What made “The Passion of The Christ” stand out from all the rest? The script, co-written by Mel Gibson and Benedict Fitzgerald, was anchored in sound theology, whether it treated of Our Lady, the Sacraments, etc. There were appropriate visual cues presented throughout the production – i.e., Our Lady giving her “amen” to her Son’s Passion and rising to her feet as the “Mater Dolorosa” on Calvary; the identification of the Bread used at the Last Supper with the physical Body of Jesus, etc. – that would and could NOT have been included by Protestant filmmakers.

In the end, a film based on the Gospels will only be as good as the understanding of those same Gospels on the part of the filmmakers. “The Resurrection of The Christ,” says producer Bill McKay, will be “as much about the key players as it is about Jesus …. we want to bring in the 'Gladiator' dimension of the first century against the political milieu of the time." There is nothing wrong with using the life and times of Jesus as a backdrop for fiction (and the operative word here is fiction). Both the classic “Ben-Hur” and the recent “The Final Inquiry” did so in an entertaining and respectful manner. However, “The Resurrection of The Christ” purports to tell the story of the Crucifixion, the pivot-point of all History for Catholics. As such, it will be – and deserves to be – the object of close scrutiny and, if necessary, honest criticism, on the part of the Catholic viewing public.


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