Tuesday, August 25, 2009

El Discípulo/The Disciple

Heads up to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops Office for Film and Broadcasting: Sharpen your pens because a new film is going into production that takes the life of Christ almost exclusively from a historical perspective. Spanish film director, Emilio Ruiz Barrachina, introduced his new feature film project The Disciple at the 12th Malaga Film Festival back in April, saying that the film will portray Jesus Christ from a historical point of view, leaving His religious dimension aside. Barrachina, founder of Ircania Productions, is best known as the director of the 2006 documentary Lorca, el mar deja de moverse about the death of Spanish poet Federico García Lorca.

According to The Disciple's official Web site, the plot of the film is as follows:

In his childhood Jesus witnesses the death of his father Joseph in a confrontation with Roman military troups. Years later, he becomes the favorite disciple of John the Baptist, leader of a group of Macabees who announce the imminent coming of the Kingdom of Heaven, in which the Roman invaders would be expelled.

When John the Baptist is beheaded, Jesus becomes the leader of the group and organizes the assault on the temple in Jerusalem. Thus, the same facts that are already known from the Gospels take on a different character. This project is based on the latest research, which sets the film in a plausible historical context.

More information about this historical research is available on the Web site in English and in Spanish. One of the film's main consultants is Dr. Antonio Piñero, Professor of New Testament Philology at the Complutense University of Madrid, who has written about this film project in his blog. According to Piñero, Barrachina's Jesus "was not just a deeply religious, pacifist Jew who loved sinners, preached kindness and a future Kingdom of God -- the foundation of the Christian faith -- but also and above all a spiritual leader of a group of 1st century Jews, who were initially followers of John the Baptist and then His disciples, committed heart and soul to the religious liberation of the Jewish people. The political liberation of the land of Israel from the yoke of the Romans was an important part of this group's religious ideology, since religion and politics were linked at that time."

The film will be shot in English on locations in Madrid and Andalucia with a flamenco music soundtrack composed by Daniel Casares (including a flamenco version of the Schubert "Ave Maria"!) and has a tentative release date of Spring 2010. It stars Joel West (Officer Aaron Jessop on CSI Miami) as Jesus, Marisa Berenson (actress and former Vogue model who received two Golden Globe nominations for her portrayal of the Jewish department store heiress Natalia Landauer in the 1972 film Cabaret) as Mary, and Ruth Gabriel (who received a Goya award as Best New Actress for her character Charo, a drug-addicted prostitute in Días Contados) as Mary Magdalene -- all the more interesting since Barrachina has been quoted as saying that he doesn't think Mary Magdalene really existed. As for the Mother of God, Berenson says she will be portrayed as a religious woman who has disagreements with her Son because she knows His actions will lead to His death.

In addition to the feature film, Barrachina plans to produce a shorter documentary titled "Jesus 2.0" which will "show that there was not one, but multiple forms of Christianity, some of which denied that Jesus was God and denied the Incarnation and the Resurrection. Others that rejected Paul of Tarsus and his doctrine, calling him a false prophet and a traitor to Jesus. Forms of Christianity (i.e. the Gnostics, though the film Web site doesn't specifically say this) that thought they were the only ones who really understood Jesus' revelation and would be saved. Forms of Christianity that promoted the independence of women in the church."

"Jesus 2.0" will interview theologians and people of different faiths as well as atheists to "understand the real historical, anthropological, and theological dimensions of Jesus." It will be "the most exhaustive audiovisual study of Jesus to date." Oy ve! We can't wait...

Photo: Emilio Ruiz Barrachina and Marisa Berenson


  1. They say that will present Jesus from an historical angle, but I don’t know from were they got the idea of Joseph dying on the hands of the Romans, although would not be surprising, I never known of such an affirmation from any source I read.
    And does not believe in Mary Magdalene? There you have the vanishing of one of the most important personalities in the life of Jesus and the Gospels, but she’ll be reluctantly included in the movie.
    That Jesus was a follower of John the Baptist, that may be possible, because may explain why he came to him to be baptized at the Jordan river, but according to the Gospel John’s preaching was not political but spiritual, although is true that in the context of a roman occupied Judea, is difficult to separate political and spiritual talk from each other.
    Romans usually permitted freedom of religion to their conquered subjects, as long as taxes were paid and there weren’t any funny ideas about rebellion and disrupting public order.
    Those missing years of the life of Jesus in the Gospels, from age 12 to age 30 make very difficult to understand things more clearly.
    The addition of flamenco music to this movie, I am sure that will make for a very “folkloric” spectacle.
    I think that for what I read, Jesus 2.0 looks more promising from an historical point of view.
    By the way, incredible bio that of Marisa Berenson, I’ve seen her in movies but I’ve never read his life story until now.

  2. I'm trying to keep an open mind about this movie because I'm definitely in the camp of those who like to look at the totality of Biblical scholarship and not just at what the Church has deemed canonical or suitable for Catholics to read.

    As I looked over Dr. Antonio Piñero's published works, it seems to me that much of this project is going to rise and fall on the credibility of his writings within the scholarly community -- something I have not had the time to really investigate but perhaps some of this blog's other readers may have some knowledge.

    Because it is ostensibly based on considerable historical research and hopefully not just another fictional rehash of "Gnostic Gospels" (Elaine Pagels' book), it is more interesting -- and perhaps more dangerous -- than "The Da Vinci Code". But I'm definitely approaching it with a strong dose of skepticism and a "show me" attitude.