Rolfe, chairman, The Dove Foundation
most prolific seasons for retailing are Christmas and
Easter. These two religious holidays have been co-opted
by Capitalism into national “shopping” seasons, and are
no longer as closely connected to the object of these
events--the life and times of Jesus of Nazareth--as they
is true for the movies. During 2005, box office revenues
during Christmas and Easter accounted for much of the
total annual income from the theaters. And yet, none of
the movies released during those periods had anything to
do with their respective religious themes.
early days of film, great movies were made that
reflected religious and secular Easter traditions.
famous secular movie of the season is Irving Berlin’s
musical spectacular “Easter Parade,” starring Judy
Garland and Fred Astaire which was a box office smash in
decades, scores of movies, videos and TV programs have
celebrated the Easter Bunny, the Easter Egg, the Easter
Pigeon, and Yogi, the Easter Bear. Even Charlie Brown
paid homage to—who else?—the Easter Beagle!
Hollywood has produced many biblical-themed movies, only
a handful faithfully convey the story of the first
Easter. Movies about Moses have always been popular
around Easter time, even though it’s an Old Testament
story. “The Ten Commandments” have been done in several
different styles, including many animated kids’
versions. Consummate epic filmmaker, Cecil B. DeMille,
produced both the 1926 and 1956 live action versions.
made the 1956 Charlton Heston version of “The Ten
Commandments” a perennial Easter holiday favorite. This
year, the alphabet network will air a re-tooled version
of the popular Exodus story as a miniseries on Monday
and Tuesday nights, April 10 and 11.
and 1997, ABC ran a fresh, new version of the Easter
story, called “Jesus, The Miracle Maker,” a beautifully
made, Claymation story produced by Mel Gibson’s Icon
Entertainment. This family-friendly story of Jesus
unfolds through the eyes of a young girl who later
becomes the subject of one of His most profound
movies, though not directly depicting the story of
Jesus, base their storylines on some part of his life.
“The Robe,” starring Richard Burton tells the story of
the Roman centurion who won Jesus’ robe during the
casting of lots. “Ben Hur” and “Quo Vadis” are two
fiction stories also about Roman soldiers who were
impacted by followers of Jesus.
been a few notable times throughout moviemaking history
where film-makers depicted the story of Jesus with
varying degrees of accuracy and respect.
memorable to me is the 1961 release, “King of Kings”
starring Jeffery Hunter. I was fortunate to see the New
York City premiere at Radio City Music Hall.
Greatest Story Ever Told,” starring Max von Sydow and
Charlton Heston as John the Baptist is another timeless
story of Jesus, as is “The Jesus Film” purchased by a
Christian philanthropist, that has been given away as a
worldwide evangelism tool. So far, an estimated 5.4
billion people have seen the video since its release in
attempts to portray the Easter story in the past pale in
comparison to the impact of the 2005 Mel Gibson release,
“The Passion of The Christ,” which is now the 10th
highest grossing movie in the US of all time.
a movie comes along which attempts to defame or mock the
character of a popular historic figure. Examples of this
approach are musicals, “Jesus Christ, Superstar” and “Godspel,”
and the parody produced by an irreverent British comedy
troupe, “Monty Python’s Life of Brian.”
Temptation of Christ,” one of the more offensive movies
produced by Martin Scorsese, tried to advance the theory
that Jesus succumbed to human temptations and had sexual
relations with Mary Magdalene. The same theory is the
basis for the upcoming mythological film, “The da Vinci
great entertainment and with a few rare exceptions,
should be taken as such. The definition of entertainment
is “to amuse.” We should not count on movies to
accurately depict historical fact or figures. You’ve no
doubt played the popular parlor game “telephone,” where
facts deteriorate into rumor by the time they get around
tellers have too strong a bias to tell their stories
with historical accuracy. There’s a temptation to
improve the story because of limited entertainment
value. Most filmmakers resort to “poetic license” to
help move the story along so that it fits within the
usual 110 minute time limit.
want to get to the heart of the real story of Easter, I
recommend reading the Book.
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