"The Jesus Film" Celebrates 25 Years, Billions of Viewers
- Randall Murphree AgapePress
- 2004 6 May
Christian films have become a hot property in the wake of Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ." The February release by Gibson has created arguably the biggest splash ever in the industry – not just in the Christian film genre, but in Hollywood as a whole.
At the same time, others would point out with some irony that the most watched film in history is another Christian film. "The Jesus Film" has been quietly circling the globe again and again for 25 years. To mark the milestone, Madacy Entertainment is re-releasing the film in a special collector's edition. The commemorative DVD set will be in stores in early June.
The movie's cumulative viewing and listening audience (multiple viewings plus Internet viewings) tops 6.2 billion. Almost 200 million people have indicated they came to faith in Christ after viewing the film. It has been seen in 238 countries in 848 languages, making it the world's most translated film.
It has been aired on television in 176 countries, and more than 1,500 denominations and mission agencies use it to share the gospel. Warner Brothers produced the 1979 movie after more than five years of research. The script sticks closely to the Gospel of Luke in the words spoken by actor Brian Deacon, who portrays Jesus.
"'The Jesus Film' has been shown in Russia's former communist town halls, in bamboo huts in Borneo and even on bed sheets in isolated villages in Saharan Africa," said Paul Eshleman, president of The JESUS Film Project. "For some viewers, this is their first look at a movie image, and for most, their first look at the most famous man in history – Jesus Christ."
The JESUS Film Project was created to provide the movie to people around the world in their own languages. The project is closely associated with Campus Crusade for Christ. Unconventional distribution practices have included the use of ministry personnel and volunteers who gladly carried – sometimes on foot – generators, makeshift screens, and portable projectors into some of the world's most remote and dangerous spots.
"Even though the project's efforts are truly remarkable, there still was a distribution component missing to make the film easily available to individuals and families, people who might wish to own their own copy," said Bob Gurich, vice president and general manager of Madacy.
Madacy's two-disc limited collector's edition of "Jesus" contains behind-the-scenes footage and celebrity tributes, including tributes to Jesus from President George W. Bush, Billy Graham, Mother Teresa and others. Special features include more than an hour of viewing to complement the original two-hour film.
"The Story of Jesus for Children" is the second disc in the set. This 67-minute feature film brings to life the times in which Jesus lived on earth. Benjamin, Caleb, Sarah and Leah are fictional children living in Jerusalem about 30 A.D. Their perspective helps today's children grasp the impact Jesus has always had on the lives of others.
Another feature of the DVD is direct scene access to 63 events from the film, including links to historical evidence on the Internet. An interactive study resource (www.historicJesus.com) will include historical and cultural background on every event, maps of the Holy Land (where the story was filmed), and biographies of key characters.
"We at Madacy are very pleased to make this extraordinary film available to the broadest home audience yet," said Gurich. Madacy Entertainment Group, ranked the number one independently distributed label in North America, is headquartered in Montreal, Canada.
© 2004 AgapePress. All rights reserved. Used with permission.