Jesus (1979)

G | 114 mins | Documentary | 2 November 1979

Directors:

Peter Sykes, John Krish

Writer:

Barnet Fishbein

Producer:

John Heyman

Cinematographers:

Michael Reed, Yehiel Ne'Eman

Editor:

David DeWilde

Production Designer:

Roy Stannard

Production Company:

Genesis Project
Full page view
HISTORY

The docudrama, Jesus, was released without production or cast credits. Producer John Heyman stated in a 25 Oct 1979 LAT article that the filmmakers were “simply being translators” of the New Testament’s Gospel of Luke, “so nobody will know who produced or directed the film.” For the purposes of this record, off-screen credits were based on research material in AMPAS library files.
       The film opens with the following Bible verse onscreen, which is read by a narrator: “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world but that the world through Him might be saved. John 3:16-17.” Onscreen, the title reads as “The public life of … Jesus, a documentary taken entirely from The Gospel of Luke Chapters 3-24.”
       At the conclusion of the film, a prayer appears onscreen and is recited by the narrator: “Lord Jesus, I need you. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life and receive you as my Savior and Lord. Take control of my life. Make me the kind of person you want me to be. Amen.”
       A voice-over narration is heard intermittently throughout the film, providing background information on characters and events.
       As explained in a 25 Jul 1979 Var article, Jesus was planned as the first theatrical release in a media venture called “The Genesis Project,” whose mission was to document the Old and New Testaments of ... More Less

The docudrama, Jesus, was released without production or cast credits. Producer John Heyman stated in a 25 Oct 1979 LAT article that the filmmakers were “simply being translators” of the New Testament’s Gospel of Luke, “so nobody will know who produced or directed the film.” For the purposes of this record, off-screen credits were based on research material in AMPAS library files.
       The film opens with the following Bible verse onscreen, which is read by a narrator: “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world but that the world through Him might be saved. John 3:16-17.” Onscreen, the title reads as “The public life of … Jesus, a documentary taken entirely from The Gospel of Luke Chapters 3-24.”
       At the conclusion of the film, a prayer appears onscreen and is recited by the narrator: “Lord Jesus, I need you. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life and receive you as my Savior and Lord. Take control of my life. Make me the kind of person you want me to be. Amen.”
       A voice-over narration is heard intermittently throughout the film, providing background information on characters and events.
       As explained in a 25 Jul 1979 Var article, Jesus was planned as the first theatrical release in a media venture called “The Genesis Project,” whose mission was to document the Old and New Testaments of the Bible in their entirety. Producer John Heyman, founder of the Project, collaborated on Jesus with Bill Bright, who raised the necessary funds through his ministry, Campus Crusade for Christ International. According to a 5 Nov 1979 Time magazine article, Bright acquired the majority of financing from Texas oil tycoon, Nelson Bunker Hunt. Heyman revealed in an 8 Feb 2004 NYT article that he became involved in the project solely for financial reasons, recognizing the potential profits in selling 8mm and 16mm prints, while Bright viewed the film as a tool for missionary work.
       A 21 Nov 1978 HR item reported that principal photography began late Nov 1978 on location in Tiberius, Israel, and was scheduled to continue filming for thirty-one weeks throughout the country, including the cities of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. As explained in the 8 Feb 2004 NYT article, during production biblical experts reviewed footage on a daily basis for inaccuracies and often scenes had to be reshot. For background extras, the filmmakers cast Yemenite Jews for their consistent facial features over the centuries. The production budget was listed as $5.7 to $6 million in contemporary sources.
       The 25 Jul 1979 Var noted that Warner Bros. Inc.’s decision to distribute the film represented a rare instance of a major studio releasing an “overtly religious picture.” Although Warner Bros. was only contracted to handle Jesus, the article indicated that the studio might become involved in other Genesis Project films, depending on the box-office results from this initial effort. Warner Bros. allocated an advertising budget between $2 to $3 million for the first run engagement, and received marketing assistance from Heyman and Bright’s distribution company, Inspirational Film, which was responsible for promoting the picture to churches and other religious communities.
       As described in a 2 Nov 1979 LAHExam article, Warner Bros. faced criticism for distributing Jesus at the same time as Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979), a British production and Warner Bros. release that was denounced by some religious leaders for its satirical depiction of events and figures surrounding Jesus Christ. While the studio considered the simultaneous releases as “‘something for everybody,’” the Jesus producers assessed whether to take legal measures against the studio for a conflict of interest. Heyman stated that the distribution deal with Warner Bros. was finalized Sep 1978, six months prior to the Life of Brian acquisition. In addition to mentioning the “insensitivity” of the issue, Heyman believed that “‘if you’re going to maximize profits on a film on the life of Christ, you don’t have the film compete with a spoof on the life of Christ.’”
       According to the 8 Feb 2004 NYT article, Jesus earned $4 million at the box-office.
       In accord with his missionary agenda, Bright founded the Jesus Video Project (JVP) in 1981, which not only circulated Jesus to international evangelical activities, but embarked on a goal to distribute a copy to every U.S. household. However, the organization often met with resistance in non-Christian communities, as in the case of West Palm Beach, FL where videos were mailed back fastened to a brick with the aim of making the sender pay return postage, as explained in a 16 Aug 2005 NYT article. Based on the distribution pace by 2005, JVP did not expect to reach nationwide saturation until 2040 or later. Still considered by many evangelicals to be an important and effective means of preaching Christianity, Jesus now has a dedicated website, www.jesusfilmmedia.org, where the film can be viewed in over 1,000 languages. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Hollywood Reporter
21 Nov 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
19 Oct 1979
p. 2.
LAHExam
2 Nov 1979
Section B, p. 1, 5.
Los Angeles Times
25 Oct 1979
Section F, p. 30.
Los Angeles Times
2 Nov 1979
Section H, p. 30.
New York Times
28 Mar 1980
p. 21.
New York Times
8 Feb 2004
Section AR, p. 1, 26.
New York Times
16 Aug 2005
Section A, p. 9.
Time
5 Nov 1979
p. 91.
Variety
25 Jul 1979.
---
Variety
24 Oct 1979
p. 16.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Inspirational Film Distributors Inc. presents
A Genesis Project production
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
PRODUCERS
Co-prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Mus comp
SOUND
Sd mixer
Dubbing mixer
Dubbing ed
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
The Jesus Film
Release Date:
2 November 1979
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 2 November 1979
New York opening: 28 March 1980
Production Date:
late November 1978 -- late June 1979 in Israel
Copyright Claimant:
Inspirational Films, Inc.
Copyright Date:
19 February 1980
Copyright Number:
PA60500
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Duration(in mins):
114
MPAA Rating:
G
Countries:
Israel, United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

The Gospel of Luke in the New Testament presents the following account of Jesus’ life from birth to Ascension: During the rule of Roman emperor Caesar Augustus, God sends the angel Gabriel to visit a virgin named Mary in the city of Nazareth in Galilee. Gabriel announces she will give birth to the Son of God and name him Jesus. When the boy is born at a stable in Bethlehem, shepherds in the area spread the news of a savior. Accompanied by his parents, Jesus visits the Judean city of Jerusalem at the age of twelve and impresses the rabbis and elders with his questions and knowledge. Later, as a young man, Jesus arrives at a river where the prophet, John the Baptist, guides followers in the baptismal practice of immersion in water for forgiveness of sins. After Jesus is baptized, a voice from Heaven declares, “You are my beloved Son, in you I am well pleased.” Afterward, Jesus travels to the desert and is tempted by the devil for forty days. Around the age of thirty, Jesus begins his ministry and returns to the place where he grew up, Nazareth, but the worshippers reject his preaching at a local synagogue, and Jesus must leave his hometown. Near the city of Capernaum in Galilee, where the residents are desperate for a savior to free them from Roman occupation, Jesus tells a parable about humility. He fills the nets of fishermen, who have recently been unable to catch any fish. One of these men, Simon Peter, is appointed by Jesus to be a member of the twelve apostles who ... +


The Gospel of Luke in the New Testament presents the following account of Jesus’ life from birth to Ascension: During the rule of Roman emperor Caesar Augustus, God sends the angel Gabriel to visit a virgin named Mary in the city of Nazareth in Galilee. Gabriel announces she will give birth to the Son of God and name him Jesus. When the boy is born at a stable in Bethlehem, shepherds in the area spread the news of a savior. Accompanied by his parents, Jesus visits the Judean city of Jerusalem at the age of twelve and impresses the rabbis and elders with his questions and knowledge. Later, as a young man, Jesus arrives at a river where the prophet, John the Baptist, guides followers in the baptismal practice of immersion in water for forgiveness of sins. After Jesus is baptized, a voice from Heaven declares, “You are my beloved Son, in you I am well pleased.” Afterward, Jesus travels to the desert and is tempted by the devil for forty days. Around the age of thirty, Jesus begins his ministry and returns to the place where he grew up, Nazareth, but the worshippers reject his preaching at a local synagogue, and Jesus must leave his hometown. Near the city of Capernaum in Galilee, where the residents are desperate for a savior to free them from Roman occupation, Jesus tells a parable about humility. He fills the nets of fishermen, who have recently been unable to catch any fish. One of these men, Simon Peter, is appointed by Jesus to be a member of the twelve apostles who will assist in disseminating his teachings. After speaking about loving one’s enemies and being merciful, Jesus has dinner at the home of Simon the Pharisee. When a woman, considered an outcast, enters the room and washes Jesus’ feet with her tears, Simon and his other guests are shocked that the young prophet forgives her sins. As Jesus travels with the twelve disciples, several women who have been cured of demon spirits, including Mary Magdalene, Susanna, and Joanna, accompany him as well. During the mission, Jesus performs many miracles, such as healing a dying twelve-year-old girl, bringing back to life the only son of a widow, and restoring the sight of a blind beggar. One day, he stands before a large camp of hungry travelers and multiplies five loaves of bread and two fish, so there is enough food for everyone. In the course of his journey, Jesus teaches followers the Lord’s Prayer and tells a parable about a Good Samaritan who nursed a wounded stranger. In Jericho, he dines at the house of a wealthy tax collector, Zacchaeus, whom many consider to be a sinner, but Jesus inspires the man to give half of his money to the poor. Meanwhile, Jesus announces to his disciples that he will be rejected by the Gentiles in Jerusalem and put to death, but three days later he will rise to life. Arriving in Jerusalem, Jesus knocks over the wares of the merchants in the marketplace, calling the place “a den of thieves.” As Jesus’ following among the Jews increases, the elder high priests of Jerusalem, Annas and Caiaphas, become more suspicious of the prophet believers call the Messiah. During Passover with the twelve apostles, Jesus states that he has eagerly anticipated this last meal before he suffers, then reveals there is a traitor among them. He does not name the traitor, but later, the apostle Judas Iscariot meets with the council of elders and accepts money in exchange for helping them find an opportunity to arrest Jesus. In prison, the guards mock and beat Jesus, but the apostle Simon Peter, who has also been jailed, pretends not to know the condemned prophet. Weeping, Simon Peter remembers that Jesus predicted he would behave as such, and he asks God to forgive him. When Jesus is brought before the council of elders, they ask if he is the Messiah, then if he is the Son of God, and Jesus simply responds, “You say that I am.” Believing they have enough evidence of Jesus’ guilt as a subversive, the elders take him to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea. Pilate sees no reason to crucify Jesus and instructs Herod the ruler of Galilee to judge, since Jesus is a Galilean. Although Herod mocks Jesus as “King of the Jews,” he sends the prophet back to Pilate for sentencing. The governor is still hesitant to order Jesus’ death, and commands the guards whip him instead. However, the elders and a bloodthirsty crowd of citizens convince Pilate to release a prisoner named Barabbas, and in exchange, sentence Jesus to die. As Jesus walks through the streets of Jerusalem with his arms chained to a post, some people weep, while others spit at him. After the soldiers nail Jesus to the cross and hoist him in front of the crowd, they post a sign above him reading, “King of the Jews.” As some in the crowd taunt him and exclaim that he should save himself if he really is the Messiah, Jesus asks God to forgive his accusers. When Jesus dies, his body is sealed in a tomb, which is witnessed by a group of women who followed Jesus from Galilee. Returning to the tomb three days after the crucifixion, the grieving women find the entrance open and Jesus’ body missing. Two angels appear before the women and declare that Jesus has risen from the dead. Simon Peter then runs to the tomb and confirms the women’s story. Jesus soon reveals himself in the flesh to the women and other mourners, asking why they are “troubled.” He blesses the followers and instructs them to return to Jerusalem and preach his teachings. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

TOP SEARCHES

CASABLANCA

During World War II, Casablanca, Morocco is a waiting point for throngs of desperate refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. Exit visas, which are necessary to leave the country, are at ... >>

CITIZEN KANE

Seventy-year-old newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane dies in his palatial Florida home, Xanadu, after uttering the single word “Rosebud.” While watching a newsreel summarizing the years during which Kane ... >>

REAR WINDOW

Laid up with a broken leg during the height of summer, renowned New York magazine photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries enters his last week of home confinement, bored and ... >>

RAGING BULL

In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first ... >>

CITY LIGHTS

At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.