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Examining the Ways Jesus has been Portrayed in Film

Posted 02/04/2014
Posted by David Isgur

During the next several months, Hollywood studios will release at least five major films that are based on stories from the Bible, beginning with “The Son of God” on Feb. 28 and “Noah,” starring Russell Crowe on March 28. Discussing the movie industry’s fascination with Biblical stories and how Hollywood’s portrayal of life during these times corresponds with fact will be Richard Freund, the Maurice Greenberg Professor of Jewish History and director of the Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Hartford. He will be offering a discussion on Sunday, Feb. 23, on "The Real Noah and Jesus in Film and Archaeology" at the University of Hartford's Mali I auditorium in Dana Hall, at 7 p.m. The talk is free and open to the public, but seating is limited. To reserve a seat, call 860.768.5018.

“Movies can be great ways to educate the general public about the Bible. They can be disasters when the producer/director has an agenda to his/her film,” says Freund, who has appeared in 17 biblical archaeology documentaries for National Geographic, PBS, CNN, Discovery, History, NOVA and BBC films and consulted on a dozen more.

Also scheduled for release in 2014 are “Heaven is for Real” (based on the book by a young boy who had a near-death experience and says he went to heaven); “Mary, Mother of the Christ” (the so-called prequel to “The Passion of the Christ”); and the new version of “Exodus” (starring Christian Bale) set to open in December, 2014 in the Hanukkah-Christmas window.

Freund will present attendees with visual comparisons among the several Noah movies from the 1920s to the present and the nearly 100 movies about Jesus from 1898 to this year’s “Son of God” movie, including the trailer for “Son of God.”

“I will show people how to watch biblical movies and to compare what other film makers have done with the same material of the Bible and what we know today that they did not know when they made their movies,” Freund says. “When we know what Cecil B. Demille did and what Mel Gibson did with the same materials, we can accurately critique what was done by both. These ‘apples to apples’ comparisons will let people see why it was done the way it was done by each producer/director.”