The Bible meets HD-TV

Noah;s Ark, the Exodux and the destruction of Jericho are all being brought to life by a reality TV superstar

noso anozie stands with roma downey 521 (photo credit: Courtesy "The Bible")
noso anozie stands with roma downey 521
(photo credit: Courtesy "The Bible")
Anew television series on the Bible is coming to the popular History Channel in March, just in time for the Passover/Easter season, and many are already calling it “epic.”
The producers, Hollywood power couple Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, have set out to tell the dramatic stories of the Bible as faithfully as possible, but with a fresh look – using the most modern of filmmaking techniques.
The result promises to be a visually attractive TV series that aims to inspire believers and non-believers alike, while trying to avoid the feel of a documentary and the age-old flaw of casting blueeyed, blond-haired Europeans in the roles of Semitic peoples – most prominently by casting an African actor with long dreadlocks to play the heroic character of Samson.
The History Channel has become known in recent years for more than just historic documentaries, also mixing in a steady diet of “reality” shows like Swamp People and Ice Road Truckers.
Thus it is no surprise that the History Channel collaborated on the 10-hour The Bible miniseries with Burnett, the so-called “King of Reality TV,” and the executive producer of such hit TV series as Survivor, The Apprentice, The Voice and Shark Tank, who has four Emmy Awards and four People’s Choice Awards to his credit.
Burnett is joined by his wife, Downey, an actress, singer and producer best known for her lead role as an angelic character in the successful TV show Touched by an Angel. Downey herself plays Mary, the mother of Jesus, in the series.
The Emmy award-winning husband -and- wife team explained that they were inspired to take on this project after watching Cecil B. DeMille’s classic movie, The Ten Commandments, for the first time since childhood. Impressed with the story and visuals in the epic movie from the 1950s, they realized the new generation needs a film about stories from the Bible that will be more current in terms of modern, high-definition filmmaking.
Burnett insists The Bible is his most important work yet. He said it was humbling and gratifying to “breathe fresh visual life into incredible stories for a global audience,” adding that the project has made his own faith stronger.
Nancy Dubuc, president of the History Channel, said that there is no doubting the historical importance of the Bible, calling it “the most discussed, debated book in the history of mankind.”
She hopes the visual and entertaining way of introducing viewers to the Bible will encourage them to seek more information.
The series will air as five two-hour segments, each focusing on two or three biblical stories told through live action and computer-generated imagery. The entire film series took three years to make and was shot mainly in Morocco but also in the Middle East.
The series will begin airing on the History Channel in the US starting on March 3, and continue every Sunday until Easter weekend, March 31. The series also includes a musical score by award-winning composer Hans Zimmer.
The promotional materials and trailers released so far have focused mainly on the life of Jesus, especially the episode on his birth. But the 10-part miniseries retells thrilling stories from the entire Hebrew Bible and New Testament.
At a media event to promote the film in Toronto recently, Burnett boldly forecast that “more people will see this Bible series over the next 25 years than all those other series combined... That’s not a prediction, that’s a fact! More people are going to see this Bible series, because the globe is ready for this.”
Burnett has noted that the series will include the “obvious” stories, like Noah’s Ark, the Exodus, and the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus. But viewers should also be pleasantly surprised to see stories less commonly committed to film, such as the destruction of Jericho, the Jewish captivity in Babylon and the life of the apostle Paul. In some parts, the movie is set to show violence.
The series will be based on the New International Version and the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible.
The filmmakers made some bold casting choices, including Nonso Anozie, from the HBO series Game of Thrones, as Samson, whose strength is found in his long dreadlocks. Another memorable character with dreads is John the Baptist.
Expect to see a brown-eyed Jesus, portrayed by striking Portuguese actor Diogo Morgado. Rising Hollywood star Darwin Shaw, known for such movies as John Carter and Prince of Persia, will play Peter.
Prominent Christian leaders who were consulted for the film project are praising the series for its first-rate sets and forthright storytelling, describing it as a “living history” that avoids the feel of a documentary. They are also enthusiastic about its potential as an evangelistic tool.
Among the Christian figures advising the production team were mega-church pastors Rick Warren and Joel Osteen, Dr.
Frank Wright of the National Religious Broadcasters, World Evangelical Alliance head Geoff Tunnicliffe, presidential counselor and author Luis Palau and Dr. George Wood of the Assemblies of God denomination.
“Every aspect of this production from the acting to the poignant storytelling is accomplished with excellence,” said Osteen, the senior pastor of Lakewood Church and The New York Times bestselling author who spent time with Burnett and Downey on the set. “I witnessed firsthand not only the genius of Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, but the deep and abiding passion they possess for God’s word.”
The promotional credits do not, however, list any recognized specialists in the fields of biblical archeology or anthropology, where advances in scholarship would have much to contribute concerning the culture and customs of each period in biblical history.
Thus, younger viewers may be won over by a biblical series obviously made by artists and special effects wizards, not theologians. Yet many Christians have become keenly interested in the Jewishness of Jesus and the Hebraic Roots of the Christian faith, and these “purists” will likely be looking at the scenes with a sharper eye towards the accuracy and authenticity of the historic settings.