The film industry is a largely secular area, but that trend has waned in recent years with the multiple religious-based movies coming down the pipeline. Now it appears that it’s Lionsgates turn to hop on the bandwagon as they’ve announced a new project that their working on, titled Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth.
Despite the title, the movie might not paint Jesus as the Son of God like other films have. Reza Aslan, a Muslim religious scholar, wrote the book with the intention of exploring Jesus and his life in a historical, humanistic context. That doesn’t mean that the film won’t feature any of the man’s many miracles (raising the dead, walking on water), but Aslan’s intention is to portray Jesus in a “Humanisitic, as opposed to religious, context,” which might have some up in arms.
“Reza Aslan has written a remarkable book that manages to bring the ancient world into contemporary relief and to make a timeless story very timely,” said Erik Feig, Lionsgate’s president of production. Without reading the book, one would expect this to be a very different and potentially controversial angle on Jesus Christ, given that it runs him through peripheral scholarship of those times and examines certain aspects from that perspective.
Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth is the latest in a string of religious films. A long time ago we got Martin Scorsese’s intensely controversial The Last Temptation of Christ, which showed Jesus as human in the sense that he has to deal with lust, doubt, and depression. The next big one was Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, which was a more straightforward, focusing on Christ’s torture and the final hours leading to his crucifixion.
A brief gap gives way to more films next year, with the rote Son of God and thenRidley Scott’s Exodus (previously adapted by the animated film Prince of Egypt). Of course, there’s also Darren Aronofsky’s Noah to look forwardto, which is rumored to feature giant mythological angles. Clearly, Lionsgate is not the first studio to take a chance with a non-conventional religious film, and they certainly won’t be the last.
Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth currently has no talent and no hard release date attached, but expect the studio to move quickly on the project. When we hear more we’ll let you know.