A $7-MILLION project to produce and distribute the four Gospels
in film was launched in London yesterday.
The Lumo Project strives for authenticity and seeks to
"transform the way we discover, study, and engage with the life of
It consists of four feature-length films, one for each of the
Gospels. The Gospel of John, the first film to be released, has
been available in the United States on the website Netflix since
the start of December, and has garnered positive reviews for its
attention to period detail.
The films were shot in the Moroccan town of Ouarzazate, which
also hosted the production teams for Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and
Gladiator (2000). The Gospel of John will première on television in
the UK around Easter 2015.
Instead of dialogue, each film has a narration consisting of the
unabridged text of the Gospel. The director David Batty said this
week that he saw "the word as the prime mover" of the project. As
words and images are independent, the film can be reproduced with
There are already seven, including the King James Version, New
International Version and the Spanish Reina-Valera 1960. The
narrators for the English-language versions include Sir Derek
Jacobi and Richard E. Grant.
Versions in German, French, Dutch and the Scandinavian languages
are set to be released next year. The ambition of Hannah Leader,
the producer of the project, stretches further: "I want to see it
in 1000 languages or translations!"
Professor Edward Adams, author of Parallel Lives of Jesus: Four
Gospels, One Story has written that "no other Jesus production so
successfully captures the story of Jesus in its fourfold form". In
an email exchange he reiterated that "this is an attempt to bring
to screen within one unified filmic project each of the four
Gospels as distinct narratives."
Mr Batty described the project as "one story seen from four
different angles". Filming took 99 days, and the footage for all
four films was gathered together. The films are only made distinct
in the cutting room, rather like four different garments fashioned
from the same piece of cloth. This process allowed for differences
in the Gospel accounts to be portrayed on-screen.
The production team attempted to assemble a cast with physical
characteristics as close as possible to those of the figures they
portrayed. The producers hoped to avoid the kind of criticism
attracted by Ridley Scott's Biblically-inspired blockbuster
'Exodus: Gods and Kings' which stars white actors as Moses and
The Gospel films were cast almost exclusively in Morocco, and
feature many of the country's best known actors. Jesus is portrayed
by Selva Rasalingam, an actor with Tamil heritage who trained at
the London Guildhall School of Music and Drama.
Ray Bruce, the consultant and associate producer, said that the
multilingual case, with limited shared language, had had to focus
intently on each other in order to play the scenes. Mr Bruce, an RE
teacher turned film producer, claimed that this created a palpable
on-screen "chemistry" between the figure of Jesus and the other
characters. Mr Rasalingam described the role as an "exciting
He actively avoided watching any previous dramatic depictions of
Christ, in an attempt to ensure that the primary inspiration
remained the text of the Gospels.
The producer Heather Leader, who has worked on Gosford Park and
Edge of Love, is a Sunday School as well as a feature-film
professional. Her inspiration for The Lumo
Project was education. "I wanted to show my Sunday School
children brilliant filmed content on a Sunday that engaged them
with the Bible and I couldn't find anything suitable or good - so I
thought I'd make it myself."
Clips from the films have been used by the website TrueTube, a
resource used by schools with content covering citizenship and
religious education. TrueTube invited school children to write
commentaries for the silent clips, and the best were invited into
the studios to narrate them, with the subsequent videos featured on
the website. By presenting the unabridged text from the Bible, the
producers of The Lumo Project hope that is will
be used as an alternative way to experience scripture.