News / Arts & Entertainment

Biblical Epics Flourish in Hollywood

Religious Films: Not All Created Equali
X
Penelope Poulou
March 19, 2014 12:20 AM
It's been called "the greatest story ever told," so it's not surprising that for more than a century Hollywood has turned to the Bible for inspiration. The trend of faith-based films remains strong with the movie industry producing 16 such films this year alone. Many of them may be forgotten just weeks after their release, while others could become huge blockbusters. So what makes religion-inspired movies successful? VOA's Penelope Poulou has more.

Religious Films: Not All Created Equal

Penelope Poulou
It's been called the greatest story ever told, so it's not surprising Hollywood has turned to the Bible for inspiration for almost a century.

The trend toward these kinds of films remains strong; the movie industry expects to produce 16 faith-based movies this year alone. Many of them may be forgotten just weeks after their release, while others have the potential to become blockbusters.

So what makes religion-inspired movies successful?

Son of God, about the life of Jesus, opened recently and is doing very well at the box office. Churches around the country are renting movie theaters for their members to watch the film.
 
American University Philosophy professor Martyn Oliver says films that offer a popular depiction of Jesus target Christian audiences.
 
"There is not a singular or particular vision on the part of the filmmakers," Oliver said. "That is, they are giving you what you already think you know."
 
The financial risk for the filmmakers was lessened because the Christian market was tested in 2004 with The Passion of the Christ. Mel Gibson's controversial movie grossed more than $1 billion dollars worldwide.
 
"He had an aggressive marketing campaign in Protestant and, particularly, large evangelical churches prior to the release of The Passion of the Christ,” Oliver said.
 
Gibson also had artistic vision. His violent and polarizing portrayal of the passion of Jesus mesmerized people the world over, Oliver said. Son of God is not on par with Gibson's film and its targeted audiences could thin out soon.
 
Unlike Son of God, a redemptive, friendly story about Jesus, Darren Aronofsky's Noah is a heavy, apocalyptic story about the end of the world.

"Aronofsky's decision to focus on the wrath of God, and that's a God we maybe don't want to think about," Oliver said. "He's an unfriendly God, and in that sense his [Aronofsky's] reading of the Noah text is not a Christian Noah."
 
Aronofsky's Noah is more faithful to the Genesis story accepted by Jews, Christians and Muslims alike. But the film may not become a hit. It received a lukewarm reception in Mexico from a mostly Catholic audience that found it too dark and not reverential enough to Noah's character.

Many Muslims also oppose the film, because Islam prohibits visual depictions of its prophets.
 
However, Noah might resonate with viewers who relate to its environmental message, "to protect nature or perish by it." The fact that the film has impressive special effects does not hurt either.
 
Even for the best religious films, success remains elusive, according to Oliver.
 
But if a film has artistic vision, a powerful message and a captivating story, watching it can be a feast for the eyes and soul.

You May Like

Video Obama Announces Plan to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Ebola Fight

At US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Obama details troop deployment and other pieces of US plan More

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

Muslims in Kunming say that they condemn the violence, it is not a reflection of the true beliefs of their faith More

Humanitarian Aid, Equipment Blocked in Cameroon

Move is seen as a developing supply crisis in West Africa More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: alfredo ibarra barajas from: mexico
March 26, 2014 5:38 PM
This movie of Noah is not what I was expecting to be, I thought it would be like The Ten Commandments of Charlton Heston, where the versión was not an iconoclast, as this movie of Noah is. I have Heard here in my country commentaries in the negative, that the movie is not close to the Genesis that we were taught in primary. Maybe for that reason the pope Francis declined an invitation to watch it.. This Noah does not come across as the one I read in my youth. That one was more likable. And I never saw pictures of those Stone creatures. Defintevely not.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Communityi
X
September 16, 2014 2:06 PM
Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Border Crossings

Graham Nash has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice – once for his work with The Hollies and once as part of Crosby, Stills & Nash. The legendary folk-rocker joins "Border Crossings" host Larry London to talk about his latest project, “CSN 2012,” which captured on video recent live performances by Crosby, Stills & Nash.