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Film: The Chosen

15 November 2022

Stephen Brown on the TV series turned cinema release

Vertical Church Films

Jesus (Jonathan Roumie) and Simon the Zealot feeding the five thousand, a still from The Chosen

Jesus (Jonathan Roumie) and Simon the Zealot feeding the five thousand, a still from The Chosen

OPENING instalments of the upcoming third season of The Chosen (No BBFC certificate) are being released in more than 250 cinemas.

The crowd-funded ongoing TV series about Jesus’s contemporaries is produced by Vertical Church Films. It began as an offshoot of Harvest Bible Chapel, Illinois. Following on from controversies surrounding this Evangelical megachuch, Vertical now works independently.

The series’ creator, director, and co-writer, Dallas Jenkins, has enjoyed much success with his Christian-inspired films. The Chosen has been viewed by hundreds of millions in 180 countries.

The New Testament lacks any description of Jesus’s appearance or the finer details of his followers’ backgrounds. So previous series intersperse biblical events and dialogue with non-scriptural backstories for the likes of Mary Magdalene (formerly called Lilith), Simon Peter hoodwinking the Romans, and Simon Zealotes planning an assassination.

The new season continues to fill narrative gaps. For instance, John the Baptist is visited in prison by Andrew. Jairus, president of the local synagogue, is portrayed as a bit of a fixer; in the process, he effectively prevents rabbis and worshippers alike from ruffling Roman feathers. Subplots include redrawing Capernaum’s city boundaries, which enable the regime to tax Jesus’s many nomadic disciples now occupying the outskirts.

Conversation throughout the seasons is in decidedly contemporary speech. Mary Magdalene asks Matthew: “Do you stop by your parents’ house?” When characters start quoting Jesus’s sayings, however, they revert to language more akin to the Authorised Version.

The episodes are imaginatively credible recreations of the context and people of Jesus’s time. Would that some physical details of Palestinian life matched it. All those shiny white teeth, immaculate costumes, and very beautiful people takes some believing. Jonathan Roumie, however, cuts an impressive figure as Jesus in what is almost a bit-part. The Chosen plays more like the Acts of the Apostles than the Gospels in terms where the emphasis lies.

In selected cinemas from 18 November for five days. Previous series are available on various streaming channels.

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