Jesus of Nazareth (1977)


Jesus of Nazareth is a 1977 Anglo-Italian television miniseries co-written (with Anthony Burgess and Suso Cecchi d'Amico) and directed by Franco Zeffirelli which dramatizes the birth, life, ministry, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus largely according the Christian Bible's New Testament Gospels. It was filmed in Tunisia, Morocco, and Mexico and was produced by Lew Grade and Vincenzo Labella on a budget of an estimated $12 million to $18 million It stars Robert Powell as Jesus. The large cast of co-stars include: Anne Bancroft, Ernest Borgnine, James Farentino, Ian Holm, Olivia Hussey, James Earl Jones, Stacy Keach, James Mason, Ian McShane, Laurence Olivier, Donald Pleasence, Christopher Plummer, Anthony Quinn, Fernando Rey, Ralph Richardson, Rod Steiger, Peter Ustinov, and Michael York. Extra-biblical traditions were used in the writing of the screenplay and some characters (such as Zerah) and situations were invented for the film for brevity or dramatic purposes. Notably, Jesus of Nazareth depicts Judas Iscariot as a well-intentioned man initially, but later as a dupe of Zerah who betrays Jesus largely as a result of Zerah's false platitudes and pretexts. However, in accordance with the Gospels, the film depicts Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea as sympathetic members of the Sanhedrin. Franco Zeffirelli explicitly wished to deemphasize the accusation of deicide against Jews, an accusation he levied against The Passion of the Christ, which was produced and directed by Mel Gibson, whom Zeffirelli directed in the 1990 film, Hamlet. Many of the miracles of Jesus, such as the changing of water into wine at the wedding at Cana, the transfiguration, and the calming of the storm are not depicted, although Jesus healing the blind man and the crippled woman on Sabbath, the feeding of the multitude, and the raising of Lazarus from the dead are. Jesus of Nazareth was first aired on British television on the ITV network on March 27, 1977 and premiered in the United States on the NBC network on April 3, 1977. It is generally well-praised, but it was not without controversy. Bob Jones III of Bob Jones University, who had not seen the film, immediately denounced it as blasphemous due in part to Franco Zeffirelli's stated intent to portray Jesus as equally human and divine; " ordinary man — gentle, fragile, simple". In 1987, TV Guide called it "the best mini-series of all time" and "unparalleled television". It currently has a 83 percent audience rating at the film review site Rotten The total runtime of the full film is approximately six hours, twenty minutes.