What is the most watched film in history?
Titanic? Gone With the Wind? Snow White?
And what is the most translated film in history?
The answer to both questions is the same film. The JESUS film has been viewed over 1 billion times and has been translated into over 1000 languages. In its release in 1979 it did not make huge waves at the cinemas, but in the intervening 30 years it has been taken around the world by mission teams to far-flung villages and remote locations on every part of the globe, translated into the languages there and shown, often using generators and sheets erected on poles.
The translators of the JESUS film have done an amazing job in adapting this tool to hundreds of different cultures. But they were finding increasingly that, especially in more developed countries, the film was not connecting with audiences, not because of the language, but because of the visuals. It was time for a visual translation.
Working with Barry Cook, one of the directors from the Disney film Mulan, they began to work on an animated version of the JESUS film that would be told in a non-linear fashion. At first there were two short clips at a concept stage to get feedback on how this is working and where to go to next. A third clip in higher quality animation, looking at the crucifixion form the point of view of one of the two thieves who were crucified with Jesus was produced by Studio 4°C in Japan and released for Easter 2011
Check out the concept videos in English and Cantonese below
and My Last Day, the film released for Easter 2011
Taking it With You
I used the earlier clips extensively on a mission trip to Japan on my phone, and I found them to be a great bridge to deeper spiritual conversation. The format (anime) is extremely popular in Japan, and indeed throughout Asia, and being able to us the huge collection of languages which have already been translated meant that I could show the film in Japanese, which avoided any translation problems for me!
The Gospel According to Youtube
One of the busiest sites on the internet is Youtube. Some go there to watch videos, some go there to show their own videos, many probably do both. With this outlet and with the wide availability of video-editing software and video cameras, it seems almost anyone can make movies these days.
Recent years have also seen the renaissance of the art of short films, aided no doubt by the limit on the length of Youtube videos, but also by film studios like Pixar treating short film as a serious art form. Cru has developed its own short film ministry – the Global Short Film Network. It currently has a library of over 40 films that can be used to start spiritual conversations. Another good source for short films to start spiritual conversations is YesHeIs.com
One of the things I have been trying out is showing these film clips on my phone. I first started using my phone to show videos when I put some short clips of the kids on there, and people were always very interested to watch them. So when I found these videos I naturally thought about putting them on my phone, and I have found that it works well for one, two or three people to watch. The screen is big enough and the resolution high enough to make it a comfortable experience. The only caveat I have found is that if the clip is longer than about 4-5 minutes it can start to feel really long.
Short films are also a really good conversation starter on social networks like Facebook. Again, especially if the film is not too long, people are usually more than willing to watch, and you might be surprised by the responses you get from your friends.