The story of Jesus has been told a lot in film. One might believe that Christians tire of the continuous re-tellings of Biblical accounts of Christ. Rich Peluso’s newest film, Risen is putting such criticism to rest and many are calling it the best Jesus film in awhile.
As the movie is set to release digitally in just a few weeks, buzz continues to surround this newest film by Rich Peluso. Stellar casting, rich dialogue and award winning writing, combine in this movie for a differing experience in Christian movie making. With so much going in it’s favor, it is no surprise people are buzzing that Risen is the best Jesus film since Mel Gibson’s The Passion.
Risen begins where the blockbuster movie The Passion of the Christ ends, picking up the powerful story in what might be the best Jesus film yet. It is the story of Jesus’ Crucifixion, and the 40 days following through the eyes of an unbelieving Roman soldier who helped put Jesus to death. As Affirm Film’s largest budget to date, Risen brings us the best of Hollywood in an effort to inspire and entertain.
Award winning actor, Joseph Fiennes (Shakespeare in Love, Luther) plays Clavius – the high-ranking, ambitious military officer who is charged with finding the body of Jesus after his death and resurrection. Clavius and his aide Lucius (Tom Felton of Harry Potter) set out on the greatest investigative manhunt of all time: to disprove the news of Jesus’ Resurrection and prevent an uprising among the Jews.
Fiennes displays an array of emotions as he progresses from a heartless and brutal soldier with blood on his hands to a man who encounters Jesus face-to-face. Cliff Curtis (Live Free or Die Hard) powerfully plays Jesus, mastering the art of expression in a role with minimal dialogue. Mary Magdalene (Maria Botto) delivers one the most moving lines responding to Clavius’ offer to set her free in exchange for information on the disciples. She asks Clavius to “open his heart and see,” then declines saying, “I am already free.”
Producer and cowriter Kevin Reynolds (Hatfields and McCoys, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves) portrays his production as, “The Resurrection told as a detective story.” Joseph Fiennes applauds Reynolds for “doing a beautiful job of honoring the Biblical story through an original lens.”
Risen has many endorsers. Johnny Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Woodstock and former president of the Southern Baptist Convention calls it “a must see for pastors and their congregations.” Ted Baehr, founder and publisher of Movieguide, deems it “a powerful, poignant and entertaining movie revealing the impact of the greatest event in history.” Eric Bryant of Gateway Church Austin loves the life-changing scenes where “Clavius explores what could be, is afraid of what might be, and attempts to figure out what really happened to Jesus.”
Sonoma Christian Home interviewed Rich Peluso, Senior Vice President of Affirm Films, about this newest historical fiction release which gives a skeptic’s perspective of the Resurrection, while preserving the authenticity of God’s Word. SCH Editor at Large Ginny Dent Brant reports.
SCH: Affirm Films, a division of Sony Pictures, is now making faith films. How did this come about and what is your role in it?
RP: I run Affirm Films, which started in 2007, and my role is defining content, stories, scripts, and projects to produce films for Sony. I started out working for a Christian record label that was owned by a secular company producing music with artists such as Chris Tomlin, Steven Curtis Chapman and Toby Mac. So I’ve been in the intersection of faith and entertainment for some time.
When Sony decided they wanted to be in this space specifically, they brought me on to launch Affirm Films in 2007. They’ve been an incredible support giving us the resources needed and the freedom to produce and develop film content that connects with faith believers.
SCH: What made you depart from modern-day stories like War Room and Soul Surfer to this unique historical perspective of the resurrection?
RP: I had told people on several occasions that I was not interested in making robe and sandal Bible movies. But when Affirm came across Risen, I loved that it was not your everyday robe and sandal movie. I was intrigued with this story turned-upside-down. The writers had taken this gospel story of the Crucifixion and Resurrection that I’d known all my life and told it from a completely different perspective. So you’ve got Jesus meeting up with Clavius on the road after his resurrection at the same time Caiaphas and Pilate were unglued wondering where Jesus’ body was. It was this freshness that attracted me to it.
Clavius is a historical-fiction character. He’s a composite of the Centurion and the Roman military leaders of that time. Risen truly is an intersection between Scripture and historical fiction.
We first ran across the script for Risen in 2007, but were not able to make it all come together. It disappeared for years, until a producer named Mickey Liddell had acquired the rights. He asked us to read the script with this new perspective, and we jumped right in.
SCH: What makes Risen different from other films about Jesus and his life?
RP: Most films about the life of Christ end with the Crucifixion as a finale. Risen begins at the Crucifixion because there’s so much more of the story to be told. Risen is also told through the eyes of an unbeliever. These two elements really set Risen apart from other films about Jesus.
SCH: How did your screenwriters maintain a delicate balance between holding to the authenticity of the Resurrection story and the addition of several fictional characters?
RP: Paul Aiello wrote an amazing script and grounded this story in Scripture. It was Kevin Reynolds who added the new lens to the story. The first cut of this film was two hours and 40 minutes, but we had to work it down to something more digestible and entertaining.
I’m pleased and excited that many pastors are embracing this. They are telling me that the viewing of this story through this news lens is less threatening and less preachy. For the skeptic, it’s a great way to see the story and for the believer, a chance to see it from a different perspective. Affirm is hoping to attract those who love historical dramas and great performances as well as the 140 million believers who go to church which is more than view the Super Bowl.
SCH: What can Christians do so Affirm Films can make more faith-based films like this?
RP: They should research the film and watch the trailer. If they are interested, it is best they attend on opening weekend, which helps to determine the distribution and success of the film. Then if you like it, tell everyone about it through conversations and social media.
SCH: Devon Franklin, President of Franklin Entertainment, said, “You vote every time you turn on the TV or go to a movie. So be careful how you vote.” Christians may not realize the power they have to influence what Hollywood produces. We hope Risen further opens the door for amazing faith films!
The Passion of the Christ brought in over 370 million at the box office, and the Jesus Film has been translated into 1145 languages with Rick Warren calling it, “The most effective evangelistic tool ever invented.” Time will tell the impact Risen will have as it is written to hook both the believer and the unbeliever and shows the greatest story ever told as never seen before. Affirm Films plans to release Risen around the world in different languages.
Risen is rated PG-13 and it is available digitally now! Pick up a BluRay or DVD on May 24th. For more information go to www.risen-movie.com