Son of Man: A Modern Political Statement and Portrayal of Jesus & His Story

Son of Man, a 2006 film by Mark Dornford-May, is a revitalizing and innovative interpretation of the story of Jesus. Dornford-May in my opinion not only unraveled the story of Jesus in a new way, but also brought to life the idea of what would it be like if Jesus were amongst us today—not in the United States but rather in an impoverished country in Africa. This is impactful because Jesus’ story did take place amongst the poor, and over two thousand years later, such places of poverty still exist. It made me think of how thousands of years have passed, only to still have so much destitution alive and well in our ‘modern’ world.

                                                  

As seen in the photo above, Jesus (as well as all of the other actors in the film) is African. Dornford-May took a risk in having such a cast because of the conventional idea that we have of biblical characters. Nonetheless, I feel it was a clever and smart move for two reasons: 1-because it made me as a viewer to see the story of Jesus in a new and refreshing manner, and 2-because all the actors, despite having an unconventional appearance, in my opinion were engaging and convincing at the same time. All-too familiar characters suddenly had new vivacity. Jesus, as played by Andile Kosi was one of the most ideal versions of Jesus I have come to observe. He gracefully and naturally blended all the characteristics we know Jesus to have: kindness, charisma, strength, passion, and a captivating aura. We are shown Jesus growing up from a child to a man after the 22 minute mark, with Jesus washing his face as an adult and as if he is remembering all the atrocities he’s seen since he was young. Fade shots smoothly transitioning his experiences in order as he’s washing his face allows in my opinion for the viewer to connect not only with Jesus’ moment of reflection as if we were thinking alongside him, but also serves as a way for us to accept all the more that the man we see playing Jesus is actually Jesus.

What I found interesting was that the story of Jesus was transposed via raw footage. Throughout the film, we are believing as viewers that what we see is actually happening because we see Jesus’ miracles being shot through a ‘live’ camcorder, filming done by Judas. It allows for a more intimate take, as if instead of viewing it as a documentary, we are experiencing everything with the other witnesses. Events like Jesus saving a possessed young girl, a paraplegic young boy, and bringing a person back from the dead—all which occur one after the other after the 00:39:45 minute mark—feel like actual present-day miracles.

I feel that Dornford-May took great advantage of the environment in which the film was shot. According to IMDB.com, this film was shot in South Africa, although during the film, we can only infer it takes place in an African town. Throughout the film, there are shots that capture the amazing and beautiful natural scenery that can be found in Africa. I feel this juxtaposes the beauty of what God crafted being known as ‘The Creator’ with the dreadful state in which humankind has left its poor to live in.

 00:40:58-“…those with imperial histories pretend to forget them…” 

 

 00:45:41-Scenery following the action of Jesus raising someone from the dead.

 

00:47:55-Jesus taking a democratic and leading stance, discussing the injustices and corruption affecting today’s people.

Dornford-May, in essence, captured the story of Jesus in a modern-day fashion by presenting the story in an opposite manner. Different continent, different conditions, different-looking people, different circumstances…all made for a more impressive and fascinating interpretation of the story of Jesus while at the same time answering the question ‘what if Jesus were with us today?’ What would he do and how would he react to what is going on in our present day?

The film does this by representing the key figures and events of the original story of Jesus that we are all familiar with, and makes Jesus an optimistic democrat in an area overwhelmed with injustice. In turn, the film not only interprets what is known as the New Testament, but is also a political statement at its core—two concepts that clash in current day and are like polar opposites; considering that religion and politics, especially in the United States, are like oil and water: never able to blend. Even taken out of a religious context, this film provides a sort of political wake-up-call by showing corruption occurring to this day in even the poorest of places, something we can infer that Jesus would be against if he were around today.

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