Jesus films in general fall into three categories (so I learned):
- Gospel film--Evangelistic; meant to persuade
- Jesus film--Narrative; meant to portray
- Christ-figure film--Unsettling; meant to provoke
Set in modern-day Africa, Son of Man has no A-list American (or European for that matter) actors, is not directed by the Coen brothers, did not have a million-dollar budget, but it deserves credit all the more. A film that sets Jesus as an African struggling for rights in an occupied territory who is followed by the working class of his day clearly mirrors the gospel accounts. However, unlike a Ben Hur or a Passion, this film is unapologetically political. Jesus fights as a non-violent revolutionary amidst war and strife, teaching his disciples to drop their stones (swords), to unite and live in solidarity. One cannot help but see the influence of liberation theologies on the film and rightly so.
At one point in the film, a young Jesus witnesses the killing of a group of children. Shocked and horrified, the child looks on. But an angel appears to 'take Jesus away,' persumably back to the Father. As the angel calls for Jesus to "come," we see Jesus shake his head and respond to the angel, "This is my world." In a world caught in the middle of political turmoil, human strife and suffering, the liberating Jesus is resolved all the more to stay, to teach, to live and ultimately to die as darkness covers the land.