Black Jesus Pic Looks to Tap Controversy

Gabriel Snyder, Variety, Feb. 5, 2006

The success Mel Gibson had in transforming churchgoers into moviegoers with “The Passion of the Christ” has inspired another indie production on the story of the last hours in the life of Jesus Christ.

But “Color of the Cross,” produced on a tiny $2.5 million budget, will feature a black actor portraying Christ.

Nu-Lite Entertainment production hopes to capitalize on the controversy of depicting a nonwhite Christ.

Under a recently inked deal, 20th Century Fox will distribute the film on home-video, and the pic’s producers say money from that deal will be put toward the marketing effort for the film’s theatrical release in November. No distrib has been signed yet.

One of the producers is the Rev. Cecil “Chip” Murray, who during his 12 years as pastor at L.A.’s First AME Church used his pulpit to become a national religious and civil-rights leader. He said he hopes the film will reverse negative stereotypes of African Americans.

“We really need to do something about the negative imaging of black America,” he said. “Black America is the only culture that worships in the form of foreign symbols. The good that can be done is that it can help lift people’s interest and combat racism and discrimination.”

While acknowledging the potential for controversy, Murray said the notion that Jesus was African isn’t far-fetched.

“It’s more likely that Jesus was black than it was that Jesus was European,” he said. “It’s not an assertion that is a difficult one.”

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