‘Jesus’ TV series captures imagination of Kenyan viewers

The Brazilian production depicts life in Palestine in the days when the Saviour lived on earth

Apart from offering entertainment and faith lessons, the Brazilian TV production titled Jesus is slowly gaining an audience in parts of the country. Aired on the KTN Home channel on weekdays, the show that depicts the life and times of Jesus Christ gives viewers a taste of what life might have been like in in the days when He lived on earth by combining the writings of the four gospels.

For Nairobi resident Dismas Kavoo, the series has helped him see the Bible in a new light and prompted him to read the first four books of the New Testament.

“Right now I’m reading Matthew and I’m already on chapter 15. I hope to have read all the four gospels by early August. From watching the show, I now have a picture of how life may have been without modern communication gadgets and infrastructure,” Mr Kavoo, a husband and the father of two girls, told the SHEPHERD.

Previously, he had no interest in watching Christian films on television until one Saturday evening in April when he was at home looking at the KTN Home programme line-up, which indicated that Jesus would start showing at 8pm.

He decided to watch it, thinking it was The Jesus Film he had watched as a teenager or Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ that was released in 2004. But he realised it was different and decided to watch it again the next night. That was when he became interested in it. His family also joined him and abandoned a soap opera they had been watching regularly. Since then, they have not stopped watching the show that airs for one hour every Monday to Wednesday.

“Now every evening before Jesus starts, we share what we expect to see and any faith lessons we learnt from the last show, says Kavoo, who works as a mechanic. “My older daughter especially likes the part that features Lazarus and his sisters Martha and Mary.”

Mary Waithera, a single mother of one and a businesswoman, learnt about Jesus as she watched Moses and the Ten Commandments, also produced by the same Brazilian company.

“One night I saw an advert indicating that Jesus would start airing on the same channel after Moses concluded and I waited until February when it started. I realised from the onset that it was a good production,” she says.

Unlike The Jesus Film produced in 1979 and which focused mostly on the character ‘Jesus’, the Brazilian production is more detailed and includes a range of other characters. What captivates Ms Waithera is how it combines Jesus’ teachings recorded in the four gospels. She is now a regular viewer.

“I don’t know how or when it will end but I think it is a good performance that illuminates the New Testament,” she says.

What Kakamega resident James Mukoya likes most is the actor who plays the role of Nicodemus.

“His imposing physical presence, priestly clothes and the way he defends Christ in the Sanhedrin just endear him to me,” he says.

But that is not all. Mr Mukoya, who is a pastor, says the correlation between Jesus’ words and the actors’ roles makes the series easily understood.

And for Jane Akinyi, who lives in Kisumu, it is John the Baptist’s suffering in prison that touches her.

“While the Bible doesn’t tell us how John was arrested and thrown into prison, as I watch the show I am able to imagine what the man went through in prison before he was beheaded,” says Ms Akinyi, a housewife.

She also enjoys the locations where the series was shot, the clarity of the production and the lead actor’s composure.

The show was produced by Casablanca and Record TV – a Brazilian free-to-air commercial television network. It was created by Paula Richard and directed by Edgard Miranda.

Jesus premiered on July 24, 2018 and ended on April 22 last year. It stars Dudu Azevedo who acts as Jesus, and is the fifth biblical telenovela by Record TV.

The first time a film was produced about the life of Jesus was when Campus Crusade for Christ (CCC) released The Jesus Film in 1979. Shot on location in Israel, the film was financed primarily by CCC with a budget of $6 million (about Sh637 million). The filmmakers chose to adhere as closely as possible to the gospel of Luke instead of telling a parallel story or embellishing the biblical account like later films did.

According to a study done in 2017 by The Jesus Film project in conjunction with Masterworks – an independent third-party research firm – the 1979 film along with other titles provided by the ministry have been used to initiate more than 7.5 billion gospel presentations and resulted in 490 million people indicating decisions to accept Christ as Lord and Saviour, and 2.1 million churches and communities launched.

In Kenya, Life Ministry – the local chapter of CCC – says on its website that so far, The Jesus Film has been translated into 40 local languages.