“This is my world!” Son of Man (Jezile) and Cross-Cultural Convergences of Bible and World1
by S. D. Giere, PhD


1. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Bible and Film Consultation at the Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in Atlanta, 22 November 2010.  My gratitude to Jennifer Agee for her editorial assistance.

2. The term “Jesus-story” is used throughout this paper to refer to the overarching story of Jesus of Nazareth, as told in the four New Testament gospels. The reason for this is that the film pulls from all four.

3. Richard Walsh, Reading Jesus in the Dark: Portrayals of Jesus in Film (Harrisburg: Trinity Press International, 2003) Chapter 8, “Coming to America,” 173-185.

4. Paul Ricoeur, Interpretation Theory: Discourse and the Surplus of Meaning (Fort Worth, TX: Texas Christian University, 1976) 29.

5. Ibid., 30.

6. The film was released in early 2010 in North America by Lorber Digital / Alive Mind Productions, New York City.

7. DDK, in conjunction with Dornford-May and Spier Films, stars in U-Carmen eKhayelitsha (2005), a remake of Bizet’s 1875 opera, Carmen.

8. “The secret of the movie is that it doesn’t strain to draw parallels with current world events – because it doesn’t have to.” Roger Ebert, Roger Ebert’s Movie Yearbook 2007 (Kansas City: Andrews McNeel, 2007) 868.

9. In this regard, I must agree with the statement but not the negative judgment of South African journalist, Shaun de Waal, writing for the Mail & Guardian Online, “Unarmed Propaganda” (20 June 2008), “… though [Son of Man] is rather torn between Christ as secularized social redeemer and Christ as divine figure sent by God from an otherworldly realm to save humanity from itself. This is liberation theology versus the Christ who insisted his kingdom was not of this world.” [Accessed 2 September 2010]

10. Walsh, Reading Jesus in the Dark, 173-185.

11. For example, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Algeria, Rwanda, Ghana, Sudan…Argentina, Chile, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Haiti… Bosnia and Herzegovina… Sri Lanka, East Timor… Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq… and to some degree the United States. Anecdotally, in the documentary film, Long Night’s Journey into Day: South Africa’s Search for Truth and Reconciliation(2000), Eric Taylor, an Afrikaner and former policeman in part responsible for the murders of the Craddock 4, speaks of a conversion of sorts upon watching the film Mississippi Burning (1988), which depicts the use of “disappearance” during the Civil Rights era in the United States. This film together with reading Nelson Mandela’s autobiography convinced him that his actions had been wrong and motivated him to confess.

12. For an annotated transcript of Son of Man, cf. S. D. Giere, “Son of Man (Jezile): Annotated Transcription based on Subtitles,” November 2010.

13. Wallace G. Mills, “Missionaries, Xhosa Clergy, and the Suppression of Traditional Customs,” in Missions and Christianity in South African History, Henry Bredecamp and Robert Ross, eds. (University of Witwatersrand Press, 1995) 153-171. [Access 13 Oct 2010]

14. Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1994) 22.

15. Cf. Chris J. van Vuuren & Michael de Jongh, “Rituals of manhood in South Africa: circumcision at the cutting edge of critical intervention,” South African Journal of Ethnology 22 (1999) 142-156; Lilian N. Ndangam, “‘Lifting the Cloak of Manhood’: Coverage of Xhosa Male Circumcision in the South African Press,” in Masculinities in Contemporary Africa, Egodi Uchendu, ed. (Dakar, Senegal: Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa, 2008) 209-228; and Andile P. Mhlahlo, “What is Manhood? The Significance of Traditional Circumcision in the Xhosa Initiation Ritual” (M.Phil. thesis, The University of Stellenbosch, 2009).

16. Gary Van Wyk, “Severance Pain,” Geographical 74/9 (Sept 2002) 31.

17. van Vuuren & de Jongh, note that in some urban areas the washing is done with a bucket of water rather than in a river. (143)

18. Mandela, 24.

19. Ibid., 25.

20. van Vuuren & de Jongh, 144.

21. While I have found nothing in scholarly literature to support this, I am confident based on other evidence that this is the case. One example is in a fashion article by Lin Sampson, “Clothes Make the Man,” in The Times (Johannesburg), 11 April 2010. [Accessed 30 October 2010]

22. Found at 22:06-25:34.

23. In the past thirty-two years, there have been three resolutions regarding “disappeared persons” passed by the United Nations: A/RES/33/173, “Disappeared Persons,” adopted 20 December 1978; A/RES/47/133, “Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance,” adopted 12 February 1993; and A/RES/61/177, “International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, adopted 12 January 2007.

24. Found at 39:45-42:48.

25. The film’s interpretation is closest to Mark’s gospel, cf. Mk 2.1-12.

26. Cf. Long Night’s Journey into Day: South Africa’s Search for Truth and Reconciliation (2000).

27. The place and role of children in the film will be an important thing to be considered as the film continues to be studied.

28. Found at 56:06-57:15.

29. Cf. Truth and Reconciliation Commission, 6.4.1 – “Report of the Human Rights Violations Committee: Abductions, Disappearances and Missing Persons.”

30. In the words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu: “Part of the awfulness of the struggle against apartheid was the skill with which the operatives of the system, under the cover of darkness, as befitted their nefarious schemes, would abduct those they suspected of being ‘terrorists’ or who were the underground cadres of the liberation movement inside the country, or leading lights of the still legal anti-apartheid popular movement. Then they would take their hostages to remote police stations or farms where they tortured them and almost always ended up killing them. Quite frequently they crossed South Africa’s borders into foreign countries, violating without compunction the sovereignty and territorial integrity of those lands in order to spirit off those they wanted, to do with them whatever they felt like doing. Many people disappeared in this fashion, which is why a mother could make that heartrending appeal. Without the commission such a cry would have been carried by the wind as a plaintive sigh.” Desmond Mpilo Tutu, No Future Without Forgiveness (New York: Image/Doubleday 1999) 189. Tutu’s words are congruous with those of Anthony Matthews, an authority on South African security law, commenting on the passage of the 1967 Terrorism Act:

It was “certainly possible for persons to disappear without trace into detention and to remain there until they die. Even the fact of the detention itself may be suppressed, so that parents, children, husbands or wives are denied information. ‘Disappearance in the night,’ that dreaded phenomenon of the police state, is made a reality by this law.”

Quoted in Gilbert Marcus, “Civil Liberties under Emergency Rule,” in The Last Years of Apartheid: Civil Liberties in South Africa, John Dugard, Nicholas Haysom, & Gilbert Marcus, eds. (South Africa: Time Running Out; Forde Foundation – Foreign Policy Association, 1992) 37.

31. Nicholas Haysom, “The Total Strategy: The South African Security Forces and the Suppression of Civil Liberties,” in The Last Years of Apartheid: Civil Liberties in South Africa, John Dugard, Nicholas Haysom, & Gilbert Marcus, eds. (South Africa: Time Running Out; Forde Foundation – Foreign Policy Association, 1992) 80-84.

32. There are also parallels with other parts of Southern African occupation of Namibia, though perhaps less pronounced than parallels internal to South Africa itself. For a chronicle of South Africa’s Apartheid policies and actions in Namibia, cf. Barbara König, Namibia: The Ravages of War (London: International Defense and Aid Fund for Southern Africa, 1983).

33. Jesus’ disappearance and crucifixion begins with his abduction at “Gethsemane,” found at 1:00:23, and runs through to the end of the film.

34. The proper crucifixion scene begins at 1:12:40.

35. I am grateful for the identification of toyi-toyi by Prof. Peter Kjeseth, now of Fish Hoek, Western Cape.

36. Cf. A Long Night’s Journey into Day: South Africa’s Search for Truth and Reconciliation (2000).

37. In Amandla! A Revolution in Four-Part Harmony (2003).

38. Cf. Marta Valiñas and Kris Vanspauwen, “Truth-seeking after violent conflict: experiences from South Africa and Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Contemporary Justice Review 12 (2009) 269-288.

39. Matthew 4.1-11; Mark 1.12-13; Luke 4.1-13

40. Lk 3.23-38.

41. It could well be understood that portraying Jesus’ baptism and temptation as the Xhosa adult male circumcision rite also serves as an antidote to early Christian missionary efforts to stamp out the practice. Cf. Mills, “Missionaries, Xhosa Clergy & the Suppression of Traditional Customs,” ad loc.; see also, Janet Hodgson, “A Battle for Sacred Power: Christian Beginnings among the Xhosa,” pp. 68-88 in Christianity in South Africa: A Political, Social, and Cultural History (R. Elphick and R. Davenport, eds.; Berkely: University of California Press, 1997).

42. If there is an echo of this role of the centurion, it more clearly comes from Luke 23.47, rather than from Mt 27.54 or Mk 15.39, both of which have the centurion saying that Jesus was the “Son of God.”

43. Josephus, Wars 7.203: περιιδεῖν ὑπομείναντα θανάτων τὸν οἴκτιστον

44. “For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life.” Rom 5.10

45. My thanks to Jennifer Agee for this observation.

JR & F
Home Page

JR & F
Vol. 15 No.1

Copyrighted by Journal of Religion and Film 2011
Site Maintained by
Department of Philosophy and Religion
University of Nebraska at Omaha

Contact Webmaster about site