TV series to be watched by a billion people

Christians finance their own movie about Jesus, regardless of the big business interests, political or secular correctness.

First, there was an unprecedented funds collection of fans, which turned out to be a tremendous success, the biggest in the history of the film industry. Then, there was the production of the Sermon on the Mount scenes, attended by 2,000 donors paying “every grace” to appear in the series as the extras. The triumph was complemented by a bank-breaking movie at the American Box Office. For the creators of the media project "The Chosen" ("The Chosen one" or "The Chosen ones") - a series about the life of Jesus - everything goes no less successfully than for the main character of the film and his miraculous multiplication of the loaves of bread and fish. Nearly 400 million viewers have already watched this Christian production.

The story of the director Dallas Jenkins' idea also begins with the events at the Sea of Galilee described in all four gospels. “Remember, your job is NOT to feed 5,000 people. All you have to do is to bring bread and fish,” - someone wrote to him on an instant messenger. Soon, this was followed by the etude “The Shepherd”, which was displayed on Facebook - a low-budget production about the birth of Jesus - filmed on a friend's farm.

Jenkins, a devout Protestant (an evangelical Christian) from the US Northwest, named the video a pilot version for the series and called for money collection. The effect exceeded his wildest expectations: $ 10 million made it possible to finance the first episodes of "The Chosen" series - a modern production about the life of Jesus. There are to be over 40 episodes altogether, and the first eight can already be watched on TVP1 and the VOD.TVP.PL platform.

The series is also distributed free of charge on the producer's website and in the mobile application, which – consistently and for months - has been in the global ranking of the 50 most often downloaded worldwide. Anyway, the project's YouTube channel, where the director reveals the progress of work, shows details from the movie sets, and sometimes even connects live with the fans, has nearly 1.9 million subscribers.

The authors use the entry code/hashtag


referring to the phenomenon well-known in the world of series viewers: watching episodes without any limits of the TV schedule, one after the other, or all during one weekend.

Binge-watching is one of the new habits, popular among the viewers of many different streaming platforms. On VOD TVP, Netflix or HBO Max, we can watch movies whenever we want to, where we want, and how we want to. There are also cinema premieres there.

The mini-series format has also become popular, displacing the traditional formula of a film lasting 100 or 130 minutes. These are 8-, 10-episode, less than an-hour-long productions, made according to the standards of cinema feature films, much higher quality than the long-running television ones.

But with the world of streaming platforms came a different threat; Their broadcast monopoly.

The managers of some of the largest in the world, new television media companies, have their hands on what is shown on their platforms. As a result, we have a new cultural McDonaldization of the world, the adaptation of film productions (regardless of where they are made) to the homogeneous American model, also in terms of values. Thus, the vision of the world according to the left-liberal elites' punch is promoted: in each series, there must be a representative of the sexual minorities or a non-binary person, and in historical productions, African Americans play heroes from the times of white Victorian England, for example.

On the other hand, we have criticism or ridicule of traditional values, especially Christian ones. This was the case in “The First Temptation of Christ” series or the cartoon "Paradise PD". It is rather interesting that the creators of those – mentioned above - do not take similar actions in relation to the dogma of Islam or Buddhism ... This trend has already been felt by Mel Gibson, whose idea for "The Passion of the Christ” 20 years ago was turned down by seven of Hollywood's biggest studios.
At the same time - for several decades - there has been a strong tendency in the United States for the so-called Christian movies, for the specific productions made by the faithful from Protestant churches, which gather over 100 million people in the USA. Today, these films constitute an important segment of the American cinema output. They have a loyal audience, funds, their own film studios, festivals and awards, such as The Movieguide Awards - called the Christian Oscars. However, they do not go beyond the religious niche in America. They do not break into the Hollywood mainstream, mainly due to the nature of the message, but also the subject matter, e.g. the right to life.

That's why the series

"The Chosen" is a revolution,

because - however it is created by Americans – Catholics equally and eagerly watch this in Europe. – I believe that the success of “The Passion” by Mel Gibson, a Catholic film, encouraged the Protestant circles to make a more significant creation based on the Gospel – a film critic Łukasz Adamski speaks to TVP Weekly. He emphasised that "The Chosen" should be appreciated not only for the high level of accomplishment but primarily for creating its own community and - the innovative in the industry - method of financing the production.

  - The series is fully independent of the big studios, which reminds me a bit of the situation in the US in the 1970s, when African Americans also created their own genre, “Blaxploitation”, fully self-financed, not looking back at the white-dominated establishment. Today we have a similar situation: Christians finance their own film about Jesus, regardless of the big business interests and the political or secular correctness.

“The Chosen” has already raised $40 million in viewer donations and is available in over 74 languages (including dubbed movies in 12 languages). The director recently declared that he wanted his series to be watched by at least a billion viewers and to be available in every language of the world.

Where did the phenomenon of the series come from, since it tells the story well known to most of us from the first catechesis? What makes "The Chosen" different? After all, the Gospel has been transferred to the movies since the very beginning of the cinematography. More than 120 years ago, the French studio Pathé created the silent picture “La Vie et la passion de Jésus-Christ”. That was the beginning of a series of more or less successful adaptations showing the life and history of Christ. Among them - the most appreciated by critics - was certainly "Jesus of Nazareth" - a biblical miniseries from 1977, directed by Franco Zeffirelli, and the earlier production - “Gospel according to St. Matthew" by Pier Paolo Passolini. This scandalous, communist and homosexual director wanted to surprise everyone so much that he created a picture which... delighted the critics from “L’Osservatore Romano”. Later, there was of course this controversial movie made by Martin Scorsese - “The Last Temptation of Christ”- and “Jesus Christ Super Star” – the rock opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber. From the more contemporary period - the most simple, most digestible and worth mentioning - is the “Story of the Saviour" by Phillip Saville (2003), which is an exact representation of the Gospel of St. John. Then we have the already mentioned - innovative but shocking with its realistic vision of Christ's suffering - "The Passion" by Mel Gibson or " Mary Magdalene " by Garth Davis - with an interesting but dark portrayal of Joaquin Raphael Phoenix as Jesus.

There is no darkness or suffering in “The Chosen” (yet). The episodes completed so far end with the banishment of Jesus from his native Nazareth. There is, however, a very human presentation of the characters that makes the production simply a good story, interesting enough to capture the attention of many ordinary viewers, including those far from Christianity. The strength of Jenkins' production is the courage in creating side plots related to the everyday life of the later disciples. Nevertheless, in the closing credits, the authors stipulate that the events and spoken lines are fully consistent with the four Gospels recognised by the Church.

"The authors of the Gospel did not write the movie scripts.

They wrote the Gospel” – stress the creators of “The Chosen”.

It is also worth emphasising that Jesus is not the main character in this series but simply one of several leading characters.

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Just like Simon, called Peter - a charming parvenu and speculator colluding with the Roman occupier; Matthew - an obvious traitor to his religion and nation, serving the Romans as a tax collector, or Nicodemus - a Pharisee fascinated by the Messiah but unable to bring himself to abandon his comfortable life and recognised social position. The disciples, joining the circle of Jesus in subsequent seasons, are not an anonymous collection of twelve bearded Semitic-looking men but people made of flesh and blood, with their own expectations, interests and weaknesses.

The creators’ vision often goes beyond the message of the Gospel. This is the case with Thomas, who arrives at a wedding in Cana as an efficient caterer and already (incredulously) with his own eyes, sees the miracle of turning water into wine. The wedding scene itself, one of the most important moments contained in the Gospel, gives us a picture of a celebration in which we could also participate today. It is in social relations that Jenkins shows Jesus as ... a man. The newcomer from Galilee is a charming guy full of humour, able to dance, have fun, joke or even tease his followers.

Important threads of the series are ... politics and the reality of the occupation that the inhabitants of Judea were under in the times of Jesus. Despite the expectations of his students, the Teacher rejects the idea of establishing a conspiratorial armed union, walking the talk: „Render therefore unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God”.

The role of women is also presented in an interesting way, especially in the interpretation of Mary Magdalene’s fate. She is the "Apostle of the Apostles", who was rehabilitated only in 1969, when Pope Paul VI announced that she was not a promiscuous woman. In the series, we meet her in her childhood; She is a woman with mental problems and alcohol addiction, whom Jesus helps as one of the first.

Doesn’t the series narrative introduce sensitive threads that divide Protestants and Catholics? Well, "The Chosen" could be described as an ecumenical and even interreligious production, because the Protestant artists engaged as consultants, e.g. Rabbi Jason Sobel and father David Guffey - the Roman Catholic priest. Previously little-known actor - Jonathan Roumie, creating the character of Jesus - is a practising Catholic, nominated for a Papal knighthood and awarded the Vatican Order of St. Gregory the Great.

Anyway, the cast of the series is convincing. There are no blue-eyed blondes, and most of the actors are of Middle Eastern look and origin, even if they are American. This is also the element that distinguishes "The Chosen" from the so-called "Sword-and-sandal" Peplum films – ( American Christian movies ) - called that way by even the most kind-hearted film critics.

The production itself - as befits the New Testament - was carried out in Capernaum, only in the Texas one - Capernaum Village, a special outdoor studio built for the makers of films about ancient times. Savings in social budget management meant that the creators tried to reduce costs as much as possible. That's why they didn't move beyond the United States to shoot the film set

not in Israel, but also in Utah,

using the previously built replica of Jerusalem created by ... Mormons. They built the scenography for their own films. - "The Chosen" shows that with today's technical means, having a good idea and a team of talented people, you can make a decent production - adds Łukasz Adamski.

Father Jan Kaczkowski, who died in 2016, repeatedly used the term “katolipa”/ “cathobummer”, describing the unleavened, archaic ways the Church tries to preach and convert the young people’s generation that increasingly abandons religion. In the case of "The Chosen", we are dealing with something completely different - with a new, powerful arsenal of evangelization, but also with a considerable ecumenical social phenomenon. In addition, a huge flick in the nose of the mainstream platforms that have not allowed Christian content to their offer for years.

– Cezary Korycki

TVP WEEKLY. Editorial team and journalists

– translated by Katarzyna Chocian
TVP1 has been showing "The Chosen" since December 27th, 2022, and subsequent episodes are also available on the TVP VOD platform.
■ 1, "I Have Called You By Name" - December 27th, 8:35 am
■ 2, "Shabbat" - December 28th , 8:35 am
■ 3, "Jesus Loves the Little Children" - December 29th, 8:35 am
■ 4, “The Rock on Which it is Built”– December 30th, 8:35
■ 5, "The Wedding Gift" - January 2nd, 8:35
■ 6, "Indescribable compassion" - January 3rd, 8:35
■ 7, "Invitations" - January 4th, 8:35
■ 8, "I Am He" - January 5th, 8:35
Main photo: "The Chosen" (2017), reż. Dallas Jenkins. Fot. REPRODUKCJA TVP
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