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Monday, July 16, 2007

Most-translated film in history reaches another major milestone
The JESUS Film now told in 1,000 languages

By Michael Ireland
Chief Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

ORLANDO, FLORIDA (ANS) -- This month, The JESUS Film reaches an astounding milestone with the debut of its 1,000th translation, making it the most-translated film in history.

According to a media release, if you took some of the biggest box office hits of all time, blockbuster films like Gone with the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Star Wars, Titanic, and The Lion King -- all have been translated into multiple languages and shown to audiences around the world. But if you added them all together they wouldn't reach even half the number of translations of JESUS, the most-translated film in history.

"Lanka Kol is our 1,000th translation of the JESUS film," said Jim Green, executive director of The JESUS Film Project.

Maori actor records a soundtrack for the JESUS Film.

"It's a language many Americans have probably never even heard of, but there are more than one million people in India who speak Lanka Kol -- and now we have the opportunity to begin sharing the gospel story with them in their own language."

Produced by Campus Crusade for Christ, the original JESUS film debuted in U.S. theaters in 1979. With a viewing audience of more than five billion, JESUS has been shown around the world often in remote, Third World locations using a makeshift screen and portable projector. For many audiences, it’s their first look at a movie image.

"Storytelling is the fundamental way that people communicate around the world," said Green. "Through the JESUS film, we can tell the incredible story of God’s love in a simple way that people can relate to -- and we can do it in their heart language."

While the 1,000th translation is a major milestone, it's not the end of the story. The JESUS Film Project plans to continue translating the film into 500 new languages, which include every language with more than 100,000 speakers. For more information, including a list of the JESUS film translations go to

The purpose of The JESUS Film Project is to provide people of every nation with the opportunity to learn about Jesus in their own language through film.

Most-translated film in history with unconventional film distribution globally

The JESUS Film Project penetrates the most remote, dangerous places on earth through a massive logistical operation involving hundreds of staff and volunteers who tote generators, makeshift screens, and portable projectors to film showings, often to people who have never heard of Jesus and some who have never seen a film or TV.

Already translated into 120 languages, The Story of Jesus for Children incorporates 40 minutes of the original JESUS film into a new drama about a fictional group of children who lived in A.D. 30., the approximate date of the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ. The Story of Jesus for Children is widely used as an instructional tool in homes, churches, and schools across the globe.

Originally distributed in 1979 by Warner Brothers in theaters nationwide, the two-hour JESUS film remains perhaps the most influential movie in motion picture history. With 1,000 separate language translations and more than 5 billion exposures globally, the film is often shown in remote, Third World locales using a makeshift screen and portable projector -- often bringing audiences their first look at a movie image.

In 1950, Bill Bright, the visionary behind the project and co-founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, dreamed of creating an artistically excellent, biblically accurate film about the life of Jesus Christ that could be translated and distributed globally. A team of 500 scholars and leaders from secular and Christian organizations eventually joined the project and debuted JESUS in American theaters. Since its inception, JESUS has become available in 8mm, 16mm and 35mm print, VHS, VCD, and DVD formats.

The Story of Jesus for Children was released in 2003, The Story of Jesus for Children incorporates 40 minutes of the original JESUS film into a new drama about a fictional group of children who lived in A.D. 30., the approximate date of the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ. The Story of Jesus for Children is widely used as an instructional tool in homes, churches, and schools around the world.

Behind the scenes of the JESUS Film

Before the filming of the first scene, a team of some 500 scholars began a five-year research program to determine how to portray Jesus in the most historically and biblically accurate manner possible.

Ethiopian actress working on JESUS Film translation.

Every scene in JESUS was filmed on-site in Israel as close as possible to the historically accurate location. In many cases, this involved the dismantling of 20th century articles, such as TV aerials, telegraph poles, and wires from above buildings. Once these were removed, the present-day areas looked nearly exactly the same as those seen by Jesus some 2,000 years ago.

Filming took seven months and included 45 featured actors and more than 5,000 extras, who worked a total of 163,000 days on the production.After a six-month search and 263 screen tests, the role of Jesus was cast to Britain’s Brian Deacon.

At the time of Christ, there were 35 known shades of clothing colors used, according to research. In order to keep the film’s clothing historically accurate, costume designers had to dye the material two to three times to match the perfect shade.

A mobile zoo of goats, sheep, camels, and donkeys was transported throughout the Israel during filming. 4,000 different costumes and 2,000 hats and headdresses were used during filming.

Profile of James R. Green, Executive Director, The JESUS Film Project
JESUS Film Project Executive Producer Jim Green.

Jim Green joined the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ in 1962 to minister to college students at Michigan State University. During his 42 years with Campus Crusade for Christ, Jim has served in several capacities, including director of the Campus Ministry for the north central region of the United States.

After 13 years of ministry with Campus Crusade for Christ in the U.S., Jim and his wife Nancy moved to Africa to assist in building the international ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ in Africa.

During a period of 14 years, they lived in Kenya, France, Zaire and Mali. In addition to helping to train African Christian leaders in evangelism and discipleship, Jim and Nan were involved in “JESUS” film translation projects for several Africa countries. In 1989, they returned to the U.S. to raise funds and recruit volunteers to help build a training center in Bamako, Mali.

In 1997, Jim joined The JESUS Film Project as Senior Associate to the Director to assist Paul Eshleman in setting the direction for the ministry. Jim worked closely with Paul in the areas of communications, coordination, strategy, and cross-cultural relations. He also helped to develop several additional tools and innovative strategies such as a World Cup and an Olympic edition of the JESUS film and The Story of Jesus for Children.

Jim replaced Paul Eshleman as Executive Director of The JESUS Film Project in September 2004. Jim and Nan have three daughters and eight grandchildren. All three daughters serve with their husbands with Campus Crusade for Christ in Hungary.

Related JESUS Film Projects

Volunteers ranging from teenagers to senior citizens participate in one- or two-week JESUS Film Mission Trips to some 25 foreign countries to show JESUS to area residents. Teams partner with local churches to arrange film presentations and coordinate follow-up with new Christians.

The newest department at The JESUS Film Project, Emerging Generations, develops cutting-edge and culturally relevant products for today’s youth, including DVDs, CD-ROMs, interactive websites, and other new media resources.

The JESUS Film Project is a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ, International, one of the world's largest nonprofit, interdenominational organizations, founded by Bill and Vonette Bright in 1951. Campus Crusade has more than 27,000 staff members and a ministry presence in 190 countries around the world.

Official Ministry Statistics -- April 1, 2007

Translation Progress:
"JESUS" film translations completed: 988
Translations available in audio version only: 17
Total number of different languages: 1005
"JESUS" film translations in process: 197
"The Story of Jesus" audio translations completed: 400
"The Story of Jesus for Children" video translations completed: 120

Distribution Totals Since 1979:
"JESUS" film prints put into circulation (8mm, 16mm, 35mm): 17,266
"JESUS" videocassettes, DVDs, VCDs in circulation: 43,455,856
"The Story of Jesus" audiocassettes in circulation: 14,298,715
"The Story of Jesus for Children" videocassettes in circulation: 799,376

Viewing Audience of the "JESUS" Film (1)
Viewing audience of the film since 1979: 5,576,490,000
Indicated decisions for Christ as a result of the film:2 201,646,813
Countries in which the film has been shown: 229
Countries where the film has been seen on television: 176

Listening Audience of "The Story of Jesus" Audio Version
Radio listeners: 447,236,000
Audiocassette listeners: 199,569,000

Cumulative Viewing and Listening Audience: 6,223,295,000

Film Teams:
JESUS Film Project teams: 2,143
Countries where JESUS Film Project-sponsored teams operate: 106
Team personnel:3 4,418

1 Includes all versions, including "The Story of Jesus for Children" and multiple viewings.
2 Recorded only at live showings. This figure is collected only once each year in May.
3 Includes team supervisors.

Campus Crusade is dedicated to showing people how to know and experience God's love and plan for their lives. For more information, visit the Campus Crusade for Christ website at  

** Michael Ireland is an international British freelance journalist. A former reporter with a London newspaper, Michael is the Chief Correspondent for ASSIST News Service of Lake Forest, California. Michael immigrated to the United States in 1982 and became a US citizen in September, 1995. He is married with two children. Michael has also been a frequent contributor to UCB Europe, a British Christian radio station.

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