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Malcolm X

Mark's Gospel, performed by Max McClean

Billy writes:

Max McLean toured the USA with the stage-presentation of Mark’s Gospel in the 2010s.

He also did a stage presentation of ‘GENESIS’, and -if I’m correct- of ‘the Book of Acts.’

McLean started the Fellowship for the Performing Arts (FPA), from where all (most?) of his work is organized as well as other (Christian themed) stage productions.

McLean’s work focusses on Biblical themes expressed through the Performing Arts, through STAGE shows especially. The FPA has made its first feature film.

McLean is an impressive performer, physically strong & expressive, a great voice, and as a performer he has a natural feel for character-acting. McLean’s presentation of Mark’s gospel is excellent; how could anyone improve on that? (Actually some-one has! Ashley Brant has!)


Years ago I saw actor Paul Alexander present the Gospel of John. I saw & heard him do this several times. He did a tour of churches in the UK; he also toured churches in the USA. It was an amazing experience; something like going to a retreat; clearly, the presentation (of John’s gospel), as it was done in churches, was a spiritual exercise. Paul Alexander’s presentation of John’s Gospel took over 3 hours.

Watching Mark’s Gospel with Max McLean (on video) is a similar experience. In a way, it’s hard work taking in all the text (which McLean handles with great care & skill). I suppose, most Biblical films function along these lines; it takes hard-work to sit through these films, from beginning to end, but if you’re willing to put in the time & effort, there’s a return, a pay-off. You learn, and your spirit gets fed! I find that after watching such a film (not all of them) I dwell on it for days afterwards as the echoes of the film still bounce around in my ‘house’.


It intrigues me that the text of Mark’s gospel communicates on a few levels, all at once. This is not just (or only) a drama-script. While there is plenty of drama, and even dialogue, there is also narrative, prayer, quotes, and comments. This is SCRIPTURE, a totally unique SCRIPT. And, in my experience, every time when scripture is spoken, the WORD ushers-in the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit. Some people may not be (fully) aware of this, but I’m convinced that the Holy Spirit becomes active through this gospel presentation (be it on stage, be it through film).


I guess, this kind of Scripture Presentation will have to be labelled a unique ‘the Word-becomes-Flesh’ GENRE: speaking & acting New Testament scripture, and doing it by heart. I suppose (most) gospel films are also in this genre. Old Testament stories (on stage or film) are related but, perhaps, are a (slightly) different genre. (Max McLean also did a stage presentation of the book GENESIS.)

Watching McLean’s stage presentation on film was a spiritual experience; I was impressed with McLean’s strength of voice, his physicality and expression, and his depth and authority. IMPRESSIVE. The stage show had been carefully designed with stage-blocks, a stage that sits on a ramp (if I’m right), and several screens for projection (images & colors). The stage was carefully lit with ample variety in lighting options. Also impressive sound design.


It looks like this ‘show’ was filmed in front of an actual audience (you can hear them regularly and see some backs-of-heads on occasion).  However, for the film of the show, the stage-set became a little claustrophobic, too small a space for the film, I think. 

I wondered what would have happened if, for the film version of the presentation, the film-crew would have used a larger film studio, or an old building (a barn f.i.) or an Open Air stage (filming in the day, as well as at night). The camera work of the present film is pretty good, but I feel the filming was being restricted (a lot) by the stage-presentation. Did they consider filming away from the stage and away from the audience? It could have opened things up considerably.  


In retrospect, this presentation helped me to STUDY the Gospel of Mark. I think I will return to this work for further study. This kind of film finds a good outlet in churches, as a tool for study.

I mentioned Ashley Banks above, as someone who outdid McLean with the same gospel. The next time explains it all. 

Mary Magdalene

Mary Magdalene is a 2018 biblical drama film about the woman of the same name, written by Helen Edmundson and Philippa Goslett and directed by Garth Davis. It stars Rooney Mara (=Mary), Joaquin Phoenix (=Jeus), Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Tahar Rahim.

Billy writes:

Impressive film. The music is daunting, deep and kind of dark; it adds a layer of seriousness to the whole event; Christ preparing to go through the intense darkness of execution and death. 

The film presents the story of Mary, and how she is stuck in and with a small community that tries to repress her, along with other women. But since Mary stands out, somewhat, in her character, she ends up getting exorcised in a body of water (a large lake, or the sea); for a while it looks like she is being drowned by a group of men (from her community). It is obviously a traumatic experience for her, and it makes her look for a way of escape.

There is work of the new preacher who is at work in the area, and before soon, there’s an opportunity to see & hear Jesus. Mary wants to follow Jesus, like some men who are his disciples. The men of her community don’t want to let her go, ut when Jesus speaks out in favor, she slips away with the master and his followers.

From now on she become a disciple, equal to the other disciples.

The film is beautifully made; what happens on the screen is totally believable, and the film manages to stay away from all the religious, iconic images that the usual gospel film is laden with. This makes for a very unique way of telling (something of) the gospel story. It is remarkable how close we get to the outstanding preacher without falling into the trap of the ‘usual images’ that every gospel film presents.

Mary says very little throughout the film, but we follow her closely; it is her story, and we experience her amazing new adventure, following the master. Her relationship with Jesus grows, and never become romantic. Impressive to witness this development and arrive, with Mary, at the other end: the resurrection.

Jesus appears to Mary; not to the other (male) disciples. Mary goes over to the rest of the team to tell them the good news; most don’t believe her; some do, and are jealous. 


But Mar is steadfast in her secure relationship with the master, and she begins to speak freely, like the beginning of preaching. It comes straight from her deep experience, her conviction and passion for freedom. This is a gospel of a kind; the gospel of freedom (without necessarily salvation).

Large part of the gospel story are left out, but since we’ve all seen the whole gospel story so many times, we don’t even miss those left out parts. As a result we end up with a different gospel; not the gospel of salvation… 

Even so, this film is impressive and very unique; a remarkable artistic work, a film that does not give us the full gospel, but a kind-of introduction to it.

Time will tell how good this film really is; what kind of impact it continues to have. For now, the film stayed with me for several days after watching. Certainly, the emancipated place of a woman (Mary in this case) through Jesus, the way he gave her equality with the other disciples, was a powerful statement. And her ‘rising’ and taking a lead at the end of the film was moving and inspirational.    

Amazing music by composer Jóhann Jóhannsson; his last work before his death.

Mao's Last Dancer - epic, impressive, beautifully done, good for a winter's evening watching your best screen at home. We saw this film with the whole family; it was a treat.

Martin Luther King

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day 


With Frances McDormand, Amy Adams, Lee page, Ciaran Hinds, Shirley Henderson and Mark Strong; directed by Bharat Nalluri.

Fabulous character acting by Frances McDormand. A light-hearted and enjoyable film, beautifully shot; great music by Paul Englishby!

Moses (1995, Roger Young director)

Moulin Rouge




Mrs. Brown

Film about the British Queen and her coach driver Mr. Brown; with Judie Dench and Billy Connolly. What a great film!
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