In my day, the next few hours would be the time when children like me all over Igboland, would settle down with their parents in front of the TV to watch the second part of Jesus of Nazareth starring Robert Powell in the title role. The first part, the birth and early life of Jesus, was shown at Christmastime on the same channel, Anambra Broadcasting Service (ABS).
In all my years, I have yet to watch a Jesus story that has had more impact on my life as this one. Even Jim Caviezel’s whippet hound face enduring the torture of having the flesh stripped from his bones by what looked like barbed wire in The Passion of the Christ, had a ‘car-crash TV’ effect. I couldn’t look anywhere else. My mind still has scars but my heart…well, I locked it away. Far away.
Yes, he was a more authentic looking Jesus in terms of ethnicity. And fair enough, the Romans were not known for their gentleness – they nailed criminals to wooden stakes and left them to die slowly for chrissakes. To some extent, Mel Gibson the director was trying to give a fair representation of what might have been involved in Jesus’ crucifixion, but The Passion is not one film that children should watch unless they intend to end up on some nunnery or monastery clutching beads, consumed with thoughts of self-flagellation.
I’ve just found out that the original Jesus of Nazareth is over six hours long which makes sense because it seemed never-ending. Not that anyone wanted it to end of course. It was one of the times when we were allowed to stay up late. The kids who ran about with bits of clothing hanging off their shoulders or waists – in the case of small babies, no clothing at all – were allowed to hang about in the reception of my father’s hospital to watch on the tiny concave TV screen that you had maltreat to get an OK reception. Mums too. People didn’t seem to need the hospital as much during the Easter period as they did at Christmas.
The Mary was so beautiful, she sent all Catholics into paroxysms of pleasure the minute she came on the screen in a haze of soft focus. Don’t even get me started on the blue-eyed Jesus. Whoo-wee! Director Franco Zeffirelli is single-handedly responsible for every nordic portrait/painting of Jesus to come out of Nigeria.
Looking at the ABS schedule for the next few days, it’s no wonder people will be slotting in their Nollywood DVDs or tuning in to DSTV.
Kids of these days don’t know what they’re missing.