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Roma Downey Wants You to Experience the Power of the Resurrection in New Film

Kimberly Carr - Digital Media Producer

I think believers will love the story, but it's exciting to me too, that maybe someone who doesn't know the story at all, might get a chance to watch the movie and maybe it'll open their hearts. We pray for transformed hearts. - Roma Downey

Producer and actress Roma Downey has never been shy about her faith throughout her storied career, and it is this passion which sustains her life and guides her career. Together with husband and co-producer Mark Burnett comes Resurrectiona new film which focuses on the time on Earth after Christ was crucified. COVID-19 lockdowns made filming new scenes impossible, but from the wealth of footage shot during their past productions of the acclaimed The Bible miniseries and more, filmmakers created a new feature-length iteration of the Gospel which will premiere this Saturday, March 27th on the Discovery+ streaming platform. 

When I spoke with Roma recently about the film, her love for Christ bubbled up through every word. Our conversation was much more than an interview, but a time of refreshing and reminder of the power of film and the emancipating truth of Christ's Resurrection.

One thing I'm curious about is how other media outlets are so open to sharing stories of faith and especially how Discovery+ is so behind this film.

I know - we are so excited that this brand new platform exists and that they feel to really have a heart for this kind of storytelling. I feel like Discovery+ has planted their flag in the ground and said, we welcome faith and family projects here. And we're going to be enjoying the Easter audience with this beautiful resurrection film. We're hopeful that if the movie performs well for them, that we'll be able to see more and more of this kind of content which I think we all want. We want to see content that reflects the values that we believe in, and that we're teaching our kids to play out in the stories and TV programs that we watch. It's not always the case.

The fact that the content that they already have on there is so family friendly and there's so many good shows was the part of the reason why we opted to have a partnership with them for this. I mean originally, to be honest, around Christmas, we thought maybe we would still get the opportunity to release Resurrection into theaters. You know, it's a big physical, epic film, and we thought it would lend itself well to play, but because of the COVID pandemic, it became clear that theaters were opening very sporadically, and perhaps it wasn't the safest things to invite people into large group settings indoors. And so that's when we looked around to the streaming services to see what we might do obviously we could have kept Resurrection to release it in the theater, but because of this challenging year, we've felt that people are really hungry for stories of hope at this time.

There is no greater story of hope than the resurrection. You could take the Christmas story out of the Bible and the new Testament would still hold up. But if you took the resurrection out of the new Testament, it's not the same story. This is the cornerstone of our Christian faith. We don't see many movies that center on this time and the story. We have a lot of stories like The Passion or our own movie, Son of God, that really tell about the ministry of Jesus and take us in to His arrest and the trial and, and His passion and His death. But there are very few which really operate after that. Resurrection picks up the story right after the crucifixion, where the disciples all scattered. We know from scripture that it was only gentlemen and then Mary, the mother of Jesus at the foot of the cross.

Where did the disciples go? We have to imagine that they scattered because they were afraid. If they were killing Jesus, you know, they might be next. So this first big scene in the Resurrection movie we see the disciples all coming together. They bring into the room with them a myriad of emotions, shame and guilt, perhaps from running away, fear that they still may be hunted, grief and sadness because Jesus is dead, confusion because what are they going to do next? You know, what are they supposed to do? So they know that He has promised them He will rise in three days.

And so they decide to wait at least to wait three days. If He doesn't rise, they're planning on leaving and getting out and running to Galilee and so on. But of course we know that He is who He said He was, and He does what He said He’d do. And in spite of the fact that they have a Roman garrison planted at the tomb and a Roman seal over the stone, it doesn't stop. The angel of the Lord supernaturally comes down from the heavens, pulls his giant sword as he stands on the stone. The guard, almost paralyzed with fear and awe, and we see from behind the crack and the stone, the light starts to vibrate in the tomb. It's a marvelous moment, cinematic moment. And of course a great spiritual moment. Then the angel just pushes away that stone and the light floods out and the world is forever changed.

It's a really great seeing it, and I love that we get to do that. You know, as movie makers, we read the Bible, it tells us the facts, we know the story, but you know what it can't do because it's not a novel? It can't tell us how people were feeling or what it might've looked like. We get to do that in the film while working accurately, and working with consultants to make sure that we're telling the story accurately and respectfully, we still get to fill in some of those blanks. How are people feeling? What did that look like? What might the expressions on their faces have been? And people shared with us that after the other content we've made, they've been able to go back to scripture with the images and it brings the book alive in new and different ways as well.

Some filmmakers, actors, and actresses really shy away from the deity of Jesus. And I get the feeling that they're trying to make Him more palatable. Is that an issue you come in contact with, with other Christian filmmakers? Do you feel as brave as I think you all are being with these projects?

My husband Mark, and I always joke that we're the noisiest Christians in Hollywood. You know, it was 1994. I was an actress looking for a job. And I got cast to play an angel in the TV show, “Touched By an Angel.” I got to play Monica, and it was such a thrill for me. First of all, I had to pay my rent, but second of all, I was a believer and I got to deliver as a believer, a message of God's love. And at the height of TV show, there were 25 million people who tuned in to see that show every week with Della Reese and myself. Gosh, I love that woman – Della Reese and myself would hold hands, and we would pray before that angel revelation scene every week.

We would pray “Less of me, Lord, more of you, less of me, more of you.” Then the message on the show was always pretty consistent. It was simply, that having been an undercover angel, I could then reveal that I wasn't a doctor or a nurse or a teacher, the journalist or whatever I had been pretending to be undercover that week. I was, in fact, an angel sent by the Almighty, but the message was there is a God, He loves us, and He wants to be part of our lives. And I feel in some ways that that same message resonates through all my work. As a producer, almost 10 years ago, we made The Bible series for the History Channel. Many people in our own industry told us we were fools to do so. They said it would spoil our careers, and it would be a flop, for who wants to see the Bible on TV? Well, it turns out that a hundred million people in America alone want to see the Bible on TV! It went out around the globe and many, many, many millions more so. And we also know that it brought a lot of people to Christ, brought a lot of people home to God. And so that was an extra blessing. We made from that series, the movie Son of God, which is a movie about the life of Christ. We made a series, A.D. the Bible Continues. And now from that, we've made this beautiful film Resurrection. So I feel like we've tried to use our platform to share the gospel and to make great movies, and I think they can be the same thing.

There's no reason – you know, sometimes in the past, I'm sure you've been, I know I have been asked to support Christian movies that might've been well-intended, meaningful, but just quite frankly, weren't very good. And, you know, I think that we are sophisticated audience. We’re used to seeing a lot of movies. We know what good movies are, and I don't think you get a free pass just because you're a Christian. It should be excellent. We're in the business of making excellent films. Resurrection is as good as any other film coming out of Hollywood this month. It happens just to tell the story of our Lord and savior. This is a time I think when everybody is ready for a resurrection in their own lives – we've been locked down in our own tombs for a year. We've been locked down to fear, anxiety, but now we're ready to step out.

I was intrigued that you used footage that you already had in your libraries.

Yes, because we couldn't shoot this year. It's been a challenging year for everybody, but it's been a challenging year in the film industry. But we were so intent in creating something so we went back into our library and with a help of an excellent editing team, we were able to craft and shape this film. I think it's our best movie yet, to be honest, and I believe that the takeaway at the end, you just feel emboldened because – no spoiler alerts needed, but at the end of the film the audience has lived for the last 90 minutes in the first century with us. Great sets, great costumes – it really feels like an authentic experience. And we're reminded that there were so few believers in the first century. Now we're in the 21st century and we're over 2.2 billion believers. And, you know, that's all God. But to be reminded of that, at a time where we felt divided, at a time where we felt isolated and cut off from each other, to be reminded that we belong to this larger family, brothers and sisters in Christ, is for me very comforting.

 

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