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The New Gospel
In the past, Pier Paolo Pasolini and Mel Gibson filmed the crucifixion of Jesus in the town of Matera in southern Italy. In 2019, Matera became the backdrop for a new staging of the Passion. This time, Jesus was played by Cameroonian political activist Yvan Sagnet, who defends the rights of illegal workers exploited by a mafia-led agricultural system. Many of these workers are refugees from Africa and have nowhere else to go.
“The New Gospel”, winner of the Best Documentary award at the Swiss Film Festival, is both a recording of the theatre play’s rehearsals and, behind the scenes, a documentation of Sagnet and his African compatriots’ fight for visibility and dignity. We see Sagnet grow into his role as Jesus, the first black Jesus in the history of European cinema, as he mobilises groups of workers near Matera in a large-scale protest called the “Revolt of Dignity”. And dignity is precisely what this film aims for in its portrayals of activists and actors. Swiss stage and film director Milo Rau wants his work to “not just portray the world, but change it”. This project, more than just a film or a play, has led to better living conditions for the migrants of Matera and the founding of a fair trade brand in tomato farming in the region.
Director: Milo Rau
Producers: Arne Birkenstock, Sebastian Lemke, Olivier Zobrist
Script: Milo Rau
Cinematography: Thomas Eirich-Schneider
Sound: Marco Teufen, Julian Joseph
Editing: Katja Dringenberg
Production: Fruitmarket, Langfilm & IIPM – International Institute of Political Murder
Coproduction: SRF Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen / SRG SSR, ZDF with collaboration of ARTE, Fondazione Matera Basilicata 2019, Consorzio Teatri Uniti di Basilicata and Teatro di Roma, supported by Film und Medienstiftung NRW, Bundesamt fur Kultur (BAK), Zurcher Filmstiftung, DFFF – Deutscher Filmförderfonds, Kanton St. Gallen Kulturförderung / Swisslos, BKM – Die Beauftragte der Bundesregierung fur Kultur und Medien, Volkart Stiftung, Suissimage Kulturfonds