Back in late 2006 there was a minor to-do about a film depicting the last days of Jesus, except that Jesus was played by a black man. Written and directed by Jean-Claude La Marre, Color of the Cross tries to do what it can to tell the tale of this black Jesus, or be-jeezus if you will.
The film, like others covering the last two days of his life, follows Jesus as he performs the Last Supper, gets betrayed by Judas and the other stuff. While in town, many Jews are trying to celebrate Passover without being abused or persecuted by the Romans, so they celebrate in secret. In the meantime, what happens during a lot of other character thoughts is that they wonder about this so-called prophet, and because he’s black AND jewish, whether that should diminish the message that he is trying to convey.
I think it’s because this is done so frickin’ much in the film, it diminishes the power of the message. It’s easy to see why they tried to do this with a black man as Jesus, that maybe Christians will get a better relationship and understanding of the persecution that black people have had in America, and still have today. But overall, that’s thrown around in this film almost like a comic punchline. If anything, the thing I enjoyed about Jesus in Color of the Cross was that in his final hours, there was an impatience and suspicion that he exhibited, even from his last conversation with his father. What it did was demonstrate a flaw in his character that would have been worthwhile exploring, if only it had occurred way back in the first act.
As for the performances, they are all decent, things considered, and LaMarre’s performance as Jesus isn’t too shabby. But it’s the story itself that’s flaunts its sensationalism, which gets in the way of telling an effective story with which people can empathize with.
The film’s 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation is preserved for this disc. It’s reproduced rather well, even during a particular scene when Caiphas (played by Iyla Baskin) is surrounded in black, his skin textures show up among the black costumes and long beard. It’s not a consistently sharp image, but that’s fine by me.
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround. It’s somewhat muted and quiet, however there’s the occasional scene where surround activity rears its head. I wouldn’t demo this on my home theater setup, but it works decently.
The only thing of note is a ten feature look at the making of the film, but it basically amounts to people in the cast and crew sharing their thoughts on the journey they’re making by getting the film made, No worthy information, no commentary, no nothing.
Perhaps there is a group of people that really enjoy Color of the Cross and admire its brave storytelling. It’s an interesting concept, and there’s passion in the performances, but past that, everything is pretty vapid and easy to skip. If you want an intriguing film about Christ’s last hours, go rent Passion of the Christ or The Last Temptation of Christ and remember that those are eons better than this.