Who was Jesus Christ?
That's a pretty loaded question and for most people the answer involves some level of faith.
The Search for Jesus by ABC News: Peter Jennings Reporting is an insightful and decidedly scholarly documentary on the life and death of Christ. Using interviews with scholars, some people of faith and some archeologists the 89 minute documentary tries to find the real person.
The only thing that all scholars and people of faith can agree on is that Christ was born Jewish at a time of great political tensions. After that it's difficult to pin down all of the events in Jesus' life even if (or maybe only if) you rely on the four Gospels. As Reverend N.T. Wright says the best that scholars can do is make educated guesses and try to deal with likelihood of events and their plausibility, which can be faulty.
The DVD has natural chapter breaks - which coincide with the TV broadcast done in 2000 – and attempts to answer such question as where Jesus was born, what were Nazareth, Bethlehem and Jerusalem like 2000 years ago, what were the political situations then, who was John the Baptist and just how effective was Jesus in his day.
The documentary also discusses some intellectual ideas in the four Gospels and whether or not they can be taken literally considering that they have some contradictions. Of interest too is the nature of miracles and healings. Did Christ truly perform these and did they really work? The only way to approach this subject is to understand how people thought 2000 years ago, which is considerably more literal than today. Most all scholars agree that in order to understand Christ you have to understand that theology and politics were intertwined and that Christ was essentially a revolutionary.
The documentary also goes a bit into the death of Christ. Notably why he died and who should be blamed for killing him. All the scholars agree that the Gospels shirk putting responsibility on Pontius Pilate and instead implicate the Jewish leaders, which by association caused much havoc between Christianity and Judaism for centuries. [It helps too if readers of the Gospels realize that the Gospel writers were 1) careful to appease the Romans who ruled with an iron fist and 2) trying to win converts in a Jewish area of the world].
What's fascinating about the documentary are some of the scholarly insights into the plausibility of Mary's virgin pregnancy, the meaning of the phrase 'turn the other cheek' [it's not what you think] and the nature of sin.
There is no proselytizing in this documentary. In fact, some Christians may find the film's focus too much on the historical aspect of the period and the man than on the nature of faith. But it is established pretty early on that when it comes to faith it is pretty hard to sway people either way so it's best to leave it out.
There are a bunch of interviews but those who have the most to say are Reverend N.T. Wright, Father Jerome Murphy O'Connor, Paula Fredricksen, Marcus Borg, John Dominic Crossman, Reverend Anthony Mangun and Robert Funk.
How does it Look?
The documentary is shot in video and looks very clear and sharp. The aspect ratio is 1.33:1.
How does it Sound?
It's is presented in Dolby Digital stereo and sounds great.
The extras are a Spanish Language audio track and English subtitles.
The Search for Jesus is a very good historical and educational documentary on an (maybe the) important figure in world history. It is rather secular in nature and never tries to proselytize or discuss the nature of faith or scripture. Because of this non-Christians should find it of interest. But despite this and due to the subject matter Christians should appreciate it and find something to talk about. The DVD is barebones with no extras.