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“Jesus in India” DVD Documentary

Unfortunately, the gorgeous trailer, with its lovely photography and lyrical musical score,  is the best thing about this documentary: the actual film doesn’t meet the hype.

As advertised, the Dalai Lama is “featured,” but not in any interview or direct communication with the filmmakers. Instead, a clip is shown from one of his speeches encouraging religious tolerance. And the other interviews – except for a brief clip of Gnosticism specialist Elaine Pagels (whose extended interview in the Bonus section is worth watching) – are not very informative – and they suffer from being strangely inconclusive, if not off-the-wall. The filmmakers do get lucky enough to procure an interview with “the Pope of Hinduism,” which, however, is a complete disappointment which only serves to confirm the already established rumor that “Jesus studied here.”

The trailer bills the film as Edward Martin’s religious journey from fundamentalism to a wider, more tolerant spirituality. But it only gives mere glimpsess of Martin’s ex-faith community, e.g., his fundamentalist pastor and a Bible teacher, and these folks don’t really go after him. They only say what Martin has already told us in the trailer, that since Jesus’ “gap” or “missing” years are not filled in by the Bible, according to biblically literalist principles, we don’t need to know about them – and even if we did find out that Jesus went to India, that wouldn’t change anything the New Testament says about him.

From what he actually reveals of his fundamentalist roots, we have no reason to think that Martin underwent an especially tortuous struggle, even though he says that his faith journey cost him friends from his prior spiritual community. The sense conveyed is mostly that they are sad he went his own way, and they really don’t understand him.

Concerning its central subject matter, the film tells us nothing substantially new about the Notovich document (whose author claims to have read an ancient document proving that Jesus studied in the Himalayas), or about Jesus’ purported Kashmiri tomb (other than that it has been remodeled by Muslim “militants” who supposedly moved its tenant to a basement beneath the remodeled tomb).

James Deardorff, retired professor of atmospherics from Oregon State University and UFO researcher, only gets a few seconds to describe how Jesus might have survived the crucifixion and travelled to India, but then gets swallowed up in the film’s somewhat loopy narrative.

Nor does the film cogently address the two “Jesus in India” rumors: the first, that Jesus at the age of twelve went to India to study Hinduism and Buddhism, and then returned to Judea with a mission; the second, that after surviving the crucifixion, Jesus returned to India, taught the Lost Tribes of Israel there, and died at the age of 112. Instead, the film dances around both rumors without strongly distinguishing them or analysing each for its respective historical plausibility.

Worse yet, the DVD quality  is less than desirable, especially when viewed via computer. When viewed full-screen most location footage is grainy and mottled, with distracting ghosting as occurs for instance with pictures over-sharpened in Photoshop. This problem seems less noticeable in the non-location post-or-preproduction segments. It is certainly not evident in most of the Bonus material (the filmmakers’ appearances on lecture circuits and talk shows). This leads me to believe that something must have been sub-par with the  location video equipment. (Nor is the Bonus material free of glitches. Out of the four Bonus features that I watched, three were compressed so that the image was squashed and laterally flattened.) A knowledgable friend has informed me that the film was shot on a consumer camera which accounts for its poor imaging when viewed via computer.  Apparently it looks tolerable if viewed with a TV DVD player.

All told, not a very good effort and not a very good product. If you can get it (http://www.jesus-in-india-the-movie.com/) or elsewhere (hopefully cheaply), and  it might make a trivial, “conversation piece” kind of addition to your video libary.  And there is, as I mentioned, that fairly good interview with Pagels. Otherwise, however, I really can’t recommend it.