The New Gospel

Milo Rau


Milo Rau

THE NEW GOSPEL What would Jesus preach in the 21st century? Who would his disciples be? And how would today’s bearers of secular and spiritual power respond to the return and provocations of one of the most influential prophets and social revolutionaries in human history? Set in the southern Italian town of Matera, where both Pasolini and Gibson shot their legendary films on the life of Jesus, director Milo Rau and his team return to the origins of the gospel and stage it as a passion play of an entire civilization. Together with Cameroonian political activist Yvan Sagnet, Rau creates a biblical story that couldn’t be more topical. With “The Revolt of Dignity” they have created a political campaign that fights for the rights of migrants who came to Europe across the Mediterranean to be enslaved on the tomato fields in southern Italy and to live in ghettos under inhumane conditions. An authentically political as well as theatrical and cinematic New Gospel for the 21st century emerges. A manifesto of solidarity with the poorest, a revolt for a more humane world.

Milo Rau keeps you on your toes. On stage, the Belgium-based director is drawn to true stories often performed by non-actors playing themselves. (…) He blurs the line between fact and fiction in a way that unsettles and provokes. He doesn’t let you sit back. Thrillingly, he does the same thing on film. The New Gospel is at once a dramatization of the crucifixion story, a portrait of exploited migrant workers and a behind-the-scenes documentary. We don’t just get the last supper and the biblical quotes, we also see the auditions, the rehearsals and the material on either side of each take. It’s about what it means to tell the story as much as it is about the story itself.
The scene is Matera in southern Italy (…). A city that looks like it’s been chiselled out of the rock, it makes a good screen double for ancient Jerusalem. Rau’s version plays with that idea. The cinematography of Thomas Eirich-Schneider is poised and crisp as it focuses on the cast in their period tunics, looking rugged and authentic. But then it will pull back to show views through train windows, squalid refugee camps and a night-time railway station frequented by sex workers. Settling into the familiar Easter story isn’t an option.
That’s politically important because Matera is home not only to the photogenic Sassi caves but also large numbers of migrant farm workers on poverty wages, living without electricity or water. Rau’s Jesus is Yvan Sagnet, a real-life activist organising a “revolt of dignity” on behalf of the disenfranchised labourers. As Jesus, he is passive, wise and accepting; as a campaigner, he is the voice of righteous anger. That he is also a rare black Jesus in European film history brings to notice another layer of injustice in a story that, 2,000 years on, has yet to lose its radical edge.
– MARK FISHER, The Guardian

Political Passion Play.
– ED MEZA, Variety

MILO RAU (1977) Swiss director Milo Rau studied sociology, Romance studies and Germanic studies in Paris, Berlin and Zurich, being taught by Pierre Bordieu and Tzvetana Todorova among others. Since 2002 he has shown over fifty theatre plays, films, books and events at almost all the major international festivals, including the Theatertreffen in Berlin, the Avignon Festival, the Biennale Teatro die Venezia, the Wiener Festwochen and the Kunstenfestival Brüssel, and in over 30 countries all over the world. The winner of numerous awards, Milo Rau is the holder of the Poetikdozentur für Dramatik 2017 prize and the ITI award on World Theatre Day 2016. Following in the footsteps of theatre luminaries such as Frank Castorf, Pina Bausch, George Tabori, Heiner Goebbels and Christoph Marthaler, Rau is the youngest person as yet to bear this prestigious theatre award. Since the 2018/2019 season he has been the artistic head of the NTGent.