Well, not exactly. But he’s planning to make a movie in Aramaic and Latin (Latin? how about Greek?) about the last twelve hours in the life of Jesus. I don’t care how bad it is, I won’t be able to pass up a movie in Aramaic.

Update: Naomi has a splendid list of reactions to the idea of this movie, and I’m definitely going to want to see what she has to say if it ever gets made!


  1. Well, Steve, I for one am pessimistic. *Latin* and Aramaic?
    BTW, did you know there are still speakers of Neo-Aramaic around?

  2. Yes indeed, and I’m hoping Mel will hire a few of them as accent coaches!

    Oh, it goes without saying there is a great deal to be pessimistic about… but really, can you ignore the only movie ever likely to be made in Aramaic? (Not that it’s actually likely to be made…)

  3. Besides, maybe those soldiers around the cross — you know, the ones with the jokes and the vinegar — spoke Latin? Just transferred from Dacia or somewhere?

  4. so, do you think they’ll get this Dacian accent right? 🙂

  5. It sounds perilously close to “Incubus”, William Shatner’s movie in Esperanto….

  6. Nick – I never heard of that movie… What is it about?

  7. Well, this article from Salon explains it probably better than I could:

    Basically, it’s a horror movie directed by one of the “Outer Limits” directors, starring William Shatner (pre-Star Trek) and entirely in Esperanto. For what it’s worth, it’s now available inside the US on VHS and DVD. I saw it for sale recently at the local Borders, so it’s not rare. I haven’t seen it yet because I haven’t found it for rental and I just can’t bring myself to buy it.

  8. Now they can use video-editing to morph actor’s faces and mouths to fit any dubbed language, there should be an exciting array of language movies coming out…

    Don’t about 20,000 folk speak Aramaic in some valley around the Syrian/Lebanese border?

    But this Mel Gibson film – can a Jesus movie plausibly get made without any Hebrew-speaking characters? Sounds like it could all get a bit sensitive and hot under the collar. After all, don’t some working-class anti-Semites in Italy still use “Christ-killer” as an everyday label for Jews? Or have I been misinformed?

  9. Mark: About 30,000 according to Ethnologue, as well as “30,000 in Iraq (1994) out of up to a reported 2,000,000 ethnic population. Population total all countries 210,000 or more speakers.”

    Jews in Palestine had been speaking Aramaic rather than Hebrew (in everyday use) for centuries by then; Hebrew was already a liturgical language, spoken only in religious contexts. Presumably Mel’s advisors will clue him in as to appropriate usage (the ones who aren’t teaching the Dacian accent, that is…)

  10. 210,000! Cor – yes, I must check the good old ethnologue more often. That’s enough Aramaic-speakers for them to have their own music-video channel.

    Ah, Hebrew liturgical-only by then? Well, that’s _one_ political difficulty out of the way… As I recall in the Cecil B. DeMille films, the Christians would get good, honest American accents and the Jews in Christ’s life would have nasty British accents, which they’d probably learned from the evil Egyptians in the other movie where Moses and the Jews had American accents and the bad Pharoah types were all upper-crust Brits.

    Maybe if Mel’s film really _is_ in cool languages, then the subtitling can be imaginatively coloured to keep us up to date on which gangs the different speakers belong to!

  11. Subtitles? Mel isn’t having subtitles. I kid you not – check Naomi’s link. I think he may get his mind changed for him on that one, though.

  12. I speak neo-Aramaic (or Assyrian). I want to see the movie and see if I can understand it since the language has changed over 2,000 years. Everything at church is in Aramaic.

  13. There are about 4 million neo-Aramiac speakers(or Assyrians).
    2 million in Iraq
    700,000 in Syria
    400,000 in USA
    and the rest are spread throughout the world

  14. We call Aramaic “leeshana eteeqa” which means old language.

  15. I hope you’ll leave a comment after you’ve seen the movie — I’d love to get your reaction!

  16. Jonathan Özdemir says

    Aramaic/Syriac is a alive language in many nations.
    I am a speaker of West Aramaic / Syriac. I live in Sweden, and here there is more than 50 000 speakers of Aramaic / Syriac, both the west and east aramaic.
    In sweden there is even a university that teaches the language, like the one in Turabdin in Turkey.
    There is more than 1 million people in the world that speaks the language of Jesus.
    The speakers are in nations like: Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Sweden, Germany, America, Holland and many more.
    Aramaic is the language of Jesus and the language that the new testament was first written on. It is the language that Abraham, Isak and Jacob spoke. Hebrew comes out of Aramaic as a dialect.
    Jonathan Özdemir

  17. Now that I have seen the gIBSON MOVIE. I can tell you that there are alot of words that I understood from the movie simply because I know
    Arabic at 5th grade level. The movie is accurate and Awsome!

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