• Tim Robinson

Peace be with you!

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Reviewing the Jesus film with the Kamuku people.

The Jesus film is a wonderful tool that is used amongst millions of people worldwide to help share the story of Jesus as told (mostly) in the gospel of Luke.   We partner with The Great Commission Movement to help hundreds of language communities edit the script and dub the movie into their own language.  Every community I have ever asked has had amazing stories of lives being impacted and people coming to Christ as a result of watching the film and interacting with the local film team.

Recently I was visiting the Kamuku language project and observed the team reviewing the translated script ahead of doing the dubbing.  There are surprisingly complex issues at play.  Lip sync with the original movie is all but impossible.  Getting enough of the local language words in the right time spaces to effectively communicate is a challenge especially when some words in Kamuku can have up to 26 characters and 4 syllables instead of the equivalent English word that has 5 letters and 1 syllable – it can push the boundaries of a sentence!


We encountered an animated discussion (as seen in this video clip) about what words to use when post-resurrection Jesus appears in the upper room and greets the disciples and crowd that are there.   Greetings are a high cultural value here in Kamuku and indeed across Nigeria and are rarely 4 words long. (Peace be with you). As if that wasn’t challenge enough, Jesus’ greeting in the upper room is to a mixed group; both males and females are present in the room.  Male to female greetings in Kamuku are different from male to male or female to female greetings and so having a male greeting to a mixed group is culturally debatable. But then you have to also get the ‘peace be with you’ element in and fit it into the very small lip space on film!

Some in the meeting wanted to default to ‘As-Salaam-Alaikum’, which is a greeting of peace sometimes used from the trade language, because it will fit the space. It seems that others are very sure that they don’t want to ‘borrow’ words but use their own phrases.   The discussion continues:

‘Can the actor speak very fast when we do the recording’?

‘Can Jesus just greet the men’?

‘Do we have to fit the space on the film, or can it run over’?

were all questions that were asked along the way until an agreeable solution was found.    I’m not going to tell you what it was, you’ll have to watch the movie when it comes out!

I’m joking of course because you probably wouldn’t understand the solution that was used unless you are a closet speaker of Kamuku and we didn’t realise it. The team members present decided to directly translate Jesus’ words instead of trying to translate it into their own cultural context, because Jesus was not in their cultural context, he was in His own.  That, I am sure will provoke more questions from some of you!

No matter how any community reaches the answer to each challenge as it comes up, we are thankful to have multimedia tools that communities can use to reach people for Christ.

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