The New Gospel, which premiered at IDFA last year, is equal parts fiction, documentary, and biblical retelling. In 2017, Rau was asked to recreate the crucifixion of Jesus in southern Italy's Matera, the setting where famed director Pier Paolo Pasolini made Il vangelo secondo Matteo (The Gospel according to Matthew) in the early 1960s.
Rau went there, surveyed the area, and realized, as he says in the film, that he could not do the project. A fictional version of Christ's last days would clash with the bitter reality of the African refugees who now live in the region.
Yet while in Matera, Rau encountered a new savior: Yvan Sagnet, a local activist devoted to improving the position of exploited seasonal workers.
The result is The New Gospel, Rau's film adaptation of the crucifixion with Sagnet cast in the starring role—a fascinating play on fiction and reality.
Watch the film on Picl (within the Netherlands) or Rau's own NTGent (internationally) from €8.
In his plays, Rau not only reconstructs reality on stage; the creative process also intervenes in that reality. Each production is preceded by exhaustive research. Non-actors from the surrounding community are cast for the roles: people who the events have happened to, or could have happened to. The research, casting process, and life stories of the performers often become part of the final presentation. In tandem with Milo Rau's live stream of La Reprise on March 7 at the Internationaal Theater Amsterdam (ITA), IDFA selected three documentary films with the concept of re-enactment at the forefront.