Deaf Missions to Release First Ever ASL Film on Jesus’ Life

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Deaf Missions, a ministry dedicated to serving people who are deaf, is releasing the first-ever feature film presented completely in American Sign Language (ASL). The film, set to release June 20, is directed by Joseph D. Josselyn and stars Gideon Firl, both of whom are deaf.

“Growing up in a Christian family, I watched many films about Jesus. But I always wondered, what if these movies were in sign language?” Josselyn told The Christian Post through an interpreter. “After joining Deaf Missions in 2006, the idea began to take shape, though it seemed daunting at the time due to the scale of production, technology and funding required.”

“We initially created a film adaptation of the book of Job, which gave us the experience we needed. We felt ready to pursue a larger project, leading us to ‘JESUS,'” he added.

JESUS: A Deaf Missions Film” will highlight key moments from Jesus’ ministry, including His miracles, His power and His challenges to the religious leaders of the day amid a time of high tension under Roman rule in Judea.

“The Jews were anticipating a Messiah, but Jesus was not what they expected. What the religious leaders orchestrated to be Jesus’ end instead changed the world forever,” the film’s description reads.

Although filmmakers “went back-and-forth and wrestled” over which aspects of Jesus’ life to include in the film, Josselyn told CP that they eventually settled on the core purpose of His ministry, such as His forgiveness of sins and His love.

“We narrowed it down to the things that would bring the most clarity to who Jesus was in His ministry,” he said.

The director also shared the challenges that came along in creating the film.

“Producing a full feature film in sign language requires significant resources,” Josselyn noted. “But advancements in technology and the power of social media have made it possible. Removing the barriers of captions and interpreters, we let Jesus sign directly to the audience, creating a profound impact.”

Josselyn asserted that the film was produced “for deaf by deaf,” including a cast fluent in ASL. Additionally, there will be a soundtrack and English subtitles.

Firl, who plays Jesus Christ, shared about what he brought to the role using ASL.

“It was really easy because Jesus is still alive,” he said. “We have His voice and His character in us. That’s what I copied. I didn’t have to think of much when it came to that; I didn’t have to feel like I was laboring and toiling … I just asked the Father. The Holy Spirit was the One that helped me to emulate that.”

Both Josselyn and Firl look forward to how the film will impact the deaf community and beyond.

“We had the vision that this would reach deaf people through the churches and community centers hosting it, but we never really thought that it could be in the movie theater,” Josselyn said.

“This was such a big opportunity for us. … It’s the best place for deaf people to watch movies, in a movie theater, to be able to sit, to feel like they’re part of the audience,” he continued. “This experience is just the best option for all people, not just Christians, not just unbelievers, not just the deaf, but lots of people who might be resistant to the Gospel. But if you invite them to a movie theater, they’re going to be like, ‘Sure, I’ll go watch a movie.’”

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