Monty Python's Life of Brian
Monty Python's Life of Brian (1979) is a film by the Monty Python comedy troupe set in the time of Jesus Christ. The main character, Brian, is mistaken for the Messiah throughout the film. The film satirises both politics and religion. The production started shortly after the completion of Monty Python and the Holy Grail was completed. The film was funded by the former Beatle George Harrison, who started Handmade Films and invested £3 million in the production. It was filmed in Tunisia and reused sets from the Franco Zeffirelli's 1977 production Jesus of Nazareth.
The film attracted significant criticism from Jews and Christians. In New York City, there were protests and pickets by rabbis and nuns. The Republic of Ireland banned the film for eight years, and Norway banned it for a year. In the United Kingdom, the morality campaigner Mary Whitehouse and her organisation, the Nationwide Festival of Light, distributed leaflets and picketed at cinemas. A number of town councils across the country banned the film, as did the whole county of Cornwall, prompting cinema owners in the adjacent county Devon to offer bus rides across county lines to watch it. Shortly after the film's release, BBC Two hosted John Cleese and Michael Palin in a discussion with the Christian writer and journalist Malcolm Muggeridge and the Bishop of Southwark, Mervyn Stockwood. The debate became farce very quickly, as it was apparent that Muggeridge and Stockwood had not watched the opening scene where it was established that Brian was not in fact Christ. Following the debate, the satirical television programme Not The Nine O'Clock News did a sketch entitled General Synod's Life of Christ where Rowan Atkinson sends up Stockwood's pomposity, as he tries to defend a film produced by the Church of England's General Synod that casts Jesus Christ as having the same relation to John Cleese as Brian has to Jesus in Life of Brian.