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Documentary series hosted by professor takes a look at everyday life in ancient Israel

By Antoinette Mercurio

Arne Kislenko

History professor Arne Kislenko and film instructor David Langer are host and producer for Living in the Time of Jesus, an upcoming National Geographic television series.

An award-winning Ryerson professor and instructor have travelled back in time to experience ancient living.

History professor Arne Kislenko and film instructor David Langer are host and producer of a three-part National Geographic series called Living in the Time of Jesus, set to broadcast throughout North America in fall 2010. The two spent December in Israel filming the first two episodes. The series delves into the everyday life of the biblical era, from the birth of Jesus to the destruction of the second temple in 70 A.D.

Kislenko was selected to host the series ahead of potential candidates from across the U.S., Canada and the U.K. A casting director asked him to consider the series after seeing him on TVO, when he won the network's 2005 Best Lecturer competition. As host of the National Geographic series, Kislenko will take viewers on a journey through life in biblical times. He interviews experts and experiences life at the time such as fishing in Galilee, plowing a field with a donkey, herding sheep and making a biblical-era meal.

"I am doing this for very simple reasons: more adventure, unusual opportunities, especially for a 44-year-old academic, and a chance to meet new folks and see new places," Kislenko said. "This has been a great experience and the folks I worked with in Israel, including David, have been just amazing. I had such a good time with them all and they made the whole experience that much more positive and fun. And having spent my life reading National Geographic and loving what it does, it was a no-brainer when someone asks you 'want to do a National Geographic documentary?'"

Although the series loosely uses the Jesus narrative, it primarily focuses on the culture, history and archaeology of the time period. The docu-series consists of three one-hour episodes, each with their own theme. Episode one explains employment, social class and how people got by; the second episode deals with medicine and how people battled illnesses; and the third focuses on law and order.

As producer, Langer runs the show from top to bottom, mainly executing the creative look and gathering content to organize how it's presented. The decision to accept the project was a no-brainer for Langer as well, having been to Israel before, he was keen to return and the subject matter intrigued him.

"It's a country full of history. Every step is rooted in a timeline that's affected every person," Langer said. "And the amazing thing about the whole experience is that when you work for National Geographic, it's such a widely recognized, phenomenal brand, it just brings smiles to people's faces and opens doors."

Living in the Time of Jesus will air on Vision TV in Canada and National Geographic Television in the U.S.

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