Filmmakers seek to inspire audiences with The Nativity Story

LOS ANGELES, CA — It has been nearly three years since The Passion of the Christ proved there was an audience for biblical movies with a strong Christian theme. Now, Hollywood is finally beginning to catch up — and what better way to follow a film about the death of Jesus than to make a film about his birth?

The Nativity Story, which comes to theatres December 1, is directed by Catherine Hardwicke, a former production designer who made her directorial debut three years ago on Thirteen, an Oscar-nominated, R-rated film about the troubled relationship between a teenaged girl and her single mother. Hardwicke followed this with Lords of Dogtown, a dynamic look at several legendary skateboarders in the 1970s.

Sex, drugs, and rock’n'roll were all prominent features of Hardwicke’s first two films, so it might seem like a stretch that she would then go on to tackle a rather pious account of the virginal conception of Christ. But the film does star 16-year-old New Zealander Keisha Castle-Hughes, who became the youngest best-actress Oscar nominee in history two years ago for her performance in Whale Rider; and Hardwicke says the new film actually fits quite nicely with her previous youth-oriented movies.

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‘Contemporary Christian cinema’ needs talented, prophetic artists

THESE ARE interesting times for Christian film buffs. Nearly three years have passed since The Passion of the Christ rode a wave of controversy to the top of the box office, and studios have been looking for a way to replicate that success ever since.

The key thing about The Passion may be that it was self-financed. Unlike, say, the big-screen version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe — which toned down the book’s Christian elements to appeal to as wide an audience as possible — Mel Gibson’s movie was bold and uncompromising, all because he paid for it himself.

No one expects the next big Christian movie to be anywhere near that big a hit. But increasingly, secular studios are coming to realize that the best way to sell movies to Christians may be to pick up the movies that Christians are already making.

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Comment: Rethinking The Passion in light of Gibson’s folly

YOU MAY have heard about a little incident involving Mel Gibson, a speeding car, an open bottle of booze, and some racist and sexist remarks in late July.

For some people, the incident proved what many had been saying for at least three years, namely that Gibson is an anti-Semite, and that the controversial movie he made about the death of Jesus, The Passion of the Christ, is anti-Semitic.

But is it as simple as that? There are several issues tangled up in this story, and each one needs to be addressed separately.

First, it is dangerous to define a person by the sins with which they struggle.

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Review: Shooting Dogs (dir. Michael Caton-Jones, 2005)

SHOOTING DOGS would make an interesting double-bill with Hotel Rwanda.

Both films concern the genocide of 1994 — and the shock that those living in that country felt when the international community failed to do much more than evacuate those with white skin.

But whereas the latter film was largely about Africans who survived the massacre, thanks to a cunning hotel manager who knew how to push the buttons of the social elites, the new film concerns a Catholic priest (John Hurt) and a teacher at his school (Hugh Dancy), who can do little more than watch as the world gives up on their friends and neighbours.

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Grappling with the Da Vinci juggernaut

“SEEK the truth.”

So say the posters for The Da Vinci Code. And so say many Christians who hope to make this movie a witnessing opportunity when it opens May 19 — despite its dismissal of the divinity of Jesus and its controversial claims about the marital status of Christ, the formation of the Bible and the church’s treatment of women.

In contrast to past controversies, such as the various efforts to suppress Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ in the 1980s, pastors and scholars have written books, prepared sermon series, and created websites devoted to “engaging” the movie and book versions of The Da Vinci Code as part of an ongoing “dialogue” with the larger culture.

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Interview: Ridley Scott & Orlando Bloom (Kingdom of Heaven, 2005)

LOS ANGELES, CA — There have been surprisingly few films about the Crusades, and most have been ambivalent at best about the legacy of those wars.

Perhaps the biggest Hollywood production until now was Cecil B. DeMille’s The Crusades (1935), a pious romance that impressed future Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser so much that he allowed DeMille to use the Egyptian army as extras in his remake of The Ten Commandments.

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