The studio hasn’t released any pictures yet, to my knowledge, but today Sony Pictures Animation sent out a press release announcing the voice cast for its upcoming film The Star, which tells the story of the first Christmas from the animals’ point of view.
The Young Messiah, which came out on DVD yesterday, isn’t the first movie to spend more than a scene or two on Jesus when he was a boy. It isn’t even the second. A few months ago I reviewed A Child Called Jesus, a 1987 film that has some striking parallels to The Young Messiah. Now I’d like to take a brief look at The Holy Family, a two-part TV-movie that has fewer parallels but is still interesting in its own way.
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending the world premiere of Killing Jesus at the Sun Valley Film Festival and speaking to Haaz Sleiman, the actor who plays Jesus. We had met before when I visited the set last year, but back then he still had certain crucial scenes to film, including the crucifixion, whereas when I spoke to him in Sun Valley, he and I had both just seen the completed film for the first time.
Fred Clark posted a really interesting item this morning, noting that “the true meaning of Christmas” can be found in a poem spoken by Mary not long after she learned that she was pregnant with the Son of God — and he notes that the poem in question has a significant political edge, in which the powerful are brought down from their thrones while the humble are lifted up, and the rich are sent away hungry while the poor are filled.
This got me curious as to how many films have actually reflected the edgier aspects of this poem, which is known as the Magnificat. And the answer is: not many. In fact, there are very few films that incorporate the Magnificat at all, and those that do usually cut out the more politically-charged stuff. Usually, but not always.
The Passion of The Christ was an independent movie, paid for entirely out of Mel Gibson’s pocket. The Prince of Egypt was an animated film that emphasized the common ground between Jews, Christians and Muslims. The Last Temptation of Christ was a low-budget art-house flick based on a heretical novel.
You would have to go back at least as far as King David, the mid-1980s box-office flop starring Richard Gere, to find another live-action movie produced by a major Hollywood studio and based directly on the Bible. And you would have to go back even further — to the bathrobe epics of the 1960s, at least — to find a mainstream biblical movie that was as blatantly Christian as 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.