The Infancy Gospel of Thomas — an apocryphal gospel that probably dates to the 2nd century AD — tells a story in which Jesus, at the age of five, makes twelve sparrows out of clay and then claps his hands and tells them to fly away. Although this story appears nowhere in the New Testament, some variation on it has appeared in at least three different films about Jesus, one of which is coming out later this week.
The young Jesus bringing birds to life: three films that have depicted this tale from one of the apocryphal gospels
It’s a hot Tuesday morning in late October on the outskirts of Ouarzazate, a city in the heart of Morocco, and Jesus is having trouble getting birds to fly.
It’s something of a cliché for religion-minded pop-culture writers to talk about the parallels between Superman and Jesus, especially when there’s a new Superman movie in the works, but Zack Snyder, director of the upcoming Superman reboot Man of Steel, said something in one of the film’s newer promotional featurettes that got me thinking about the parallel from a slightly different angle than usual.
Specifically, Snyder described how the approach taken by producer Chris Nolan and screenwriter David S. Goyer would make Superman relevant to a 21st-century audience: “What Chris and David did was, ‘Let’s let the audience participate in the experience of being Superman, without breaking the things that make him Superman.’ They were able to sort of make him relatable, ground him and make him feel real.”
Two things came to mind on hearing this statement.
Of the making of movies about Jesus, there is no end. In the first three months of this year alone: Son of Man, which casts a black man as Christ and sets his life in modern South Africa, got positive reviews at Sundance; the makers of Color of the Cross, which also casts a black man as Christ, established a website with trailers for their work-in-progress; and New Line Cinema announced that Oscar nominees Keisha Castle-Hughes (Whale Rider) and Shohreh Aghdashloo (House of Sand and Fog) will star as the Virgin Mary and her cousin Elizabeth in a new movie about the Nativity, to be released in time for Christmas.