How do you explain the ways of the world to its Creator? How do you teach the Teacher? How do you help the Savior who came to save you?
Soon his message and ministry will shake the world. But for now, the boy is just seven years old, and his family is leaving Egypt to return to their home. Inspired by Scripture and rooted in history, The Young Messiah imagines a year in the boyhood of Jesus.
Remaining true to the character of Jesus revealed in the Bible, this film is an inspirational story about the childhood of the Savior for the whole family. When the mystery of Jesus’ divinity begins to unfold in His early years, He turns to His parents for answers. But Mary and Joseph, in an effort to protect their child, are afraid to reveal all they know.
Award-winning Director/Writer Cyrus Nowrasteh is known for his work on the poignant true story The Stoning of Soraya M., as well as his biographical drama The Day Reagan was Shot. But his latest work, releasing nationwide for Easter on March 11, 2016, is telling a story of Jesus rarely seen before.
Sonoma Christian Home recently connected with Nowrasteh to talk about his vision for The Young Messiah, historical accuracy, and what sets this film apart from any other. SCH Editor at Large Dr. Diane Howard reports.
SCH: When approaching historical accuracy in The Young Messiah, which sources did you use to shape the early life of Jesus?
CN: This movie is an imagined story of what is must have been like in Jesus’ early years because very little is in the Bible about His early life. However, as writers of the screenplay we have paid great attention to the history, cultures of the time, and to Biblical scholarship. The movie is based on Anne Rice’s novel Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, that she wrote after she had a spiritual awakening and converted to Catholicism. Some of the imagined extra-Biblical material for the novel and movie came from 2000 year old stories that came out of Egypt, especially Alexandria, after the Holy Family was there.
The Young Messiah is intended as reverential but relatable and authentic for families. We have seen that even skeptics connect with the characters and story on an emotional level. We hope that viewers will fall in love with the characters and that “their skepticism will be dismissed and go out the window.” I have watched a lot of Biblical movies, but directed The Young Messiah from my heart, wanting a fresh look at the life of Christ.
SCH: Who will most enjoy The Young Messiah?
CN: The Young Messiah will universally appeal to older children and families worldwide from a broad range of cultural backgrounds. This movie presents the Holy Family as real people in the Jewish and Roman backgrounds of the time. One pastor stood up at a test screening of the movie to say that it is the best Jesus movie he has seen because the characters are relatable
The movie’s audience is older children and families. Adam Greaves-Neal beautifully performs the balance of the humanity and divinity of young Jesus Christ. The movie has family appeal because young Mary is not just an icon. She is accessible. Joseph is not just wallpaper. He is real, strong, and embracing. Viewers feel the presence of the family as a unit.
Even secular audiences in screenings have responded to the humanity and family unity of the Holy Family. One man said that Joseph in the movie inspired him to be a better father. The movie is relatable on a real human family level.
As it honors Jewish traditions, this movie is relatable to Jewish families. Rabbis have responded enthusiastically because is picturizes a real Jewish family in a chaotic world in need of a Messiah.
This movie has universal appeal for all ages, faiths, and cultural backgrounds.
SCH: Tell us about your choices concerning dialects and accents in the film.
CN: I directed the actors to match their dialects to that of Adam’s in his portrayal of Jesus. He used a natural sounding British dialect with a universal appeal that is appropriate for classic material and for his portrayal of Jesus as human and divine. I directed the dialects to be unified and consistent throughout the movie.
Most importantly, I wanted the dialogue to be understandable and natural. The clarity of the dialogue and the unified dialects give the dialogue a beautiful, artistic, and classic quality that is understandable throughout.
SCH: How did the film team develop the antagonist and dramatic tension in the movie? What was your inspiration?
CN: The Satan character was a blend of a real, beautiful but evil, angel presence that only young Jesus could see. This figure and the centurion who pursued Jesus was handled carefully and delicately so that it would be realistic. The toy camel that Jesus was been given but the centurion found and kept was a child-like symbol reminding viewers that the one pursued was a child.
The building of the conflict in the movie was a delicate balance directed to look natural, realistic, and authentic. The movie is captivating and builds in intensity and with a sense of jeopardy with the carefully crafted antagonists. However, while there is a constant sense of danger, there is also a sense of God’s presence, guidance, and protection in the life of the young Jesus. Against the background of evil darkness, the movie is a “journey into the light.”
SCH: How would you describe this movie as unique among other Jesus films?
CN: Each of the characters is relatable. Young Mary and Joseph are compelling and captivating in their humanity combined with strength of character. They, like Jesus, are realistic, relatable role models. This movie will be especially inspiring to older children and to young families. This movie has had broad and cross appeal to people of different faith backgrounds.
SCH: Do you have any insight on the increasing number of redemptive and Biblical movies hitting theaters?
CN: I wish other redemptive and faith-based movies well, because one movie builds on the growing momentum of earlier movies. I believe the movie The Passion of the Christ started a wild fire of faith-based movies, made possible with the divine creation of the camera and ever-improving cinematography. The faith-based movies in theaters are all connected, linked. Each one builds on the earlier ones.
SCH: Do you think God is revealing Himself through these movies?
CN: Yes, I think the camera is a divine creation.
SCH: What did you learn about timing in producing a movie?
CN: It took five years. At one point we ran out of money with three million invested in pre-production. However, we persevered and the movie was produced and now held for the Easter Season. The movie was better for the delay.
SCH: Who is the composer for the captivating, suspenseful, Eastern-sounding music for the movie?
CN: John Debney (The Passion of the Christ, Iron Man 2, The Jungle Book) is our composer. He is angel of a man and faith- driven. He composed for a wonderful soundtrack as he “was moved by the story” of seven-year-old Jesus Christ who begins to understand the truth about his life when he returns to Nazareth from Egypt.
Written by Diane Howard, Ph.D. (Performance Studies), dianehoward.com