Archive for Cyrus Nowrasteh

‘Young Messiah’ director: How I came to make a Bible movie

_MG_8328If you’re like me, you cringe when you hear that Hollywood is making a Bible movie. What could possibly go wrong? As we all know by now, plenty.

So you can imagine the challenge I faced when I was first approached about adapting an Anne Rice novel into a movie about what Jesus’ life might have been like during the years in which the Bible is silent.

I was scared about the prospect but also fascinated-you see even though I was born and raised in the Midwest (go Badgers!)

I didn’t come to my own faith in Jesus Christ the conventional suburban Christian American way. I was born of Muslim parents who fled Iran and brought me up in a secular home, but I gravitated toward Christianity beginning with my marriage to Betsy who is also my screenwriting partner.

My faith grew deeper in recent years which made it seem only natural — and perhaps preordained — that this project would fall in my lap. The instinct to run with it was strong and immediate. I had to get this film made. I had to tell this story. For it was a clear expression of my story and my gravitation to Jesus.

But how to tell a story faithfully about a period we know almost nothing about? That question haunted me. I talked it over with Anne, friends, my wife and of course God himself. How could I honor Him through this work?

What I learned from getting to know Anne Rice was that she too sought to honor, not besmirch God through her novel. Although her Catholic faith was different than mine, we shared a common belief that the man from Nazareth was more than just a man and that with the Holy Spirit’s guidance, we might try to imagine what Jesus’ life was like in the years between his birth and public ministry.

In the rich history of Jesus movies we’ve never seen Jesus’ life as a boy. There are great challenges involved because we know very little about his childhood. We know of his birth, the three Kings visiting the child with gifts, and we know at age 12 that young Jesus visited the Temple in Jerusalem and schooled the rabbis to their amazement.

I seek to present a realistic fictional portrait of Jesus inspired by Scripture and rooted in history. We imagine one year in the boyhood of Jesus. Most important to us was that we present a child who is consistent with the character of Jesus as revealed in the Bible.

Our story takes place when Jesus is seven years old. With the Holy Land in turmoil, young Jesus and his family leave Egypt (where they fled after the slaughter in Bethlehem seven years earlier) for the treacherous road home to Nazareth.

Like parents today, Joseph and Mary are fully aware of the dangers of their world: a corrupt King Herod, civil unrest, and brutal occupying Roman force. What was it like for Mary and Joseph to parent a child unlike any child before? How could they protect and guide him?

In terms of young Jesus the challenge of making this film was to present him as both fully divine and fully human. What did he know about himself and when did he know it?

Anne Rice’s dazzling novel addresses this fundamental question through the voice of young Jesus, his thoughts, his interactions, as he relates the journey back to the Holy Land.

He can state and reflect as he goes along.In a movie we have to show it and dramatize it in order for it to have any impact. Thus, the challenge of adapting any novel forces the filmmaker to make choices, to streamline, to focus. Through the voice of the main character Anne is able to relate the fears, the trepidations, the unknowns. In a film we have to make this tangible by creating characters who represent these. Hence the addition of young King Herod and the Roman centurion, Severus, played beautifully by actor Sean Bean.

But the biggest challenge is a theological one. We wanted to portray young Jesus acting in a way consistent with his adult ministry. Therefore we show a child who reacts to situations similar to how the Bible tells us about how Jesus reacted to like situations as an adult.

Luke 2:52 was a great guidepost for us: “He grew in wisdom, and in favor with God and man.” Attempting to summon the voice, the presence, and the words of Jesus brings with it inherent risks. We’ve tried to do so with reverence and respect.

While millions of Americans flocked to see Mel Gibson’s amazing work “The Passion of The Christ,” few remember that the movie wasn’t actually based upon the Bible, but rather upon a book by a German nun named Anne Catherine Emmerich who saw vivid visions of the death of Jesus and transcribed them.

In “The Passion,” Mel Gibson decided to give Satan a creepy baby, and was extensively questioned by some religious leaders about this extra-Biblical choice. I loved his response, when he said he did it because he knew that Satan likes to copy God so he figured he’d give Satan a son since God had Jesus.

That’s what artists often do–we fill in the lines and add color and context-and film is a great canvas, trying to imagine moments that we can’t know, yet doing our best to ensure they are consistent with the character and nature of our subjects.

The faith tradition of my ancestors doesn’t allow for the image of God to be captured in any form of art. My faith has a rich history of such depictions from the great masters who imagined what our Savior might have looked like and sought to honor him with their talents, asking Him to guide their brush strokes.

I may not be a great master, but in my own way I hope I’ve accomplished the same goal and it is my hope that those who already worship Jesus of Nazareth will grow to love him more and that those who haven’t thought much about him will be inspired by this story of a great man that all religions and cultures revere.

Reposted from FOX News

Faith Leaders UNITE To Praise “The Young Messiah”

The following reviews from faith leaders can be also be found here.

“Succeeds beautifully in imagining the mystery.” – Steve McEveety, CEO, Mpower Pictures, Producer of “The Passion of the Christ”

The Young Messiah is incredibly entertaining but just as much, it is spiritually inspiring and stimulating as we contemplate what the early years of Jesus’ life entailed. You MUST see it.” – Dr. Johnny Hunt, former head of Southern Baptist Convention, and Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church Woodstock

“I absolutely loved it. It is so fresh, unique, biblical, historical, captivating and engaging. My 10-year-old was riveted. My 13-year-old had her eyes opened. It was so impacting. Beautifully shot. I cannot wait for it to hit the theaters in March. You will want to take your friends – the conversations will be incredible!” – Christine Caine, President, A21

“It’s a remarkable movie that is tightly paced, excellently scripted and well-filmed.” – Bob Waliszewski, Focus on the Family

“I just loved The Young Messiah. We work with over 2 million kids and I’d love to see the students we work with have an opportunity to see this film.” – Denny Rydberg, President, Young Life

“It was beautiful in every way.” – Tami Heim, President, Christian Leadership Alliance

“…It is a powerful movie, and it sets the stage for understanding who Jesus is and what He does for our salvation.” – Doug Beacham, Presiding Bishop, International Pentecostal Holiness Church

“I was very moved by The Young Messiah and found it to be one of the best biblically-inspired films I have ever seen.” – Kevin Palau, President, Luis Palau Association

“Moving, inspiring, and hope-filled. For everyone who believes that Love wins. A MUST SEE!” – Rev. Gabriel Salguero, President, National Latino Evangelical Coalition

“Inspiring, entertaining, informative, and affirming. Amazing!” – Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, President, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference

“The setting, music, acting, and storyline all came together in a powerful and poetic manner.” -Dr. John Stumbo, President, The Christian and Missionary Alliance

“It ignites your imagination of what it might have been like to know Jesus as a child. It makes his coming to earth seem so plausible and realistic!” – Ron Luce, President, Teen Mania Ministries

“The tears around me in the theater spoke clearly. This is the ultimate example of childlike faith, and it will also help kids seek goodness and kindness.” – Anthony Begonia, Salvation Army

“I truly believe it will inspire rich conversations, deep questions, and point many people to the Bible – maybe for the first time!” – Karen Covell, Hollywood Prayer Network

“Thank you for a beautiful and well told story that gives a great introduction to the the message of the Gospel of Jesus and the whole New Testament. Thank you.” – Denny Bellesi, Pastor, Coast Hills Community Church

“Eye-opening.” – David West, Youth Pastor, New Season Church

“Beautifully shot and the acting was well done.” – Jeff Redmond, Recovery Pastor, Bayside Church

“his movie is a tender portrayal of a childhood Jesus that shows great respect for historical accuracy as well as theological concerns.” – Gary Brandenbur, Senior Pastor, Fellowship Bible Church Dallas

“I highly recommend this film to those who believe, to skeptics, to those who have an open heart for what could be.” – Eric Bryant, Pastor, Gateway Church

“Very well done. Interesting take on events we can only speculate about.” – Mark White, Pastor, Park View Bible Baptist Church

The Young Messiah navigates the question of ‘what did Jesus know and when did he know it’ in interesting fashion.” – Chris Spearman, Associate Pastor, Westwood United Methodist Church

“It invites us to imagine Jesus’ own journey of self-discovery …sure to provoke conversations among Christians and non-Christians alike.” – Tony Jones, author of Did God Kill Jesus?

“The highlight for me was the intimate talk between Jesus and Mary at the end of the film…” – Dr. Walt Winters, Former Director of International Ministries – Lutheran Hour Ministries

“Positive – Beautifully shot, the actors and actresses were terrific – loved the child who played Jesus.” – Adam Hamilton, Senior Pastor – The Church of the Resurrection

“I want every pastor, priest, Christian leader, follower of Jesus and even those who are not believers to see The Young Messiah. You will be taken into an atmosphere where you are captivated at how Jesus must have dealt with being fully human and fully God.” – Pastor Jay Dennis, Church at the Mall, Lakeland, FL

“A poem, a work of art, a symphony, a beautiful sunset – authentic truth in story form.” – Marty Caldwell, EVP, Young Life

“I would recommend this film.” – Kirk Blank, The Munce Group

“An emotionally soul capturing movie.” – Andre Soto, Pastor, Woodcliff Baptist Church

 

“The Young Messiah is an imaginative and outstanding movie. It vividly portrays the early life of Jesus as a special boy who was much more than a carpenter’s son. The entire cast does a remarkable job, especially Adam Greaves-Neal as young Jesus. We are pleased to award the film our ‘Faith-Friendly Seal for ages 12-plus.” – Dove.org

“An epic, exhilarating journey.” – Avi Offer, NYCMovieguru.com

“This is a fantastic movie that engages the imagination in historical fiction, allowing us to see what it might have been like for Jesus as a child.” – Jess Stainbrook, Founder,1615.tv

“Captivating, inspiring and deeply moving.” – Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston

“A portrait true to biblical faith but without sentimentality….an exceptional movie, engaging from start to finish; a film worth seeing and owning and seeing again.” – Archbishop Charles Chaput, Archdiocese of Philadelphia

“This presentation of The Young Messiah perhaps opens a door into people’s hearts that otherwise would have been shut because either of their fear of God, anger with God or indifference to God.” – Archbishop Thomas Wenski, Archdiocese of Miami

“An enthusiastic endorsement…will strengthen the faith of all who see it.” – Bishop Daniel Jenky, Diocese of Peoria

“Seeing what it might have been like for Jesus as a child certainly opened a window where Scriptures are silent.  In The Young Messiah, the family dynamics make a compelling story as Jesus begins to grow into his destiny as Savior of the world.” – Sheila Hopkins, President, National Council of Catholic Women

“A wonderfully crafted and inspiring film for the entire family to enjoy and, perhaps, even be transformed by!” – Michael Theisen, National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry, Director of Ministry Formation

“Beautiful film with a compelling story.” – Rev. David Guffey, Family Theater Productions

“Engaging, tender…fall in love with Jesus Christ all over again.” – Lisa Hendey, CatholicMom.com Founder and Editor

“Keeps the story very consistent with what the Scriptures tell us.” – Sister Rose Pacatte (Sister Rose at the Movies)

“A powerful testament to a lived faith.” – Rev. Steve Sallot, Vicar General, Diocese of Orange

“Very inspirational for families; can provide a wonderful discussion for parents and their children not only about Jesus, but what does it mean for all of us to grow up in faith filled families.” – Rev. Felix Just, S.J., Ph.D, Loyola Institute

“A unique view into the Holy Family and a young Jesus.” – Randy Raus, President/CEO, Life Teen Inc.

“Beautiful, haunting, thought provoking, and deeply, deeply reverent.” Jenny Uebbing, Catholic News Agency/Mama Needs Coffee

“I think it will be great for my imagination for many weeks and many months to come…the way that faith is challenged in very complex situations but at times there is a clarity that shines through and a simplicity of the faith that is just- inspiring and leaves you with a sense that God enters into this violent world and brings something very different.” – Bishop Thomas Olmsted, Diocese of Phoenix

“Beautiful. Very human. A wonderful presentation on the child Jesus” Sr. Joan Paula Arruda, Daughters of Saint Paul, superior

“A beautiful depiction of Jesus as a child. Something we have never seen before!” -*Heather Flynn, LIFT MINISTRIES, Director

“Great exploration of the humanity of Jesus the Son of God in the context of family life and the hidden moments of his childhood.” -Jaymie Stuart Wolfe, Boston Pilot Columnist and Pauline Books and Media, author and editor

THE YOUNG MESSIAH review from Sr. Helena Burns

YoungMessiahThe Young Messiah is the best Jesus movie ever. Based on Anne Rice’s historical novel, Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, it combines the latest and best in filmmaking, the dramatic arts, mature biblical scholarship, theology and imagination. It is biblically and theologically sound (always a tricky task when speaking about Jesus, but even more so the Child Jesus and his “human knowledge”–what did he/didn’t he allow himself to know in his humanity?) There has been some talk that “apocryphal writings” inspired some scenes. “Apocryphal” does not mean “Gnostic.” The apocryphal Proto-Evangelium of James was used by early Christians as devotional reading. But it’s not the Word of God.

FILMMAKERS DID THEIR HOMEWORK

The Young Messiah shows lots of homework was done. No trendy twenty-first-century ideas plopped in. No outlandish “what if” musings (beyond Jesus bringing a bird back to life). The dialogue is so carefully crafted that every word effortlessly rings true in these fully fleshed-out and delightful characters. The text of the Scriptures is faithfully adhered to (without really taking liberties) and then sundry plot points–that totally work–are skillfully woven in to bring life to the text. Every scene is to support the text, not draw away from it. All exposition is invisible and clever. The British-accented cast slays it.

This story of one year in the life of the Child Jesus begins with Jesus in Egypt being bullied by another boy from the Jewish community, and escalates into some gripping action which it maintains to one degree or another throughout the film. Never boring. Never trite. There are no hackneyed turns of phrases. The theology is precise. This film has everything in it but the sensational.

Read more from Hell Burns

The Blaze interview with Cyrus Nowrasteh about new film The Young Messiah

Listen to Cyrus Nowrasteh speaking with The Blaze about The Young Messiah (2016).

Cyrus Nowrasteh Interviewed by Raymond Arroyo About The Young Messiah (2016)

Raymond Arroyo interviewed writer/director Cyrus Nowrasteh about his latest production, The Young Messiah (2016) on December 10th, 2015.

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