"Nativity" centers on the two-year period of Mary and Joseph's life, culminating in their leaving Nazareth and journeying 100 miles to Bethlehem for the birth of Jesus. Key characters and events such as King Herod, John the Baptist's parents (Zachariah and Elizabeth), the shepherds who were witness to Jesus' birth; and the arrival of the three kings from the Orient will be fleshed out.Writer: Mike Rich
Agent: Charles Ferraro of UTA
Buyer: New Line Cinema
More: Spec. Pre-emptive purchase. No producers are attached as yet.
Looks like it could be interesting, although I've become a little suspicious of new bible films being made ever since the success of the Passion. On the one hand it's good to see more being made, but on the other I can't help wondering if this is studios trying to cash in on the Passion bandwagon.
I've actually never seen a feature length film on the nativity story, unless you count Jean-Luc Godard's modern re-contextualising Je vous salue, Marie (Hail Mary). I have seen two shorter films that solely focus on the nativity, a 5 minute short produced by the Church of the Latter Day Saints, and a 45 minute film made by the same company that did Dogtanian, both of which were simply called "The Nativity". The latter is one of a myriad of cartoon versions of the story, most of which focus on minor characters. The former was sans dialogue, but did contain some effective sound effects like flies buzzing as Mary and Joseph enter the stable.
But other fuller length films have been made of the story. Most notably two films at the end of the seventies went head to head. Madeline Stowe starred opposite John Shea in the , yet again, imaginatively titled The Nativity in 1978. This film also starred a pre-Indiana Jones/Lord of the Rings John Rhys Davies, and possibly the oldest character ever to play Salome, Kate O'Mara - a native of my adopted county of Leicestershire - who was pushing 40 at the time.
A year later there was Mary and Joseph: A Story of Faith, starring no-one particularly interesting (unless you count Marilla from Anne of Green Gables), and lasting for over two and a half hours. There was also a film called Mary and Joseph made in 1972, and another film called The Nativity made in 1952. There are a few pictured from that film at buyoutfootage.com
I haven't seen any of these last four, and to be honest I find to difficult to work up any enthusiam about them. Most of the longer Jesus epics manage to wring as much screen time out of those few chapters as possible, and few of the nativity films have much in the way of innovation. That is probably why I appreciate what Godard was trying to do, although it's still a strange and over-long film.
The most affecting portrayal of the birth of Jesus I have seen was actually from a BBC documentary Mary, which dared to show Mary as a young girl (as she apparently would have been), and a more realistic depiction of the birth - strikingly different from both the tranquil stable of the Christmas cards and the TV depictions of modern day births.
Sadly though it appears that the new film will go down the traditional route. The mention of three kings (opposed to Matthew's unspecified number of "Magi") in the blurb above, and the mention of a journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem (as in Luke) opposed to the whole story seemingly taking place in Bethlehem (as in Matthew). This reinforces my worry that this film is seeking to cash in on the devout. Nothing in the blurb above suggests that the script takes a more historical, or challenging approach to the story - just what is needed in my opinion.