• Bible Films Blog

    Looking at film interpretations of the stories in the Bible - past, present and future, as well as preparation for a future work on Straub/Huillet's Moses und Aron and a few bits and pieces on biblical studies.

    Matt Page


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    Tuesday, December 12, 2006

    Book Review: "The Nativity Story", A Film Study Guide for Catholics.

    I wanted to look at some of the official resources for The Nativity Story. Since there is such an abundance of different books about the film, going back to even before it opened ten days ago, I obviously won't be able to discuss them all, but I thought I'd like to look at one or two in some detail.

    As I mentioned back in October, there are two resources for this film produced by Pauline Books and Media, written by Rose Pacette. Pacette has written a number of books on Faith and Film, including the three part "movie lectionary" series "Lights, Camera, Faith!" which she co-wrote with Peter Malone. She was also one of the advisors for The Nativity Story (her report on the film is available online).

    As the title "study guide" suggests the book is relatively short (28 pages), and divides into four sections. The first section is a general introduction to the film, sub-divided in two - one part introducing the study guide, and one introducing the film. Each of the remaining three sections forms a study guide for different settings - one for personal use, one for (small) group study, and one for a whole community. Each of these latter three sections is nicely tailored to suit the appropriate group, and the final section breaks down into sections for each of the significant dates over the Advent / Christmas period. For each dates there are questions for adults, teens and children.

    The book is unashamedly Catholic, even specifying in its subtitle that it is a "study guide for Catholics". That said, it's ecumenical enough to be very easy to adapt for individuals, groups and communities from other traditions. Whilst it mentions specifically Catholic things such as the Rosary, the Hail Mary, the Imaculate Conception and the Catechesis, they are largely incidental to the book's thrust, and could easily be passed over if so desired. Furthermore, non-Catholic groups may benefit from some of the explanation around the more Marian aspects included here. I personally found the perspective on the Hail Mary quite informative.

    At 28 pages, the book feels about the right length for most church-goers who aren't specialists in film. It doesn't introduce a lot of technical film words and phrases, and provides a good basis in theory for using film to deepen understanding. It also benefits from being written by someone who has had such close access to the film during production. In particular, Pacette has obviously had the time to fully contemplate the film and weigh its various strengths without having to rush that part of the process(critical for a work such as this) in order to meet a deadline.

    Whilst this study guide is ideally suited to Roman Catholics, it is a useful tool for anyone that wants to use The Nativity Story as a way of thinking deeply about the events of the first Christmas.

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