• 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.

    Wednesday, May 01, 2019

    Flint Street Nativity (1999)


    It's a bit of a stretch including Flint Street Nativity on this site as it's not really a dramatisation of the Bible as such. Jesus, for example, appears only as a large soft-bodied doll with a grotesque head - and even that falls of partway through. Instead it's the story of a school putting on a nativity play, only the children are all played by a host of TV comedians and actors from twenty years ago. The sets are scaled accordingly and the characters talk like kids, and their teacher is largely confined to just off screen, as a series of disasters and tangled relationships unfurl whilst the parents watch in the dark. Personally I was a little disappointed that it wasn't as funny as I expected. Frank Skinner's Inn Keeper / Herod figure obsessed by the quiz show A Question of Sport providing the most amusing highlights.

    Where things change, however, is in the programme's final act, once the show has come to a calamitous halt. The camera switches from following the kids around to mingling amongst their parents, who are also played by the corresponding actors. Suddenly we get a bit more depth to each child's more quirky behaviours, a glimpse of the stories that have shaped them the way they are. Moments here are genuinely moving, not least for the way it highlights that schools remain a place that children from different backgrounds mix largely unaware of the extent to which their parents are rich or poor, and coping or not coping. And somehow in the midst of that the film finds a note of hope.

    Twenty years on Flint Street Nativity is still remembered by those that saw it at the time, even if those of us that didn't had somehow never heard of it, but in the interim all that has really changed is that some of the actors have faded from view whilst others carry on. That in itself adds an additional air of nostalgia to what was already a nostalgic piece at the time. But it never idealises the trials of childhood and perhaps its biggest strength is the questions it leaves unresolved.

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