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Director Cyrus Nowrasteh points alongside actor Adam Greaves-Neal, left center, on the set of “The Young Messiah.”

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‘The Young Messiah’ imagines Jesus as a vulnerable child in a violent Roman Empire
February 14th, 2016
By Valerie Schmalz

“The Young Messiah,” set for release March 11, imagines Jesus at 7 and 8 years old as a child who is just beginning to understand his nature as son of God and son of man. Jesus and his family are set in a suspenseful story that recreates a time when the Jews were a subjugated race in the Roman Empire and a despotic King Herod ruled capriciously and violently.

“I felt it was an opportunity to go inside the Holy Family in a way you haven’t seen in many movies. That also comes with many risks,” director Cyrus Nowrasteh said at a Feb. 3 advance screening in San Francisco. The film is based on Anne Rice’s novel “Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt” and she “loves it” although the plot is changed somewhat and two key characters, a Roman centurion, and King Herod, are added to the film.

Nowrasteh co-wrote the screen play with his wife Betsy Giffen Nowrasteh with whom he also co-wrote “The Stoning of Soraya M.,” which he directed.

“We hope and pray that people see the movie, that that they are affected by the movie, that they come out talking about Jesus,” said Nowrasteh. “We also hope that secular folks that see the movie connect with it. It is a family story.”

Well-written and convincingly acted, “The Young Messiah” is both more down to earth and more suspenseful than many religious themed films. It features mostly unknown actors with the exception of the Roman centurion portrayed by Sean Bean who recently was in the first season of “Game of Thrones.” The child actor Adam Greaves-Neal plays Jesus and Sara Lazzaro, another unknown, is Mary. Vincent Walsh is Joseph.

Although it bills itself as “an inspirational story for the whole family,” some scenes are very evocative of evil and others are violent and some parents might judge them to be inappropriate for young children.

Similar to “Risen,” the film is produced by top-tier Hollywood talent and takes an out of the box approach that is set in biblical times and true to Catholic understanding of Christ. “The Young Messiah” has been endorsed by evangelical and Catholic leaders, including Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston and Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput.

The movie was “dead” and $3 million in the red when Nowrasteh found new backers, including Chris Columbus of 1492 Pictures, who said at the screening, “I am so proud of this movie.” Columbus is known for “Home Alone,” directed the first two Harry Potter films, and produced the first three Harry Potters, “The Help” and numerous other films.

From February 18, 2016 issue of Catholic San Francisco.


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