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‘The Young Messiah’ Imagines Jesus as a Child

Director Cyrus Nowrasteh on what it takes to bring a young Jesus to life and how the film might deepen people’s faith. 

The Young Messiah tells the story of Jesus as a boy.
Credit: 2104 Focus Features, LLC.

Director Cyrus Nowrasteh is bringing the imagined life of a seven-year-old Jesus to the big screen in his latest film, The Young Messiah.   

The movie shows Jesus returning to Nazareth after hiding from King Herod in Egypt and Joseph and Mary’s struggles to protect their young son and  raise Him to understand His greater purpose.

It’s a story not often told, and for good reason. While films depicting Jesus’ adult life are able to pull directly from the Bible, there’s hardly any mention in that same book of what Jesus was like as a child.

Guideposts.org spoke with Nowrasteh about the difficulties in getting his film made, the extensive research involved and why he thinks audiences will leave the theater with a deeper understanding of their own faith.

Guideposts: Why take on this story?

Cyrus Nowrasteh: Because it’s never been done before. It was the most original and fresh idea I’ve heard for a story [in a long time]. We’ve seen plenty of Jesus movies about the final days and the Crucifixion, here’s an opportunity to explore the idea of Jesus as a child. I don’t think there’s a self-respecting filmmaker out there who wouldn’t leap at it.

Guideposts: You’re working at a disadvantage, not having the same source material other films focused on the later life of Jesus have. What kind of research went into making the film?

CN: Honestly I’m pulling from the same resource. What I looked at was Jesus’ ministry as it’s revealed in the Bible. That gives us a guide as to what He was like as a child. When you’re choosing to write about Him as a child and choosing to depict Him on film as a child, you go with those guidelines and try to keep Him as Biblically consistent as possible. The other thing you do is you get theologians and biblical scholars and pastors and priests to help you. It’s a tremendous responsibility, doing a movie like this, and I think it’s all in how you do it.

Guideposts: What’s the reward for you, as a filmmaker and a Christian, in making a movie like this?

CN: Just getting people to open their eyes to the idea that they can embrace their faith and re-examine Jesus from a slightly different angle. I’m watching kids watch this movie in advanced screenings , they’re on the edge of their seat, they’re leaning forward, their eyes are wide open. Why? Because they’re seeing a Jesus they’ve never seen before who’s just like them. For so many young kids, the image of Jesus suffering on the cross is kind of a scary one. Here, they can experience Jesus in a different way.

Guideposts: The film is very family-oriented. We see Mary and Joseph facing the same struggles as many other parents. Why place so much importance on Jesus’ family?

CN: We see a window into the Holy family. We see Joseph and Mary as parents. We see Jesus as a child. We’re seeing that they’re not that different from us, that the burdens resting on the shoulders of Joseph and Mary, for the most part, are the same kinds of burdens on the shoulders of parents watching the film. Seven years-old is the dawn of reason in children. It’s when they start to have a sense of their own mortality; they start to ask deeper, more thoughtful kinds of questions. That’s what the movie’s all about, asking those questions and coming to an answer at the end.

The Young Messiah hits theaters March 11th. 

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