Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The Nativity Story latest: consultants and location

Over on Bible Films Blog Matt Page has more comment on the forthcoming Nativity Story film. (See his Nativity Story Central Page for all the relevant links). The trailer for this arrived in our local cinema this week, and supporting Open Season, so we are clearly dealing with a film that is being marketed at families.

Included on The Nativity Story website is the following information:
The filmmakers are bringing an unprecedented level of commitment to ensure the authenticity not only of the Nativity story itself, but of the film’s look as well as. Director Catherine Hardwicke, a former production designer, was adamant that every detail from the locations, to the sets, to the props, look and feel authentic. As a result, Hardwicke, writer Mike Rich, and production designer Stefano Ortolani spent countless hours researching the era.

“We got the script into the hands of as many historians and theologians as possible,” says screenwriter Mike Rich. “They have all helped elevate the authentic feel of this film, not only visually, but from a standpoint of culture and tradition.”
This is, of course, welcome news, but it is also a standard trope in the publicity for Jesus films that the research is extensive, unprecedented, accurate, etc. One way in which such claims can, I think, be measured is by asking about the historical consultants credited. Films like The Miracle Maker have a strong record here (credited consultants included Rowan Williams, N. T. Wright, Richard Burridge); likewise the Visual Bible's Gospel of John (Alan Segal, Peter Richardson, Adele Reinhartz and others). The Passion of the Christ was weaker in this respect, crediting only William Fulco. At this point, the only named consultant on The Nativity Story appears to be Fulco again, "Consultant: theology and aramaic", though it may be that others will appear in the final credits when the film is released. The use of the term "theology" is a little disappointing in this context, because one of the potential values of consulting academics for these films is also for history, for providing guidance and avoiding howlers. My general impression with Jesus films is that the "research" in question is usually related to the every day realia like costumes, hair, pots and pans and note the same feature here on IMDbs trivia page:
The cast were taught how to use certain tools used 2000 years ago as well as how to build homes, how to press olives and grapes, how to make bread, how to make cheese, and how to milk goats.
But one interesting question that Fulco's involvement raises is whether there is to be some Aramaic in this film too?

Also on the site is the following interesting note about locations:
Because the actual locations of Bethlehem and Nazareth have become fairly modernized over the years, the production decided to shoot in the village of Matera, Italy, which has been virtually unchanged for centuries (and was previously used as a location for THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST. Additionally, the production journeyed to Ouarzazate, Morocco, where it shot scenes involving Herod’s castle and the temple of Jerusalem at the same location used in such films as GLADIATOR and KINGDOM OF HEAVEN.
On Matera, this all begins with Pasolini's Gospel According to St Matthew. Gibson was a great fan of that film and imitated it at different points in Passion. Ouarzazate in Morocco has always been a favourite with Jesus films too, e.g. see my comments on Jesus and Judas. I visited it in January 2003 where the BBC / Discovery film St Paul was filmed. The BBC / Discovery film, The Virgin Mary was also filmed there (see Matt Page's post on) and although I was involved with that, I didn't travel to Ouarzazate -- I think they only paid for Charlesworth to do that -- he gets all the best gigs.


Anonymous said...

This site has a good deal of information on the upcoming film, though nothing much on the theological or historical consultants:

queen_spoo said...

This came up at the Arts & Faith Forum. I haven't heard/seen much about the consultants, but here is what I posted there (you already have William Fulco named, so I can't help you much more):

Nativity Consultants

Queen Spoo of the Nativity Blog

(Thanks to the anonymous commentor above for recommending my site!)