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Director Cyrus Nowrasteh shares thoughts, hopes for 'The Young Messiah'
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Every time director Cyrus Nowrasteh begins working on a new film, he asks himself the same question: Does the story grab me?

Nowrasteh has told many stories during his more than 25 years in the film industry. Most recently, he directed a movie about Jesus Christ, which gave him an opportunity to tell what he described as the greatest story ever told.

The film, titled The Young Messiah, opens nationwide in theaters on March 11. In a recent interview, Nowrasteh shared his struggles and successes in creating the movie, as well as what the film can add to the existing repertoire of films about Christ.

Nowrasteh, whose previous works include The Stoning of Soraya M. and the Emmy-winning miniseries The Path to 9/11," said he has seen just about every film that portrays the life and ministry of Jesus Christ and that he values them all for their inspiring, faith-affirming messages. What separates Nowrastehs film from movies such as The Passion of the Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, The Son of God and many more is that it offers a glimpse into the life of Christ as a young child.

Weve all seen the final days, weve seen the crucifixion, and weve seen movies about the resurrection, Nowrasteh said. The fact that we were willing to try and had the opportunity to tell this fresh and original story about Jesus I think is a blessing.

The film is based on Anne Rices novel Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt a book both Nowrasteh and his wife read and loved. The challenge lay in transforming those words from paper to screen. Nowrasteh and his wife, screenwriter Betsy Giffen Nowrasteh, met with theologians and biblical scholars to discuss how to go about creating the film, what scenes from the book should be included and what alternative choices or sources they could embrace.

What this whole movie came down to was presenting Jesus with some measure of educated or informed conjecture, Cyrus Nowrasteh said. This is imagining a year in the boyhood of Jesus its fiction. But you want it to be a fiction that is informed, that is intelligent, that is thoughtful. And that is what we strove to do here.

Nowrasteh added that other challenges arose on account of dealing with extra-biblical material.

The Bible is our guidepost. Jesus is our guide for the character of the child Jesus, but its always risky when youre trying to do fresh, new material thats not directly from the Bible because people may cry heresy, he said. I find overall, though, generally people are willing to give it a chance.

Because very little is known about Christ as a child, the director's primary course of action was to attempt to present a child consistent with the stories of Christ in the Bible. Nowrasteh said many of the attributes associated with Christ and his ministry kindness, generosity, being charitable and loving were applied to his character in the film as a 7-year-old.

Depicting Christ as a young child also allowed for a different characteristic to have a strong presence: curiosity.

(The film) is a journey. Its about this incredibly curious child fully divine, fully human whose human side does not completely comprehend it all yet, Nowrasteh said. And in the course of this journey, he is asking questions and trying to find answers.

Nowrasteh said much of the The Young Messiah's uniqueness and power comes from approaching Christ and his life from a different angle. He believes portraying Christ as a child makes the story more relatable to children and adults alike.

Children make us melt, Nowrasteh said. We immediately want to get down to their level and connect with them and talk to them and see where their head is at.

The director hopes portraying a story of Christ as a child will especially resonate with children and give them an opportunity to discover and strengthen their own faith. He said he is most interested in his viewers and their personal interactions with the film.

I dont see myself as a teacher, a philosopher, a lecturer, anything like that. I just want to tell a good story, Nowrasteh said. If (viewers) are just entertained, wonderful. Because to just entertain someone really these days is a challenge. If the film opens their eyes a little bit to the power of Jesus as the Savior, great.

As for the film's impact on himself, Nowrasteh said directing the film was a positive experience for him and that his own faith was deepened during the process.

Just getting the movie made was rewarding for me; its a beautiful story, Nowrasteh said. Ive made the movie I wanted to make, and Im really happy about that.

In a director's statement outlining his vision for the film, Nowrasteh expressed his hope that in some small way, (the) film (would lead) viewers to the transformation and grace that Jesus extends to us all.

I just want people to give it a chance, he said. I hope they will be open to the story.
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