The first live-action musical movie based on the Christmas nativity story opens at cinemas later this month. Journey to Bethlehem is described as “a unique re-imagining of the story of Mary and Joseph and the birth of Christ.” The Daily Declaration reports it also features the Three Wise Men and King Herod’s attempts to hunt down the baby Jesus.
The musical was written, directed, composed and produced by multi-award winner Adam Anders. His production incorporates drama, song, dance and humour. He revealed to The Christian Post that it took him 17 years from the first idea to the final cut, challenging his faith in ways he never imagined as he navigated numerous sacrifices, including being away from his family for six months.
“My faith has been really challenged, and I think strengthened through this. It’s been really hard. I mean, we’ll say it’s been probably the hardest year of our lives when making this movie, but also the most gratifying. Every day, I had to start on my knees just to get through each day.”
“It was a lot of sacrifice. And that makes you really forced to get closer to God, because there were days I didn’t think I was going to get through it without my faith. So that’s definitely strengthened my faith and made me appreciate what this story is about.”
Adam Anders also had to withstand incredible spiritual opposition as he walked the delicate balance between adhering to Scripture and exercising creative liberties. He had faced the same spiritual attacks when creating the musical The Passion in 2016.
“I think that’s just the way it is when you take on a story like this, and you’re trying to get something into the dark world, some light and hope and joy and the love of Christ. You’re going to have opposition. You’ve just got to expect it. I had a target on my back. We felt more spiritual attacks on our family this year than I think we’ve ever experienced. It’s been crazy. But we’re here. God is good. Got us through, and we’re excited to see what He is going to do with this movie.”
The Sony-AFFIRM movie stars Antonio Banderas as King Herod, Fiona Palomo as Mary, Milo Manheim as Joseph and Lecrae as Gabriel. Australian Joel Smallbone of for KING & COUNTRY fame plays King’s Herod son Antipater, while his singer wife Moriah plays Mary’s older sister, Deborah.
Producer Alan Powell, who also produced the faith-based hit musical A Week Away told The Christian Post that the music in Journey to Bethlehem was crafted to complement the story without contravening the essence of the Scriptural narrative. He noted that while they had to imagine beyond the Scriptural verses, their commitment to the truth and reverence for the story was paramount.
“This story means so much to all of us that are involved, and it’s deeply important that we treat that truth and story with reverence and with respect and don’t go against anything that we feel is what Scripture tells us.”
“There’s a lot of in-betweens; there’s one verse about Joseph being a righteous man, deciding to divorce Mary in secret. That’s basically all we know about Joseph. We wanted to tell a whole story about what that might have been like for him to go through when Mary told him that she was pregnant. You’re going to have to read between the lines a little bit.”
“It was a constant journey, and one that we went on with reverence for the story and respect for the story, and hopefully told it in a way that introduces it to people who may have never heard the story before. We had a lot of fun and a lot of respect for telling it in a way that honours the original Scripture, we hope.”
Director Adam Anders emphasised that while the movie is inspired by a true story, it is not a documentary — a note the filmmakers include in the film. He explained his approach to the creative process was prayerful, seeking divine guidance on when to stay true to Scripture and when to fill in the gaps with imagination.
“I look at all the great paintings that the great artists have done throughout the history of the Nativity scene that are not Biblically accurate, but we’ve accepted as beautiful. It’s their artistic interpretation. It’s symbolism. And I felt like, if they could have that creative licence, then at times I could as well.”
The movie’s trailer was viewed more than three million times before it was even released on the big screen in the US. It opens in Australia on November 30.