'The Nativity Story' Named Best Jesus Movie Since 1890s

|PIC1|New Line Cinema's The Nativity Story has been called the best movie about the birth of Jesus since nativity movies were first produced in the 1890s.

"With the release of The Nativity Story, Hollywood is finally putting Jesus Christ back into Christmas," Dr. Ted Baehr, chairman of the Christian Film & Television Commission noted recently.

The film heads to more than 3,000 of the nation's movie theatres on 1 December.

"Hollywood has recognised there's a gigantic part of the population that goes to church each week," Baehr said. "Go see The Nativity Story, and tell your family and friends to do the same."

The movie tells the story of the birth of Jesus "in a compelling, captivating, entertaining and inspiring matter that shatters expectations," according to Baehr, who has reviewed the film. "The Nativity Story is refreshingly dramatic, so much so that the movie will elicit tears at points," he wrote.

Baehr, a renowned critic, educator, lecturer and media pundit, is the founder and publisher of Movieguide.

Baehr's assessment of changes in Hollywood track with similar trends in America. After years of "holidays" being used to describe the Christmas season, some cracks in the politically correct dam have begun to open, as retailers like Wal-Mart, Kohl's Corp. and Macy's are beginning to use the term "Merry Christmas."

The moves respond to mounting criticism from religious groups that staged boycotts against Wal-Mart and other merchants after they eliminated or de-emphasized "Christmas" in their advertising.

"...The Nativity Story is biblically accurate, historically authentic, and visually stunning. Written with heart... it's destined to become a beloved Christmas classic," said Anne Graham Lotz, founder of AnGeL Ministries and daughter of evangelist Billy Graham.

The Nativity Story, which was produced by the same company that produced the Oscar-winning The Lord of the Rings, will make its world premiere at the Vatican on 26 November. It is believed this is the first time a feature film will premiere there.

The film stars Academy Award nominee Keisha Castle-Hughes (Whale Rider) as Mary, Oscar Isaac (Guerrilla) as Joseph and Academy Award nominee Shohreh Aghdashloo (House of Sands and Fog) as Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist. It is directed by Catherine Hardwicke (the teen drama "Thirteen") from a screenplay by Mike Rich (Finding Forrester, The Rookie, Radio), himself a devout Christian.

The Nativity Story was filmed in Matera, Italy, also used as a location for The Passion of the Christ, because it is more authentic than the actual sites now. "Nazareth is a modern town and Jerusalem is a very modern town, "said Rich. Shots involving Herod's castle and the temple in Jerusalem were shot in Ouarzazate, Mexico, also used in Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven movies.