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Writer and Director Cyrus Nowrasteh Shares About New Film, “The Young Messiah"

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Screenwriter and Director, most recent: The Young Messiah.

Also known for his writing/directing in TV projects, which include:

  • La Femme Nikita (Writer-Pilot)
  • The Day Reagan Was Shot (Writer/Director)
  • The Path to 9/11(Writer)
  • 10,000 Black Men Named George (Writer)
  • The Stoning of Soraya M. (Writer/Director)

Winner of several awards including two PEN Awards, the Orson Welles Award, a Freedom of Expression Award, awards at the Toronto, Los Angeles, and Berlin Film Festivals, an NAACP Award, and a Movie Guide Award.

Graduate of USC School of Cinematic Arts.

The Young Messiah is based on a 2005 book by Anne Rice called Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt.  The bestselling novel is a story about the how the holy family dealt with having a child who was very different than everyone else.  The Young Messiah movie is a scripture inspired adaptation of the story that imagines a year in Jesus’ childhood. The seven-year-old Christ and his parents face many challenges in addition to common family issues. Mary, Joseph and Jesus must navigate the special subject of Jesus’ divinity which previous films based on Jesus’ ministry and crucifixion don’t address. Cyrus says this challenge raises many questions such as, “How do you explain the ways of the world to its Creator? How do you teach the Teacher? How do you help the Savior who came to save you?”     

Adapting the book for the film was somewhat challenging. “For one thing,” he says, “you have to make changes - being concise and precise. Movies are external, while books are internal.” Concerning the “lost years,” which are those years not addressed in the Bible, Cyrus says he and his team researched the historical and spiritual ideas of what happened during that time.  “We needed to reexamine the theology, see what works and what doesn’t,” said Cyrus.  We talked to pastors and theologians. We wanted to portray Jesus’ childhood as consistent with his adulthood. We also wanted to keep it reverential.”
Cyrus says this perspective of the film is important because, “A fresh take on the life of Jesus would allow an exploration of what life for the young Jesus might have been like, based on the knowledge of the man that he became. The story gives viewers the opportunity to understand Jesus’ full humanity and as a result, open up opportunities to discuss the life of Jesus and what the Bible does say about him. Portraying him as a young child (something we know very little about) can highlight the fact that God was made human flesh, and not just as a full grown adult. The Young Messiah gives filmgoers the cinematic experience of diving into life of that era, showing what traveling to Jersalem was like in Jesus’ time and what life was like under oppressive Roman rule. All of which is grounded in extensive historical research.” Cyrus also says that this film will offer something no other Christ centered film has offered before. “I hope they take away an emotional connection from this family. They will see that this family is not too different from their own family. We all come from family. So often Joseph, Mary, and Jesus are portrayed as icons. You never really get to know them. But in this movie you get to know them. You are inside the family with them. It’s different, more personal, more intimate, because they face the same kinds of fears that we do.” Finally, the film allows the audience to bond with young Jesus in a way that they wouldn’t be able to bond with an adult Jesus. “There is something about the innocence and the openness of a child that makes us want to embrace them.”

Cyrus is excited that this film will touch Christian audiences around the world, but also people from other faiths and belief systems. He said, “I want this to be a faith affirming movie because I have been touched by the experience of working on this. Telling this story and what it has to say and what it’s about are things that I think are dear to many, many people, not just Christians. Family and faith are universal. Each of us brings something different to it and will take away something different from it. I just hope the audience thinks it’s a beautiful story and that it was worth the experience to go and watch it.” Perhaps the most poignant effect of the film is the effect it had on Cyrus spiritual journey. “I don’t know if my faith affected my work on the film as much as the work on the film affected my journey,” said Cyrus.  “When it became clear that we had an opportunity to adapt this story into a movie, it became natural and preordained. I was welcoming to that. It’s been an enriching, faith affirming experience to me. I hope it is that for others.”

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