The Nativity Story is a 2006 drama film based on the nativity of Jesus starring Keisha Castle-Hughes and Shohreh Aghdashloo. Filming began on May 1, 2006 in Matera, Italy and in Morocco. New Line Cinema released it on December 1, 2006 in the United States and one week later on December 8 in the European Union. The film made history as being the first film ever to stage its world premiere in the Vatican City.
The movie begins with the portrayal of the Massacre of the Innocents. The remainder of the movie portrays the annunciation (conception) and nativity (birth) of Jesus Christ to explain why King Herod (Ciarán Hinds) ordered the murder.
Teenage Mary (Keisha Castle-Hughes), betrothed to marry Joseph of Judea (Oscar Isaac), is spoken to by God and told that she is to deliver His child and call him Jesus. Mary then goes to stay with her cousin Elizabeth for the harvest, when she witnesses the birth of John the Baptist to Elizabeth (Shohreh Aghdashloo), who is past child bearing age, and her husband Zachariah (Stanley Townsend). Mary returns from the visit pregnant, to the shock of Joseph and her parents. Mary is accused of fornication, for which, if she is found guilty, she could be stoned to death in a public execution. At first Joseph does not believe Mary's explanation that she was visited by an angel, and that she has not broken her vow of chastity. He resolves to quietly divorce her, but before he acts on this plan, he is visited by the very same angel. Joseph then believes Mary, and promises to stay by her side.
Meanwhile, Caesar Augustus has demanded that every man and his family must return to his place of birth for the census. For Joseph, as a direct descendant of King David, this involves a 110-kilometer (68 mi) trip across rocky terrain from Nazareth to Bethlehem, the place of his birth. Such a trip (with Mary on a donkey also carrying supplies, and given the terrain) would likely have taken several weeks. When they reach Bethlehem, Mary goes into labor. Joseph frantically seeks a place for the two to stay, but there is no room in any inn or home (thanks in part to the census). At the last minute, an innkeeper offers his stable for shelter.
While Mary's story is being told, a concurrent plot line features the travels of the three Magi, Gaspar, Melchior and Balthasar, who had previously discovered that three planets will align to form a great star. This Star of Bethlehem appears before the Magi, after a visit by the angel, Gabriel. The Magi eventually visit Herod and tell him that a King of the Jews has been born. Herod considers himself to be King of the Jews; thus, he asks them to journey to the East and pay a visit to the newborn Jesus, and report the location back to Herod under the pretense that he, too, would like to worship him. Unbeknown to Mary and Joseph, the Magi show up at the stable in which the family is staying, and present the baby with the well-known gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
As instructed by the angel, the Magi do not return to Herod, but return to their origin via a different route. King Herod realizes that the wise men have defied him, and in retribution demands the murder of every boy in Bethlehem up to the age of two. Joseph is warned in a dream of the danger and flees with Mary and the child to Egypt.
Cast overview, first billed only:
Keisha Castle-Hughes ... Mary
Oscar Isaac ... Joseph
Hiam Abbass ... Anna
Shaun Toub ... Joaquim
Ciarán Hinds ... Herod
Shohreh Aghdashloo ... Elizabeth
Stanley Townsend ... Zechariah
Alexander Siddig ... The Angel Gabriel
Nadim Sawalha ... Melchior
Eriq Ebouaney ... Balthasar
Stefan Kalipha ... Gaspar
Alessandro Giuggioli ... Antipas
Farida Ouchani ... Ruth
Saïd Amadis ... Tero
Maria Giovanna Donzelli ... Mary's Friend
Directed by Catherine Hardwicke
Produced by Toby Emmerich
Tim Van Rellim
Written by Mike Rich