Australian Council on Children and the Media

Nativity Story, The

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Short takes

Not recommended under 8, PG to 13 (Viol. Distressing scenes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Nativity Story, The
  • a review of Nativity Story, The completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 3 December 2006.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 8 Not recommended due to violence and distressing scenes.
Children aged 8-13 Parental guidance recommended.
Children over the age of 13 Some children over the age of thirteen may still benefit from parental guidance.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Nativity Story, The
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild themes and violence
Length 91 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

The film tells the story of the events surrounding the conception and birth of Jesus as portrayed in the Bible. It opens with Herod (Ciaran Hinds), King of Judea under Roman rule, who is afraid that an ancient prophecy about the coming of a Messiah means that he will lose his kingdom.  He orders the killing of all male children under two in Bethlehem. 

Flashing back to the previous year, we find Mary (Keisha Castle-Hughes) living with her parents Anna (Hiam Abass) and Joaquim (Shaun Toub) in the poor town of Nazareth. It is a time of oppression and harsh taxation enforced by Herod.

Mary is betrothed to Joseph (Oscar Isaac). She is told by an angel that she has been chosen by God to bear a son who will be a Saviour for his people.  Struggling to come to terms with this news, Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth (Shohreh Aghdashloo) who is also pregnant and gives birth to the son who is to become John the Baptist.  When Mary returns to Nazareth, her pregnancy is obvious and she has a difficult confrontation with her parents and Joseph.  However, an angel appears to Joseph in a dream and confirms Mary’s story.  Joseph then vows to stand by Mary, no matter what others may say.

Meanwhile, King Herod is determined to find and kill the Messiah talked about in the prophecy. To meet the requirements of a census decreed by Herod, Mary and Joseph are forced to make the difficult journey to Bethlehem. During this journey we see Joseph’s selfless care and concern for Mary and a growing love and respect between the couple.

In Bethlehem, Jesus is born in a rough stable. Local shepherds come to pay homage. Three Magi following the prophecy and prompted by a convergence of planets into a large ‘star’, travel from Persia in search of the Messiah. They find and honour the new baby lying in a manger but return to Persia without obeying Herod’s request to tell him of what they find. Warned in a dream about the threat to the baby from Herod, Joseph takes Mary and Jesus and flees across the desert towards Egypt and safety.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

The Christmas story. Oppressive and violent regimes. Seizing and killing of children

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including:

  • several incidents where helmeted soldiers armed with swords terrify citizens by riding trough villages and towns
  • soldiers forcing their way into houses to kill babies
  • the seizing of a screaming child from parents who cannot pay their taxes.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • two birth scenes. The scenes involving Elizabeth giving birth are more disturbing, showing her holding on to stirrups above her head and in considerable distress
  • dead bodies hanging in trees and also on crosses after crucifixion
  • parents crying over a dead child as a result of Herod’s order that all boys under two be found and killed by his soldiers
  • an implied circumcision scene
  • scenes of animals being prepared for sacrifice with bodies of dead animals hanging up and being butchered
  • the distressed donkey struggling to keep its feet on the journey to Bethlehem
  • a scene when a water snake scares the donkey, causing Mary to be thrown into the water
  • some of the scenes of the Magi which are dark and rather sinister, with close-ups of faces
  • scenes involving soldiers which are dark and accompanied by intense music.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

The above-mentioned violent scenes could also scare or disturb children under the age of eight.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Children in this age group may also be disturbed by many of the scenes described above.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Some children over thirteen may be disturbed by the scenes involving harm and death to children, and some other scenes.

Product placement

None

Sexual references

Mary’s pregnancy by immaculate conception may raise questions for older children.

Nudity and sexual activity

None

Use of substances

None

Coarse language

None

In a nutshell

The Nativity Story is an epic telling of the Christmas story with both visual and emotional impact. The main messages from this movie are the Christian message of a Saviour, the Son of God, born in a humble situation and the triumph of good over evil.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • family loyalty
  • selflessness.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children the struggles of people living in poverty under oppressive regimes and the consequences of making judgements about people without knowing the full story.

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