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  • Writer's pictureThomas Bonifield

The Biblical Truth behind "Journey to Bethlehem" is "More Relevant than Ever"

The Christmas musical releases in theaters nationwide this weekend.

Fiona Palomo and Milo Manheim play Mary and Joseph in a scene from "Journey to Bethlehem."
Fiona Palomo and Milo Manheim play Mary and Joseph in a scene from "Journey to Bethlehem." Image: Affirm Films.

If the team behind this production gets it right, Journey to Bethlehem could combine the best of Hollywood with top-notch, faith-based filmmaking this holiday season. Though Christian Film Blog has not yet seen the picture, there is much reason for optimism on that score.

A screenshot of Adam Anders, director/co-writer/composer of "Journey to Bethlehem."
A screenshot of Adam Anders, director/co-writer/composer of "Journey to Bethlehem." Image: Affirm Films/from YouTube.

For starters, it comes from Affirm Films - Sony Pictures' faith-based division - which we believe is the top studio in the Christian genre, and it has Hollywood star-power both in front of the camera in principal actor Antonio Banderas playing the role of King Herod, and behind it in director/co-writer and composer Adam Anders, whose previous credits include hit musicals Glee and Rock of Ages. He is also a committed Believer, as are rapper Lecrae and For King & Country musician Joel Smallbone, who portray the angel Gabriel and Herod's eldest son Antipater, respectively.

Being a musical, with plenty of song and dance numbers, this production will obviously take some liberties as far as creative license goes. It will also, however, stay true to the Biblical narrative and the "non-negotiables," as Anders puts it in a promotion video for the film: things like the virgin birth, Gabriel's interactions with Mary and Joseph, and God's gift of salvation that came exclusively through Jesus Christ.

"What I want to do with this movie is take the sanctioned text, which I think is more relevant than ever - and I never want to say, 'I tried to make it relevant.' No, no no: it is relevant - but how do we frame it in a way that people lean into the story today?"

Some of that approach includes featuring plenty of humor via the wisemen, for instance, and a fleshing out of the Antipater character that is extra-Biblical and features elements of Christian redemption.

Anders, who first came up with the idea for a musical Nativity Story in the early 2000s, is clearly hoping that his film, which stars Fiona Palomo and Milo Manheim as Mary and Joseph, will please the faithful, but also be accessible to those outside the fold.

"I made this movie for non-believers. I want you to be able to invite your non-believing friends, your neighbors. The world needs this story, we all know that. This is a new way to get that story out. This movie shines in a dark time."

Journey to Bethlehem releases fully this Friday, November 10th in an estimated 1,800 theaters, but there will be preview showings in some venues starting tomorrow, November 9th, so check with your favorite multiplex for local details. In the meantime, the trailer below will give you a better sense of what to expect.


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