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Nativity and Nebuchadnezzar inspire Bible-based films

Iconic film director Cecil B DeMille once said, ‘Give me any two pages of the Bible and I'll give you a picture.’ DeMille was known for his biblical epics, particularly The Ten Commandments, but the Bible's themes and stories can inspire today's storytellers to explore different interpretations.

That's what lies behind Bible Society's long-running initative, The Pitch. It encourages and funds budding filmmakers to engage with the Bible in developing their stories, and the winners are given a budget and production support to make their films.

This year funding is split between two winners – Denise Deegan from Dublin, who won the Comedy category for The Innkeeper, and Silva Kuusniemi from Helsinki, who won the Drama category for Stump.

Denise's pitch features a young girl, Holly, who's struggling to make her mark among her arrogant peers. When Holly is cast as the Innkeeper in her school’s Nativity play, she finds it hard to refuse Mary and Joseph a room at the inn and chaos ensues. After the play, we find that Holly and her mum are actually homeless, and her compassion for the plight of Mary and Joseph takes on a deeper meaning.

Silva's pitch features the story of Nebuchadnezzar, who was ‘driven from among men and ate grass like an ox’ for seven years (Daniel 4). She sets her story in the wilds of Finland, where the forests are home to former CEOs living like animals. The heroine seeks to find a way back for one of the most powerful of these feral creatures – her father.

Eva Edo won the Lucy Scher Award for the best female filmmaker for her pitch, and will receive support from screenwriter and script developer Justine Hart.

Director of The Pitch Luke Walton says: ‘We’ve had a fantastic panel this year, brilliant discussions, sharp insights and great humour! They could see the relevance of issues in both our winning concepts – homelessness and environmental care – but also chose these two in particular for the way they had developed their storylines, responded to feedback and created emotional and powerful stories that will linger in the heart and mind.’

This year's Pitch attracted around 150 entries from filmmakers drawing on Bible texts. The finalists spent a weekend at the Low Wood Bay hotel on the shores of Windermere in the Lake District working intensively on their stories with the help of film professionals, before pitching their final version to the judges. Previous winners have gone on to win critical acclaim for their films and establish themselves in the industry.

Author: Bible Society, 17 January 2022

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