Filmmaker Danny Boyle teams up with Banksy to stage alternative nativity play in Bethlehem

Filmmaker Danny Boyle teams up with Banksy to stage alternative nativity play in Bethlehem
A new documentary will follow Banksy and Danny Boyle's attempt to put together an unorthodox nativity play set in Jesus' birthplace, which aims to rework the narrative on Palestine.
3 min read
13 December, 2017
The duo have documented their nativity project in 'the least Christmassy place on earth' [BBC/Banksy]

The British film director Danny Boyle has teamed up with the secretive street artist Banksy to stage a retelling of the nativity story, dubbed 'The Alternativity', performed in the car park of Banksy's Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem.

The making of the play was filmed for a BBC Two documentary which airs later this week.

"It is brilliant for BBC Two to be working with Danny Boyle, Banksy and the creative team who together are making this alternative nativity," said BBC Two controller Patrick Holland.

The Alternativity will present "a challenging and provocative exploration of a story that speaks to young and old alike,"  he added.

The documentary, filmed over six weeks, follows the Oscar-winning director's progress as he puts the play together, overcoming the "many restrictions" to source cast, crew and local children to take part, according to the BBC.

The play, which was staged on December 3, was co-directed by Bethlehem-based director and performance artist Reham Isaac. Isaac tweeted her excitement to be involved in "one of the best nativity shows this year".

Banksy opened his Walled Off Hotel in March 2017, a satirical statement on the current sitauation of West Bank Palestinians living under a brutal and restrictive military occupation.

The hotel, which borders the controversial Israeli separation wall, sardonically boasts to enjoy the "worst view in the world".

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The anonymous graffiti artist created two more artworks ahead of the Christmas spectacle. One reads "peace on earth", next to a twinkling cartoon star which doubles as an asterisk, with "terms and conditions apply" added below. 

The second artwork depicts two cherubs prising apart two panels of the concrete wall with a crowbar where a small gap appears, creating an illusion of them tearing the wall apart.

The Walled Off Hotel's creation has unleashed controversy among Bethlehem locals, some of whom feel like the artist has made spectacle out of their situation without including enough local Palestinian voices.

Many Palestinians however have credited the initiative by the street artist, a long time supporter of the Palestinian cause, with bringing record numbers of tourists to the West Bank, and with raising awareness of the Palestinian situation in a creative and thought-provoking way.

In November, Banksy hosted a satirical street party at the hotel, apologising for the Balfour declaration on its centenary.

The tongue-in-cheek tea party included an actor dressed up as the Queen Elizabeth and local children wearing helmets riddled with bullet holes and emblazoned with the union jack.

Palestinian protesters from the nearby Aida refugee camp gatecrashed the event, angry at the use of British flags and the way that Palestinian children were being used.

The Alternativity will air on BBC Two on Sunday, December 17 at 9pm GMT.