A few weeks ago we highlighted the US cinema release of To Save a Life on the basis that it contains realistic portrayals of Christians and might prove to be an encouraging film for Christians and thought-provoking for others.
Despite its clear Christian production values, the film only grossed $4 million in the land of the mega church, Moral Majority and Christian right.
Apparently it is one thing to demand more of Jesus in popular culture and another thing to actually vote with your ‘seat’. As a reuslt of its poor earning in America, we may not even see it in cinemas in Australia.
Now Letters to God is out and again producers must be nervouslty waiting to see if they will earn their money back.
Letters to God – a film directed by one of the producers of Fireproof – is a family drama about Tyler, a young boy who literally writes, and mails, letters to God. In the letters, Tyler speaks to God as a close friend in a way that recognises that he may meet his Maker before too long. Tyler has cancer.
The US Postal Service is not sure what to do with Tyler’s letters and the task falls to a troubled mail carrier, Brady. He takes them to a local church but the pastor explains that the letters have gone to Brady for a reason and so this struggling, divorced dad discovers he is on a mission from God.
Letters to God is based on a true story and in real life, young Tyler’s letter writing campaign has changed the lives of countless others.
A big question surrounding film making by Christians is, are they up to scratch? Do they compare favourably in terms of production, directing and acting when compared to other mainstream movies.
Marc T. Newman, president of MovieMinistry.com, says we may be missing the point.
‘Are the films produced by Christian production companies completely up to Hollywood standards?’ Newman asks. ‘If you are going to compare them to movies such as The Hurt Locker or expect the special effects to rival Transformers, well, no. But are they as good as, if not better than, many of the films that achieve wide release? Absolutely.’
‘If we want these studios to get better at their craft, we need to support their efforts,’ Newman says. ‘In medieval times, artists in the church had patrons who supported them in their art. Today ticket-buyers take the place of patrons. In this case, you literally get what you pay for.’
What these filmmakers are aiming for are mainstream movies that anyone would be interested to see but with three dimensional Christian characters as part of the action. Clearly we may need to sit through some well intended but lower quality films before we hit gold.
As for the making of Australian movies with a realistic portrayal of Christians and Christian themes, we are probably light years away. And that from a country where some of the first film makers in the early 1900s were Christians. PH