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New movie is ‘proof’ that Christian films can succeed

New movie is ‘proof’ that Christian films can succeed

Posted: Friday, October 10, 2008 8:19 pm
By: By CHRIS MENEES, Staff Reporter

Yes, Hollywood, there is a market for Christian movies.

“Fireproof” — the newest film from Sherwood Pictures, a ministry of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga. — is “proof” positive.

The film debuted two weeks ago with a $6.8 million opening weekend, earning fourth place nationwide at the box office. In its second week, the movie topped $12 million and secured the eighth spot in the box office top 20.

That’s not too shabby considering “Fireproof” has been showing on far fewer screens than the films finishing in the top slots (only 852 locations vs. movies showing on 2,000 or 3,000-plus screens), considering its budget was just $500,000 compared to the multi-millions of other films, and considering it was made with an all-volunteer 1,200-member cast and crew.

Directed by Sherwood’s Alex Kendrick and co-written with his brother, producer Stephen Kendrick, “Fireproof” stars actor Kirk Cameron as Capt. Caleb Holt, a firefighter working to save his marriage from divorce. At work, he lives by the perennial firefighters’ adage: Never leave your partner behind. At home, though, he lives by his own rules. He and his wife, Catherine, have drifted so far apart that Catherine wishes she had never married. As the couple prepares for divorce, Caleb’s father challenges him to commit to a 40-day experiment called “The Love Dare.”

And so begins Caleb’s toughest job ever — fireproofing his marriage and rescuing his wife’s heart.

I went to see “Fireproof” with my husband on the film’s opening day two weeks ago. Obviously, I was initially attracted to the movie because it’s about a firefighter and I happen to be married to a retired firefighter. That alone sparked my interest.

But knowing Sherwood’s reputation for making Christian films, I knew I was in for a treat. I just didn’t know how much of one.

Caleb’s journey made me laugh and cry and even take a closer look at my own marriage. It’s a beautiful story, presented from the heart in a way that will speak to men, women and youth of all ages, whether married or dating, divorced or single.

Alex Kendrick told ABC: “We tried to make a movie that speaks to your middle-American family and couple facing all the common issues in marriage. Hollywood is good at reflecting the values and lifestyles of people in California and New York. But there are so many of us who have a standard of morality and faith that is rarely reflected in films coming out of Hollywood.”

It was refreshing to watch a family-friendly flick that addressed God in a respectful manner in which His name was never used in vain and was actually glorified through characters who openly shared their faith. There was no profanity, no graphic violence, no gratuitous sex.

In fact, while kissing scenes are no big deal in Hollywood, a dramatic scene in which Caleb embraces and kisses his wife presented a challenge for Sherwood — since Cameron and the actress playing his on-screen wife aren’t married. The solution? The film makers shot the scene silhouetted against a daytime sky and Cameron did kiss someone — his real-life wife, Chelsea, who was flown in just for the scene.

Cameron told Baptist Press that he has a personal conviction that he’s not going to kiss anyone other than his wife, a promise he made to her when they wed. (Incidentally, instead of receiving a fee for acting in the film, Cameron accepted a donation to his and his wife’s children’s charity for seriously ill children, Camp Firefly.)

Even watching the movie’s closing credits was a blessing (yes, I’m one of those people who stays until the very last credit). The credits actually name Sunday School classes that catered food (20 of them, representing over 1,000 people) and prayer warrior households (65 of them). There are a couple of scripture references and a final line declaring, “To God be the glory.”

And what about “The Love Dare” depicted in the movie? It started out as a plot device for the film until movie-goers repeatedly requested copies. The book — written by the Kendrick brothers — has since debuted in stores and is topping best-seller lists as couples nationwide take the dare.

Jim McBride, Sherwood Baptist Church’s executive pastor, told ABC that Sherwood Pictures is “in this for the ministry aspect of it.” He said the church is not seeking to win an Oscar with the film but to win people’s hearts.

This certainly isn’t the first time Sherwood has enjoyed success in its movies with a message. “Fireproof” succeeds the 2004 DVD “Flywheel” and the 2006 theatrical release “Facing the Giants,” which earned $10.1 million at the box office.

All three of Sherwood’s films reflect the church’s mission to “Reach the world from Albany, Ga.”

Mission accomplished.

Staff Reporter Chris Menees may be contacted by e-mail at cmenees@ucmessenger.com.

Published in The Messenger 10.10.08

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