New faith-based films tone down religion, amp up star power

Heaven is for RealFor some filmgoers, hearing a movie described as “faith-based” makes it a must-see. But just as many others find the term a turn-off.
To reach audiences beyond the Christian churchgoers that generally propel the genre, some producers of faith-based films are ramping up the star power and tamping down the evangelical messages.
The latest example is “Miracles From Heaven,” starring Jennifer Garner and Queen Latifah, which tells the true story of a 9-year-old Texas girl who inexplicably recovers from an incurable condition after surviving a 30-foot fall.
Among the film’s producers are pastor T.D. Jakes and preacher DeVon Franklin — the team behind 2014’s $100 million hit “Heaven is for Real” — who say they aim to make movies for all audiences, not just religious ones.

The Seer: A Portrait of Wendell Berry

The Seer: A Portrait of Wendell Berry (2016)Director Laura Dunn divides The Seer: A Portrait of Wendell Berry into chapters–themes really–around Berry’s life and work. And because it’s not just a chronology of his life, it’s even more engaging. The film considers Berry in all of his roles (explicitly and implicitly) as father, farmer, writer/poet, and prophet. In doing so, it reveals that his signature achievement really is that, with the world at his fingertips, he chooses to settle on a small farm in rural Kentucky to make his life. From there, he sets his sights on working the land and cultivating culture.


‘Jessie’ explores the effect of religion on love

Jessie Touted to be a romantic entertainer, Jessie is a triangular love story that explores the effect of religion on love. Director’s Special, Raate & Boxer fame Dhananjay is playing the hero in the movie.

Pawan Wadeyar has said, “The idea of film came to me when I was doing Govindaya Namaha, when I was passing by a church. This was the time when Vinnaithandi Varuvaya had released and I was impressed to write a story with a Christian boy as hero.”

‘The Young Messiah’ May Find Oppositions From Bible Defenders?

The Young MessiahWhen viewers watch “The Young Messiah,” they have to view it objectively by separating from historicity or religion. Several scholars of the Bible have very little knowledge about Jesus’ early life or how he looked like in his real life. In fact, there is no mention in the Gospel of his appearance — so what makes some of these scholars so defensive about the film?

It is not unusual for filmmakers to take creative liberties and mix fiction with facts. But there will be always two sides to this logic. A group of people may feel offended while there will be others who may opine that slamming a film, for this reason, is not fair enough.

First look at Jack Huston in the new Ben-Hur

Jack Huston plays Judah Ben-Hur in Ben-Hur from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures and Paramount Pictures.

Jack Huston plays Judah Ben-Hur in Ben-Hur from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures and Paramount Pictures.

It’s one thing to have the concept for another cinematic take on Lew Wallace’s novel Ben-Hur. It’s quite another to see Jack Huston filling a role once made famous (and famously Oscar-winning) by Charlton Heston. But the first images from the new movie have arrived.

Directed by Timur Bekmambetov, this latest Ben-Hur pledges to skirt closer to Wallace’s book than the 1959 film. It’ll chronicle the younger days of Ben-Hur and Messala (Toby Kebbell), best friends growing up in Jerusalem. Ben-Hur is a Jewish prince and Messala the son of a Roman tax collector who is packed off to be educated in Rome for five years. Upon his return, Messala mocks our hero for his religion and, after an accident he pins on his friend, has him sold into slavery. Cue a quest for revenge that includes the chariot race made iconic by the Heston film. Which is definitely included again this time, with Huston and his director spent more than two months rehearsing.

SXSW 2016: ‘A Stray’ is a frustrating, yet beautiful ode to the power of belief

Adan (Barkhad Abdirahman), a Somali refugee living in Minneapolis, has nowhere to go. His mother has kicked him out, and his friends are sick of his stubborn ways. With nowhere left to turn, Adan seeks shelter at his local mosque, and it’s there that he begins to learn who he really is. Under the guidance of his god and the members of the church, Adan begins a new life away from the people and surroundings that caused him so many problems in the past. He begins to rebuild, if you will, but soon life throws Adan an unexpected curveball that once again forces change upon the young refugee.

A Stray probably could have made for a better short, but stretched to a runtime just shy of the 90-minute mark there is barely enough material to reach the finish line. That said, the commanding performance of Barkhad Abdirahman and the beautiful dialogue provided by Syeed makes for a unique experience that matches heart with theology without coming across as being too heavy-handed in its delivery. In a world overflowing with indie films, A Stray is utterly unique, both in the story it has to share and purpose for its existence. The film doesn’t work 100 percent of the time, but what does work will stay with you for many months to come.

Second Annual Milwaukee Muslim Film Festival

Guantanamo ChildThe 2nd annual Milwaukee Muslim Film Festival will show its first movie keeping with a goal of trying to dispel ‘islamophobia’.

The festival will be showing five films during the next few weeks. For a full listing including showtimes click here.

Coordinators with the Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition are viewing the festival as not only a way to educate people on their religion but also a way to discuss current events important to Muslim communities.

Thursday evening the first film being shown is “Guantanamo Child” telling the story of the youngest-ever person sent to Guantanamo Bay at age 15.

Televangelists Threaten Controversial New Film ‘Canaan Land’ That Exposes Charismatic Movement’s ‘Frauds’

Canaan Land‘Canaan Land,’ a feature dramatic film telling a contemporary story of an Elmer Gantryish evangelist, is in preproduction. Written and directed by former healing evangelist Richard Rossi, the film contrasts fake healers with the true article, resulting in backlash from televangelists.

Rossi plays a con man preacher who falls in love with a female evangelist, Sister Sara. Pop star Katy Perry and actress Megan Fox, both raised Pentecostal, are rumored to be vying for the part, along with thousands of unknowns….

Rossi wouldn’t say who’s upset over the film, but the GoFundMe site for the film posted a picture of healer Benny Hinn with a quote in which Hinn promises healing for money. “If you come back and make that financial pledge, God will heal your heart tonight,” Hinn said.

Jared Leto-Produced Cult Documentary ‘Holy Hell’ Gets May Release

Holy HellFilmRise has acquired U.S. distribution rights to Will Allen’s cult documentary “Holy Hell,” which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.

The distributor will release the film theatrically on May 20.

The documentary provides an inside look at a secretive spiritual cult known as the Buddha Field, formed during the ’80s in West Hollywood. Allen joined the group just after graduating from film school and became its unofficial videographer.