I’ve watched two movies this weekend. One that many of us have never heard of, and one that has been all over my Facebook feed. One film had excellent production, a large budget, and plenty of celebrity actors and actresses. The other film, was made on a small budget, had unintentionally shaky footage, and no famous people. One of the films is obviously a “christian” movie, and the other is not. One has been tweeted, texted, shared and has been playing in theaters around the country for weeks and the other…while making a splash at certain film festivals, never saw a wide theatrical release. One of the movies literally had me on the edge of my seat, ready to stand up and walk out of the room in disgust. The other film left me, and those with me, speechless for several minutes at the end, trying to process what we had just seen.
Both movies have changed my life forever.
You’ve waited long enough for the titles, welcome to my review of “God’s not Dead” and “Blood Brother”.
Lets start with “God’s not Dead”. A basic plot rundown follows for those who haven’t seen it yet. Essentially the movie begins with a college professor asserting in his philosophy class that “God is dead”. One student challenges that assertion, and becomes embroiled in a debate that lasts the rest of the film. Meanwhile, we introduce a bunch of other periphery characters that are all intimately connected in some strangely convenient way. One discovers she has cancer and her lover leaves her to continue chasing the American dream, while the lovers sister finds her own relationship falling apart with the college professor who is in the debate with the student who somehow happens to end up in the same church as the lovers sister with two ministers providing comic relief while trying to travel to a famous amusement park. Also we have Willie Robertson and the Newsboys. Oh…and a student from the Peoples Republic of China, and a Muslim girl. Is that everybody? Whoops… I forgot about Grandma. I know that I believe in a God of miracles, but even I struggle to believe that all of these people just happened to know each other. Personally, I think it’s a set up.
So if you haven’t guessed by my plot summary, I wasn’t exactly thrilled with the film. It was a romp down the same old path that we have been down 100 times before. We don’t have 8 hours for me to dissect the movie in detail, so I’ll focus on a few points that made me want to leave the theater in disgust.
The stereotypes were needlessly (and ridiculously) demonizing. From the angry white liberal woman trying to bust organized Christianity wide open (we know she is a liberal because we get to see her bumper stickers) to the Muslim father who abuses his daughter because she finds faith in Christ, each person who was opposed to the gospel in the beginning of the film is painted in the worst light possible. It sets us up for a vitriolic and combative view of their characters for the rest of the film and ignores the depth that real people have. Not every atheist hates God because his mother died, and not every person who gets cancer suddenly sees the light of Christ. Can liberals not be Christians? The stereotypes seem to forget that our battle is NOT against flesh and blood, but against powers and principalities.
They gave the best line in the film to “the enemy”. Please notice the quotes around “the enemy” they are important. Early in the film, the Muslim father picks up his daughter (who has been deceiving her father by taking off her head wrap as soon as he is out of sight) and shares the most insightful line in the whole film. I can’t remember it word for word, but the father essentially observes that no one is worshipping the real God, and that no one will understand why they must choose to be set apart from the world, but that is something that must be if they are to follow the true God…something that rang painfully true for me as I watched. It was one of the few moments of genuine intelligent observation in the film. All of this said by the man who later strikes his daughter, and throws her out on the street because she believes in Jesus.
They (fictionally) kill a man, and then celebrate in his death. Seriously…they kill one of the characters. Don’t worry though…comic relief ministers are luckily standing by to lead him to Christ as he lays there dying. So it’s all happy in the end right? Well…they do twist the knife postmortem by holding up the characters debate defeat in front of 10,000 people. It’s okay though…they don’t know that he became one of them right before he died. .
Is this who we are? Is this what being a North American Christian is? If so…I want out.
Okay…lets shake it off. The movie is well produced, has the most tolerable acting I’ve seen in a christian film to date, and it has probably started some great conversations. I can only hope that in spite of the things that I personally see wrong with it, that it will speak to someone who really needs Jesus, who needs forgiveness and grace. I won’t throw the baby out with the bath water, it is a film that tries to address a great need in our country. There are so many moments that are true, but they are buried in the mire of stereotype. I hate to complain and be critical, I have no idea how hard it is to make a full length film, and I have nothing but respect for those who gave it their best, but I think that we as Christians can do better than this. The God we claim to serve is a master creator and storyteller, and if we are willing to tell the stories He wants told, I believe we can create incredibly moving and true media.
An example of such media is “Blood Brother“. It is produced on a budget, has no actors in it, doesn’t feature any famous people, and frankly, I’m not even sure the people who made the film are Christians. It is also a documentary, so in the mind of many, it is starting off with a BUNCH of strikes against it right from the beginning.
Blood Brother follows the true story of Rocky Braat. Rocky, for reasons insufficiently explained in the film, has found himself in India at an orphanage for HIV/AIDs orphans and widows. It follows him through the process of being sent home with visa troubles, his return to the orphanage, his troubles staying in the country, personal issues of loneliness and troubled relationships and even follows him as he gets tested for HIV himself. He is blamed for the death of a beloved child in the village he lives in, and watches at the bedside of a young man who is given less than a 10% chance to live. The situation is so hopeless that Rocky can’t even pray for healing, but rather “a death that is special, that means something” for the child. I won’t spoil the whole story, but I will tell you that after watching the film, I will never be the same. I suspect that you will also find yourself at a crossroads after watching it.
The beauty of Blood Brother is that it is true. Just like our God is true. Rocky does what God commands us to do as he literally looks after orphans and widows. He remembers them, he tells them they are beautiful and meaningful. He shares the love of Christ in a way that transcends language. Rocky knows that he is not fighting the people around him, but rather evil itself.
If you’ve spent $10 on a ticket for God’s not Dead, you owe it to yourself to check out Blood Brother. If you find that you are not changed at the end…I will personally refund the cost of your purchase or rental*. I’m that serious about it.
For those of you asking how I personally have been changed, I believe even more now that I need to be making films like Blood Brother, films that are true and show who God really is. Films that are not contrived and stereotypical. I hope you’ll check them out when they are finished. One, called “The Safest Life” has already been in production for two years…and if you are interested in being involved, I plan to start fundraising for the next phase soon.
Thank you for reading, would you consider sharing this so others can learn about and check out “Blood Brother”?
God is Not Dead…Blood Brother assures me of that.
*I’m not rich…so if a lot of people are dissatisfied, it will take me a while to refund your money. Also…you’ll need to prove what you actually paid for it. So keep the receipt…