Thursday, April 14, 2011

Jesus in a huge box office hit? .......bringing in CHANGE$$$ (for the better)

Soul Surfer opens after fights over depicting faith

Full article here By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
"Soul Surfer," the feature film based on the true story of surfer Bethany Hamilton being attacked by a shark and her journey back to surfing, opened last weekend in the fourth spot on the box office charts - partly a testament to its appealing family-friendly message and a marketing campaign that heavily targeted religious groups.
But even though Hamilton and her family's faith plays a key role in the film, many audiences would be surprised to learn that the question of how to show their religion in the film caused huge debate on set.
"I think to get anything in the film was a battle," said Sarah Hill, Hamilton's youth group leader at North Shore Christian Church, who was played by Carrie Underwood in the movie.
"Basically, what you're doing is you have all these people who want to make a movie about Bethany and they don't know the Lord and they don't have a personal relationship with Jesus. For what we have in the movie it was such a battle."  (Z:  It's sad to consider that anything that the truth about any story is fine if it's ugly and seamy and debauched...the more the better, but let a Christian girl want her all-important faith portrayed and it's a fight with Hollywood)
In one scene, Hill's character is shown counseling Hamilton as she struggles with living as an amputee. She reads from Jeremiah 29:11 " 'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.' "  (Z: is that a threatening thought to anyone?)

The morning they went to shoot that scene, said Hill, who was on set often, "Twelve producers, me and the director were all sitting at the table and they all are just adamant about the Scripture not being in the movie. And they were saying at least let's not have the reference in it."   (Z: how scared they seem)
"For me it was a hill worth dying on to keep God in the movie," she said.
Tom Hamilton, Bethany’s father, said, “In my heart of hearts I wanted as many Christians as we could get to play parts in the movie. They just have a different spirit about them (Z:  Every actor I know in this town says the same thing and many have brought secular people to Christ on sets, believe me) ... Craig T. Nelson, who is a really strong Christian and goes to our church in Kauai, I called him and begged him to be in the movie.
“A lot of the producers didn’t want to go too overboard because they thought Christianity doesn’t always sell well,” Tom Hamilton said.  (Z: right...like the Passion didn't sell well, or The Blind Side? :)
Kevin Sorbo, who plays Holt Blanchard, the father of Hamilton's best friend, said, "Sony (Pictures, the film's producer) was afraid to throw in the word Jesus. They said you can have God but not Jesus. They were worried about that.  (Z: but the Black Swan can show a girl masturbating, no problem)
"The studios, you can't really fight them," he said. "Hollywood screams for freedom of speech but only if you agree with them. It's a very two-faced industry."
Sorbo said Sony wanted to take out another scene in which Bethany Hamilton wakes up in the hospital. Her father, played by Dennis Quaid, is shown reading a Bible. He reads to her from Philippians 4:13: "I can do all things through him who gives me strength."  (Z: I happen to know that Dennis Quaid is a committed Christian...sorry to disillusion anybody)
Tom Hamilton said the studio rented a house for the family during the filming so they could be on set every day.
“They changed the script a lot,” Hamilton said. “Dennis Quaid would come up to say, ‘Hey, this doesn’t sound right, we need a Scripture here.’ The script was in constant motion, it changed on the set even.”
“They listened to us. We had some pretty heated discussions. Everyone saw how passionate about it we were, getting the message we wanted out there,” he said.
Rich Peluso, the vice president of AFFIRM Films, a division of Sony Pictures, said the studio made no efforts to whitewash the Hamilton family's faith for the movie. He points out that Jesus is mentioned twice in the film and that the family's faith is central to the plot. (Z: But...wait....everyone on the set says differently...read above!)
On set, he said, "There were certainly lots of discussions," specifically about the inclusion of Hill's character quoting Jeremiah.
"There were some that voiced the opinion that may have made it sound too faith-focused," Peluso said. "The counter-argument was, 'Well, if her character uses those words and doesn't attribute them to the Bible it seems like she's stealing them.' We came to the agreement the best thing to do was to use the Scripture there."
The biggest question the movie's producers were trying to determine was, "How do we have it come off (in a way) that is authentic to the family's faith and doesn't push it too far so that it appears to the viewer to be forced in?" he said. "We didn't want it to appear we were pushing in faith to appeal to the faith community."
The studio made a big push to attract faith leaders to the project, setting up screenings for pastors and ministry leaders. But it's hard to characterize "Soul Surfer" as a Christian movie.

(Z: It all sounds very odd.  They're afraid that a surfing movie about a girl losing her arm and strongly relying on her faith to get her through is "pushing in faith to appeal to the faith community"  as if they made the faith part up to pander?  And, of course, then it says the studio invited pastors....now, isn't THAT "pushing in faith"?    They "made a big push" but didn't want to "push too far"...why the screenings?)
 
Like the hit movie "The Blind Side," though, the characters in "Soul Surfer" are decidedly Christian.  The movie opens with Bethany Hamilton rushing into a beachside church service because the Sunday morning waves were just too good to pass up.
"It's not that it's a Christian movie, it's an American movie," Peluso said.(Z:NOW he gets it)
In 2003, when a tiger shark attacked the 14-year-old Hamilton near Kauai, Hawaii, the story gripped the nation. Just three weeks after the attack, Hamilton was back in the water learning how to surf with one arm. A year later, she won a national surfing title.
Battles over how to portray religious themes in movies are becoming more common, as Hollywood becomes more open to addressing faith  (Z:, what, like this group at Sony which fought them at every turn from mentioning Jesus? really?) and marketing movies to religious audiences but worries about alienating nonreligious audiences or viewers from other traditions.(Z: have you all seen films from the forties whose music is all hymns, or all the characters go to church?  didn't seem threatening then, did it)
“After all the back and forth - and there’s always back and forth - it’s always best to err on the side of authenticity,” said Michael Flaherty, the president of Walden Media, which has helped produced the Chronicles of Narnia franchise and other Christian-themes movies.
“It actually is not in your commercial interest to secularize something like that, people will reject it,” he said of “Soul Surfer.” “People think they are making these decisions to broaden their audience but what they end up doing is narrowing it.”
But Flaherty said he thought “Soul Surfer” struck the right balance. “To see a movie where she wasn’t talking about her faith … it would have flopped,” he said. “It’s silly to narrow (the family’s faith). It’s like someone saying, ‘Let’s make a movie about Bethany but not talk about surfing.’”(Z: Finally, someone's thinking)
Today, Bethany Hamilton is a professional surfer. In 2010 she was ranked 23rd in the world. "The shy kid has gone on to have a legit pro surf career despite her massive physical impairment," Joel Patterson recently wrote in Surfer Magazine, "and, in the process, she's inspired uncountable people struggling against cruel twists of fate."
Hamilton has long been outspoken about her Christian faith and the positive role it played in her recovery.
"We work with a lot of films, but the Hamiltons have to live with this for the rest of their lives, so that balance was important to us," AFFIRM's Peluso said. "I think we threaded the needle after a lot of work."
Tom Hamilton said Peluso constantly went to bat for the family with the movie, adding, "There was some give and take, but everything that was very important for us to portray ended up in the movie. We were very happy over all with the movie. We just wanted the real story told.”

Z: Odd that people think this surfer's faith has to somehow jump off the screen and strangle people till they believe, too, isn't it?  I mean, Islam would be portrayed with NO PROBLEM "How interesting"  "fascinating"...but Christianity is so controversial that a woman can't show her faith without Hollywood executives getting nervous?   WHY?   Of course, the box office has been fabulous for Soul Surfer.  Funny, but I've heard about this film for weeks and, until reading this article, I had no idea it had Christian undertones...never even questioned the "soul" part.  Mr. Peluso from SONY sent some mixed messages but it seems he was finally coerced into doing a true betrayal and then sold it as if it was his idea all along.  Well, it that's what it takes to get Hollywood happy and to attract viewers to an amazing story of faith, that should be acceptable to anyone.

What do you think?
z

54 comments:

beamish said...

It'll be nice to see a film featuring Christian faith as a positive force rather than something to be mocked and degraded. I'd not heard of this movie.

Dennis Quaid is a commited Christian?! Awesome!
I loved the movie Frequency! He skeered the shivers out of me in Pandorum. Dude's been one of my favorites forever.

I mean, Islam would be portrayed with NO PROBLEM

Eeeeeh, as long as it wasn't a movie ABOUT Islam. Seems those kinds of movies get really really bad reviews, you know, the kind that end up with people dying.

Karen Howes said...

Nope, we can't have a movie presenting Christianity positively. You can only say the Lord's name as a curse.

Sorry to say, but I really don't have any desire to see this... I do want to see The Conspirator this weekend though!

Elmers Brother said...

Family saw it they loved it.

Z said...

beamish, ya, he's married to an acquaintance of mine.

Karen, nobody I know who's seen it hasn't absolutely loved it...apparently, it's a terrific film.

Elbro, I'd like to go soon....especially now that I heard they had the guts to be portrayed as they really are.
It's sad that had they been alcoholics or Buddhists or Albinos or illegals, that would have been joyfully highlighted by the producers...but let Christianity be part of a life and let it have helped them through a struggle, and attempts to quiet down that part are so important.

Ducky's here said...

The film is getting a fair amount of publicity and opened on a fair number of screens. It's not getting pushed into a corner.

Reviews are mixed but not bad and are more critical of the lousy effects editing to render her lost arm than the mention of Christianity.

There was no attempt to exclude faith from the film.

"I mean, Islam would be portrayed with NO PROBLEM"

Yeah, we'll have Chuck Norris play the lead. One of your zanier comments. Can you name anything out of the junk film capitol of the world that has portrayed Islam positively? Spike Lee's "Malcolm X".

Hollywood is just dying to give a directing shot to Kiorastami right? Check that, he's often critical and Hollywood wouldn't allow it, correct?

Elmers Brother said...

The family describes events that tje producers didn't want to include like Bible verses, her father carrying a Bible in the hospital but then you'd know that if you read the link

Ducky's here said...

Amazing the way you folks like to whine. That's what you want to do is whine.

Here a distinctly Christian film gets a solid release and does very good box office and from the audience reaction it looks pretty "leggy". Should have a good run.

May well get mor Christian films green lighted and still you complain. Why, because you could be given everything you want and you'd still complain. That's what you really want to do, complain.

Elmers Brother said...

I'm complaining because you act like the producers were hunky dory with the Christian aspect and its plain from the article they wanted to minimize it. You're such an intellectual douche duhhhky.

Elmers Brother said...

of course we're excited it's doing well but we also know how (based on the article) that it's not in Hollywood's conventional wisdom to portray Christianity in a positive light...e.g. Cape Fear...etc etc

Elmers Brother said...

you know duhkkkky...De Niro couldn't have been a Hare Krishna in that movie with the Bhagavad Gita tattooed all over his body.

cube said...

Honestly, I wouldn't go out of my way to watch this film because I prefer horror and scifi movies. That's just my preference in movies.

Re: the movie's use of religious references, I say they should use the closest references to the truth as possible. Isn't that what it's all about when telling a story?

Ducky's here said...

Yeah know elmo, DiNiro is pretty old news. Let's have your list of Hollywood films that deal positively with Islam.

z sounds like she was traumatized by accidentally attending a Youssef Chahine retrospective.

Come on fess up elmo, name any film you've seen by a Muslim director and any that have been sympathetic to Islam. z implies there's a bunch of them.

Brooke said...

Like Beamish, I had not heard of this, either.

Honestly, had a name like Quaid not been on the set the studio would likely have bullied the family and run rampant.

I can't wait to see it.

beamish said...
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beamish said...
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beamish said...

name any film you've seen by a Muslim director and any that have been sympathetic to Islam.

Mohammad, Messesenger of God (1976), directed by Moustapha Akkad.

Film doesn't even depict Mohammad on screen, or his voice (other characters reply to him and repeat his sayings as the Hadith do.) Film doesn't even depict key events in the life of Muhammad that might put people off, like slaughtering the Jews at Khaibar and making the captured woman Saffiya his "wife" while still soaked in her family's blood, or having sex with his 9 year old girl "wife" (Aisha).

Was a considerably positive (if not whitewashed) portrayal of Islam and respectful of the superstitious "no images of Muhammad" taboo, and it STILL caused terrorist atttacks trying to get the film shut down and removed from theaters.

The film was nominated for an Oscar in 1977 for Best Music, Original Score for the music by Maurice Jarre.

There haven't been many movies made ABOUT Islam other than depicting Muslims as terrorists, probably because positive and deferential movies ABOUT Islam have all "inspired" terrorist attacks from the "religion of peace."

It's not our fault Hollywood is timid about breaking the taboos of religions known for going apeshit anf killing people. Even when movie directors take pains to be respectful of Muslim superstitions, hostages get taken and people get killed.

Why is that, Ducky?

Z said...

Ducky, what?
My point is the trouble they had getting two scriptural references in an American film when faith was everything to this girl..faith drives her life and the message of this film. Anybody who doesn't think the reticence to portray that is odd's simply not worth talking with...sorry, but, really.

And, by the way...when I'm traumatized by ANYTHING, I'll be the one to tell YOU, okay?
Stop or I'll have to take to deleting your delusional pettiness again.

Beamish, thanks for that information; there are more films than that, but that's a good pick. Picture any American film company hesitant to put Mohammed in a good light :-)

Elmers Brother said...

Kingdom of Heaven.

Elmers Brother said...

The Muslims were at least portrayed in a positive light

Elmers Brother said...

Let's ask Theo Van Gogh..oh wait

Layla Elizabeth Gonzalez said...

Z, people are depraved and sick. This has gone on since eons and will not end. It is a sick world. I want to see the movie and I read her story and the story of faith, hope, and love - all the survial gear you need in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior is personified in her story. That cannot be taken away no matter what any idiot says!

God bless her! What a testimony of true faith in Jesus Christ.

Z said...

Elbro..ya "oops"..that peaceful religion at work again.

Layla, I don't think she should sue, either. This could happen with ANY DATE; what's she going to do, require all dates to present some certificate that says they're no molesters or something?



EVERYBODY: The point is that an American film company would have this much hesitance about quoting Biblical Christian Scripture and anybody knows that is absolutely stupid.......as if this is going to convert people?
Obviously, to some people, the Truth will sink in and they'll see the solace this girl got from her faith in about the most chaotic time a young girl could EVER face...but this isn't pushing, this is TELLING THE STORY and, in that, I know no filmmaker would ever hesitate with muslim theology in any film.

beamish said...

Kingdom of Heaven ... The Muslims were at least portrayed in a positive light

Well, yeah, if you ignore the backstory of Saladin sacking Jerusalem before the Crusaders did.

Z said...

Beamish "Well, yeah, if you ignore the backstory of Saladin sacking Jerusalem before the Crusaders did."

For many Americans, that IS a positive light.

Elmers Brother said...

The movie portrayed almost a collegial relationship between the two sides.

beamish said...

I don't understand why Muslims get all upset about the Crusades anyway. They were primarily wars of defense, not conquest, and the Crusaders lost.

beamish said...

[Well, defense and reacquistion of land stolen from the Jews by the Roman Empire, but still Saladin and his armies got there to take the land as third conquerors]

Elmers Brother said...

Neither here nor there. duhkkky was deflecting anyway. I don't know any Christian directors. Z is right. The point is if it's an organic part of the story why leave it out? Unless you're Hollywood.

Elmers Brother said...

400 years of hegemony...

Ducky's here said...

z, you know a bit about the industry. Controversy over one thing or another on a production site is common.

Now, does this film have a Christian presence or doesn't it. The reviews say it does. The fact that it may or may not have been to Dennis Quaid's approval, an actor who probably didn't have script authority, is not particularly interesting.

Ducky's here said...

Can you name a Christian director? Do you count Catholics, elmo.

As Andre Bazin wrote in Cahiers du Cinema as the French New Wave was kicking off, "every frame should be testimony to the glory of God's creation".

Bresson and Rohmer were committed Catholics (again, I do know if you will allow them in your very restricted tent).

Was the director of The Rapture Christian. Very good film and it did good box office. Well regarded.

Of course there's always Mel Gibson. That brand of homoerotic sadomasochism seems to have a large following, who knew.

There's no shortage of religious films. It's just that most of them don't fit your constraints. Is "Wings of Desire" Christian? Is it religious? In your world can the two coexist?

Elmers Brother said...

the whole director thing is a diversion mr. king of red herrings - whether the director is a christian (including catholics) or not I could care less....I don't watch a film based on who is directing it nor whether it fits any constraint you wish to impose on me in order to marginalize the issue here.

the issue is whether or not the faith of these people was organic to the story. from the article it appears as if there was some disagreement as to the degree to which that faith should have been portrayed. Yes it included a portrayal of that faith but why does there seem to be (according to the article you so carefully ready) a concerted effort by the makers to minimize and/or marginalize said faith?

Now I've seen the movie and their faith is very evident, but do you think it got there because of a conscious decision by the filmmaker or because the subjects of the film had to (according to the article) battle and scrape?

Elmers Brother said...

BTW since you're IN the Biz why aren't you lobbying your comrades to make a good film about Muslims with a good Muslim director? EH?

Elmers Brother said...

The only constraint I have duhkkky is that I don't throw away my money nor waste 2 hours of my time (that I can't get back) watching most of what comes out of Hollywood.

Today was the first time I've gone to a movie theater in a year and a half...two years.

Elmers Brother said...

Can you name a Christian director?

No I can't. Which is why I said what I said. I couldn't give you the name of 4 directors period.

Ducky's here said...

elmo, shall I invite you to this year's Palestinian film festival in Boston?

Middle East is quite an active film region at the moment. There's been a crackdown in Iran unfortunately.

Of course none of it is done by Hollywood, not much of anything worthwhile is done by Hollywood.

beamish said...

Well, I'm skeptical of movies that don't have a car chase scene in them.

;)

My point is, every time a positive or sympathetic feature film specifically about Islam has come out, Muslim director or not, Muslims have taken up shooting, bombing, beheading and killing in protest of it.

Let the Hollywood Left make a movie about Muslims bombing buses in New York City followed by the National Guard rounding up all Muslims and sticking them into Roosevelt-style progressive left detention and internment camps ["Under Siege" starring Bruce Willis, 1998] and there's nary a peep.

The Muslim community won't stand for a positive portrayal of Muslims or Islam.

Elmers Brother said...

Day and time?

Elmers Brother said...

And will france 2 be there?

Impertinent said...

The Siege was all I needed to know about the "religion of peace', it's adherents and insane followers.

Then there was Traitor too. Cheadle was terrific.

It warmed my heart when he toasted 50 wannabes in the bus!

Ducky's here said...

The dates aren't firm, elmo. It will be late October into November. Submissions were closed just recently. Likely the screenings will be at the MFA and Harvard Film Archive.

There was a request for less political entries and more comedy this year and that seems to be occurring, especially in the short subjects.

You might also check the Houston or Chicago festivals. Or you could start organizing a Christian festival in your area. Don't wait for Hollywood, that path leads only to crap.

Elmers Brother said...

Palestinian Comedy ? Sounds like a hoot!

Elmers Brother said...

I may be taking two cinema classes at the local community college in the Fall duhkkky. I'll keep you posted.

Z said...

It'd be a big help to America, especially children, to shut Hollywood down totally until they start favoring America and not constantly emphasizing the worst of her.

Elmers Brother said...

Z, it's not only that. The other values espoused, the debauchery the crudeness...duhkkky would blame the market...but I would blame the marketeer. They're pretty much the only show in town.

Ducky's here said...

I would and do blame the market. If consumers can't exercise choice then what hope is there.

Of course there is always the fringe who thinks Hollywood should be the propaganda arm of some perverted idea of exceptionalism. The market works in a positive fashion in that regard.

Z said...

Ducky "If consumers can't exercise choice then what hope is there."

Choice to eat what we want, choice for our kids to eat what we want them to eat, choice to wear a seatbelt or helmet, choice to keep our health plan protected from the nightmare coming, choice to discuss faith openly, choice to protect the constitution, choice to have an honest media, choice to demand the truth about a sitting president...?

I could go on, but really, that comment threw me into gales of laughter. Thanks, I have a sick friend in the hospital, so your line helped cheer me up.

Ya, "CHOICE"...for the left, that only means ABORTION.

Ducky's here said...

Went to see Atlas Shrugged. Message to producer, when the dialog is obtuse and turgid, actors who can't deliver dialog make matters worse.

Easily one of the worst films I've ever seen. The crew was wondering if it could become a midnight cult hit with folks randomly shouting "Who is John Galt" and tossing popcorn. Not a chance.

I'm curios if it gets enough Tea Bag traffic to get Part II made. Simply terrible.

Z said...

just got two calls about ATLAS SHRUGGED...the theater was nearly full most everyone clapped afterwards.
My sis saw it and thought it would have made a better MADE FOR TV film...the message resounded at the applause at the moments when Conservative values prevailed....I was pretty surprised, considering it's an LA audience.

Let's not forget funding is difficult to get for films with non liberal ideology.

Ducky's here said...

Rand is blazing back as an icon of the Tea Party, which overlooks her atheism, adultery and vigorous support for abortion.

Ducky's here said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Z said...

Ducky, I'm glad you brought that up.
My blog focuses on a lot of things but one of the points I talk about a lot is how the Left seems to think one must have utter perfection to warrant as a mentor or teacher or inspiration and that's simply not the case.
Nobody shares my feelings and opinions exactly like I do; nobody does yours, either.

Look at Planned Parenthood; Margaret Sanger talked of killing black babies (that's almost painful to write here) and yet the Left admires her for having made more available abortion in America.(God forgive her, imagine having that your 'claim to fame'?)
But you're not whining about Sanger's racist proclivities and writing her completely off for them, you celebrate her penchant for killing children. And, honestly, I know how awful that is and that I've written it in the coldest terms possible, but I have a cold and am a little grouchy today, so bear with me...sorry if it sounds so severe in its bluntness.
Anyway....Many Conservatives and LIbertarians admire Rand despite some of her opinions....
We have open minds, we don't condemn ALL she did or said because we disagree on some points. And, of course, not all Conservatives are pro life, anyway.\

just something to consider.
pass the Kleenex :-)

Z said...

am about to go nurse this cold/laryngitis with THE SORROW AND THE PITY and a good cup of tea.
I don't feel like READING a film because of the cold but I hope I'll like it enough to get into it...Orson Bean highly recommended it to me.
Have you seen it, Ducky?

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