Faith & film

The unexpected success of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ proved that it’s no longer taboo to make faith-based entertainment and that there’s a huge Christian market just waiting to be explored. So it was only a matter of time before major corporations, who already own some of the biggest Christian book and music labels, turned their attention to film.

Sony Pictures – the studio that made The Da Vinci Code – also promotes Christian movies through its Provident Films label. They had a huge success last year with the low-budget sports movie Facing the Giants, which was produced by a church in Georgia for only $100,000 and went on to gross more than $10 million.

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Interview: Tom Shadyac (Evan Almighty, 2007)

LOS ANGELES, CA — It has been four years since Bruce Almighty conquered the box office, and a lot has happened at the intersection of faith and film since then.

Many Christians were leery of the film when they heard that it starred Jim Carrey as a man who is endowed with supernatural powers after he complains that God isn’t doing a good enough job of running the world. But many Christians were pleasantly surprised to discover that, despite its bawdy humour, the movie raised serious questions about love, free will, and the need to submit to God’s plan for our lives.

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Interviews: Steve Carell, Lauren Graham, Wanda Sykes, Tom Shadyac (Evan Almighty, 2007)

On a recent sunny Saturday afternoon on the Universal Studios back lot, several journalists are preparing to interview the cast of Evan Almighty, many with one question on their minds:

Where’s God?

Most everyone here is impressed by the performance of Morgan Freeman, who is back playing God four years after he, um, created the role in Bruce Almighty. But Freeman himself is nowhere to be found. This is not too surprising, as Freeman is a busy actor whose talents are constantly in demand; but it does mean the most authoritative voice in the movie won’t be here to chat it up.

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Out of Africa / Christian themes and filmmakers make their mark in Nigeria and other parts of Africa

After India and the United States, can you name the country with the third-largest film industry in the world? The answer is Nigeria, where up to 1,200 low-budget straight-to-video movies are produced every year — many of which have Christian themes or are produced by churches.

Despite its prodigious output, no Nigerian film had been released theatrically in its native country since 1979 — but Variety reported last week that that changed recently thanks to a film called The Amazing Grace, which shows “how British slave trader John Newton’s voyage to Nigeria in 1748 led to him writing the famous hymn.” The film, which stars British actor Nick Moran as Newton, was made for $400,000 — an astronomical figure by “Nollywood” standards — and has grossed almost double what the previous box-office champ, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, earned in Nigeria. (Newton, of course, was also played recently by Albert Finney in the similarly-named British-American co-production Amazing Grace.)

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Interview: Tom Shadyac (Evan Almighty, 2007)

LOS ANGELES, CA — Tom Shadyac made his name as the director and producer of such lowbrow comedies as Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and The Nutty Professor. Then he took the bathroom humour in a more spiritual, if occasionally schmaltzy, direction with Liar Liar, Patch Adams and the phenomenally successful Bruce Almighty.

All of Shadyac’s previous films were rated PG-13 in the United States, but his newest film — Evan Almighty, in which God tells a man to build an ark, just like Noah — is rated a family-friendly PG. Shadyac, sitting down with several journalists on the Universal Studios backlot, is eager to let everyone know that the film is “safe.”

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Review: Spider-Man 3 (dir. Sam Raimi, 2007)

GIVE the Spider-Man series points for good intentions. Ever since director Sam Raimi first brought the web-slinging super-hero to the big screen five years ago, he has made a point of emphasizing the character’s humanity, indeed his fallibility. In doing so, he has shown how we, too, can learn from our mistakes and live more virtuously.

Even better, Raimi has given these virtues a distinctly Christian flavour. Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire), the science student who fights crime as Spider-Man, clearly owes his sense of right and wrong to the uncle and aunt who raised him after the death of his parents — and the films have depicted Aunt May (Rosemary Harris), in particular, as a devout woman who says her prayers and thanks the angels for their help.

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