Flashback: The films made by Alex & Stephen Kendrick

In my review of God’s Not Dead, I made a point of contrasting the “Christian ghetto” approach of that film with the more open-minded “Christian niche” approach of the films made by Alex and Stephen Kendrick (Flywheel, Facing the Giants, Fireproof and Courageous).

So I figured it might be good to round up the various articles I have written about the Kendricks and their films; the list includes two op-ed pieces, a review, and several interviews with the filmmakers and their collaborators.

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Review: Fireproof (dir. Alex Kendrick, 2008)

Two years ago, there was a big controversy when Facing the Giants, an ultra-low-budget movie produced by a church in the Bible Belt, was rated PG, allegedly for its spiritual content. Pundits and politicians railed against the MPAA and its ratings board for its perceived bias against religious themes, and moviegoers rallied to the film’s defense at the box office, making it one of the most successful Christian movies of all time. But as the debate over the movie’s rating subsided, another controversy emerged. Some Christians praised the film for its positive, family-friendly values, while others condemned it as bad art, a bad story badly told that would only encourage the worst artistic instincts of the evangelicals who saw it.

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Interview: Kirk Cameron

Kirk Cameron may be best known as a former teen idol and as one of the stars of the 1980s sitcom Growing Pains. But over the past decade, he has been cultivating another, very different fan base, as the star of several Christian movies — including the Left Behind series and Miracle of the Cards — and as an evangelist with The Way of the Master, a ministry he shares with Ray Comfort.

Cameron, who turns 38 in October, became a Christian while still in his teens, and he has been married to the actress Chelsea Noble — who he met when she guest-starred on Growing Pains — since 1991. He recently published a book about his life and career, called Still Growing: An Autobiography (Regal).

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The Church Behind Fireproof / How a Baptist church in Georgia became a movie-making mecca

For several years the members of Sherwood Baptist Church have had a vision: “To touch the world from Albany, Georgia.”

And thanks to the power of mass media, this church of about 3,000 members — located in a city of only 80,000 or so — has been able to do just that.

Through its media ministry, the church has already produced two feature-length films with an all-volunteer cast and a mostly-volunteer crew. Given their incredibly low budgets, both films — especially Facing the Giants — have been enormously successful, in theaters and on DVD. Both films have also been distributed to over 50 countries around the world in a dozen subtitled languages.

Now the church is putting the finishing touches on its third film, Fireproof, which opens on September 26. This time the folks at Sherwood are working with a budget of $500,000 — still peanuts by Hollywood standards, but five times the budget of Giants — and they even have a professional Hollywood actor, Kirk Cameron of Growing Pains and Left Behind fame, in the lead role as a firefighter whose marriage is in trouble.

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Hollywood? No, SHER-wood!

How Sherwood Baptist Church became a hot spot for making Christian movies — including Facing the Giants and the upcoming Fireproof, starring Kirk Cameron.

The regular film world has the Coens, the Wachowskis, and the Farrellys — brothers who collaborate on producing and directing both blockbusters and arthouse flicks.

The Christian film world has the Kendricks — a couple of associate pastors in Albany, Georgia who made a couple of ultra-low-budget movies with a mostly volunteer cast and crew as part of their church’s outreach program, and then hit it big when the second film, Facing the Giants, grossed just over $10 million at the box office.

Now they’re putting the finishing touches on their third film, Fireproof, due for a theatrical release on September 26. The film concerns a firefighter whose marriage is on the rocks, and whose father challenges him to take “the Love Dare” — a series of recommended activities that might, just might, help patch things up.

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