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Ragamuffin


Tyler
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Not much of a track record behind this. It's the first leading role for the star, Michael Koch, and the director/writer, David Schultz, hasn't done too much before this. He's also making a Mullins documentary.

The tone does feel different than a typical Christian movie, though. Edited by Tyler

It's the side effects that save us.
--The National, "Graceless"
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The tone does seem different, which is fitting. Rich Mullins had a different vibe than the CCM of his time. They might be respecting that. This looks promising.

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  • 7 months later...

I got to see the film twice over the weekend. All in all I was happy with everything, and it certainly moved me to tears a lot during the first screening. Seeing it a second time allowed me to watch with a more critical eye, but I was still moved during the deeper moments.

I was able to talk with one of the producers, and he did mention an issue or two that popped up in the process of making the film. I won't share the specifics because every film has problems to overcome, and some are only known to the filmmakers. The rest of the audience will never even know about it, and I even felt that this "problem" lent to a certain perception of the events in the film that was positive overall. Sorry, no spoilers!

The acting from the lead is strong, and most of the supporting actors hold their own. There could have been another pass on the script focused on polishing the conversational dialogue, but overall the interactions rang true. Shot well and with good lighting, so the crew certainly knew what they were doing. In a pass/no pass scenario I certainly think the film works. Out of 10, I'd give it an 8.

I agree with one other reviewer that this film should not be compared to Hollywood blockbusters. It may not even fit with the indie circuit. However, it is a worthy final product that holds its own. And, from what I've heard, is touching people of various beliefs on a variety of levels.

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  • 7 months later...
  • 2 weeks later...

Glad to have caught up with this one. I showed our elementary age Sunday School class the video for Mullins' "Creed" a few months back, and while they were nonplussed, it brought back a wave of memory for me—Mullins' CDs had long since been relegated to boxes, probably ever since a move in 03. But when I needed to find a worship song for class and wanting to be alittle different than the Hillsong Kids diet they were being fed, Rich was my go to artist. I need to dig out those old albums and rip them,to have them available for listening.

I should take time to write of the influence of Mullins' songs on me, a kid in the late eighties and early nineties that somehow ended up in a Christian drama group and realized shortly later that maybe I wasn't there to change other, but to be changed myself. And Rich's music was the soundtrack of that transformation.

I was hoping to see some of that transformational power in the film, Ragamuffin, and while not completely satisfied wasn't completely disappointed either. It's not a terribly good film, but it has some terribly good moments. Director David Schultz finds a thread of fathers and fatherhood through Mullins' story, and cutting between the adult Mullins and his childhood self remembering a frightening and angry rebuke from his distant father, Indiana farmer John Mullins, in several sequences lends some cinematic flair to Rich's struggles. Two other father figures play critical roles in Mullins' life, Kansan Morris Howard, and "Ragamuffin Gospel" author Brennan Manning. Morris (IMDB does not provide an actor credit) comes across as friendly but shallow, diminishing credibility for the substantial role his character plays in Rich's maturation. But Manning, played by Charles Lawlor, brings a gritty calmness, a worn in type of experience and grace that challenges and pushes Mullins towards his life's work even as he pries lose the grips of the demons that claw into him. I believed this was a relationship and a man that could cause such impact.

Relationships are key to a film like this, and at various points Schultz and lead actor Michael Koch fail to infuse Mullins with enough presence and likeability to see others want to be in relationship with him. That unlikeability is fair game for the biopic and a source of its strength, to avoid hagiography of such a revered man, but at points I found it pretty easy to identify with John's impatient frustration with his eldest boy, er, piano player.

But in the whole, Ragamuffin accomplishes a sense of empathy for Rich, and primes the tear ducts for a cathartic scene in which the singer under Manning's tutelage...perhaps "discipleship" is a better word...confronts that fear of loneliness and rejection that so often threatens to destroy Rich. The film is a bit repetitive, spending too many scenes showing us the same things. Technically the film shows some seams--spanning three decades, fashions and locations looked a lot like the late 2000s instead of the late 80s. But perhaps the biggest flaw is exposed during the final credits, when clips of the real Rich Mullins are shown, and for all the efforts at Schultz and Koch to capture his essence, the final thirty seconds of banter from Rich with his audience show a winsome ease and humor that makes too few appearances during the feature itself.

Edited by Buckeye Jones
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I got to see the film twice over the weekend. All in all I was happy with everything, and it certainly moved me to tears a lot during the first screening. Seeing it a second time allowed me to watch with a more critical eye, but I was still moved during the deeper moments.

I was able to talk with one of the producers, and he did mention an issue or two that popped up in the process of making the film. I won't share the specifics because every film has problems to overcome, and some are only known to the filmmakers. The rest of the audience will never even know about it, and I even felt that this "problem" lent to a certain perception of the events in the film that was positive overall. Sorry, no spoilers!

 

Now I'm curious.  Would you mind sharing the specifics and what impact you feel they had? 

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 It's not a terribly good film, but it has some terribly good moments. 

 

 

This is very fair. And oddly, I thought its best moments were really didactic. The scene between Mullins and Manning in the diner will stick with me.

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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  • 3 weeks later...

First one of these reviews wherein the reviewer was not a Mullins fan.  Martin, I'm a little skeptical of your musical taste now...but your film review is similar to my take.  As I mentioned above, that insert of the actual Rich Mullins in the credit sequence pretty much undercuts the emotion of the preceding film.  Still, I'm glad to see a "Christian" film not set out to be a complete hagiography even if it skips two of the defining moments of Mullins' life at the reservation and the release of Liturgy, Legacy, and a Ragamuffin Band. 

 

This film inspired me to go digging through the boxes in the garage looking for my stash of Mullins CDs (packed away before I got iTunes and thus not ripped on a harddrive somewhere)--unfortunately, I may have given them away ten years ago.  So disappointing!

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  • 11 months later...

I got to see the film twice over the weekend. All in all I was happy with everything, and it certainly moved me to tears a lot during the first screening. Seeing it a second time allowed me to watch with a more critical eye, but I was still moved during the deeper moments.

 

I was able to talk with one of the producers, and he did mention an issue or two that popped up in the process of making the film. I won't share the specifics because every film has problems to overcome, and some are only known to the filmmakers. The rest of the audience will never even know about it, and I even felt that this "problem" lent to a certain perception of the events in the film that was positive overall. Sorry, no spoilers!

 

 

Now I'm curious.  Would you mind sharing the specifics and what impact you feel they had? 

I don't know how I missed this question for over a year, Buckeye. I have almost no recollection of what I and the producer spoke about, but I just read Martin Stillion's review and most of his criticism is spot on. I do think the acting of the main character was better than Martin gave him credit for, but the lead actor certainly was burdened by the shortcomings of the writing and directing. Also, I'm self-aware enough to know that what moved me in the film was based more on my memory of Rich Mullins than the skill of the filmmakers.

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It's because the software doesn't enable to a "mention" that alerts people when they are being engaged with, I think.  I am glad that I was able to see Mullins live at least once, at Ohio State back in the mid-90s.  I'm also certainly indebted to Rich's winsome faith coming through his music in my own spiritual maturing.  Step by step, by the tones of a hammered dulcimer, indeed.

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