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Haven't seen a thread on this film, although as a Georgia native I've been aware of it for a few years now. It was also apparently screened at this year's Biola Media Conference...

Looks like a "what you'd expect" kind of Christian film starring a football coach in the south. It's making the news today though for getting a PG rating by the MPAA because of its spiritual message.

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QUOTE
The MPAA, noted Fuhr, tends to offer cryptic explanations for its ratings. In this case, she was told that it "decided that the movie was heavily laden with messages from one religion and that this might offend people from other religions. It's important that they used the word 'proselytizing' when they talked about giving this movie a PG. ...

"You guys don't really know who you're dealing with."

"Oh yeah, and who exactly are we dealing with?"

"I'm the mother flippin' rhymenoceros."

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Great. Juuuuuuuuuuust great.

At the private Christian school where I teach, school policy only allows for blanket acceptance of "G" rated movies. Now that Facing the Giants is rated "PG" I'm not allowed to show it to any of my students, unless I can get special written permission from each individual set of parents. And I just don't know if the parents will go for it.

I mean, the movie is rated PG, for goodness sake! Why would they allow their kids to see it?

Sigh. What to do? What a conundrum.

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Great. Juuuuuuuuuuust great.

At the private Christian school where I teach, school policy only allows for blanket acceptance of "G" rated movies. Now that Facing the Giants is rated "PG" I'm not allowed to show it to any of my students, unless I can get special written permission from each individual set of parents. And I just don't know if the parents will go for it.

I mean, the movie is rated PG, for goodness sake! Why would they allow their kids to see it?

Sigh. What to do? What a conundrum.

Clearly, you can't show this trash to impressionable youngsters! ::w00t::

"You guys don't really know who you're dealing with."

"Oh yeah, and who exactly are we dealing with?"

"I'm the mother flippin' rhymenoceros."

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I feel astonished by this. I guess it's hard to think of another message-laden film that wouldn't already have a PG or higher rating for other reasons, but it will be VERY interesting to see if the MPAA applies this standard fairly to other films.

Maybe excessive political content merits a PG, too -- it will be interesting to see if this ends up as a free speech issue.

"Could we ever know each other in the slightest without the arts?"

« Nous connaîtrions-nous seulement un peu nous-mêmes, sans les arts? »

Quoted on Canada's $20 bill; from Gabrielle Roy's novel La montagne secrète. The English translation, The Hidden Mountain, is by Harry L. Binsse.

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I finally piped up on this at my blog, and I actually don't see what the problem is, given that nearly every Billy Graham film that has ever received an MPAA rating was rated PG (or PG-13, in the case of Caught, 1986) for its "thematic elements" or "thematic material", and sometimes for other things as well. The only exceptions are Two a Penny (1966), which got a G despite a scene where a guy pressures his girlfriend to sleep with him, etc., and Joni (1979), which also got a G.

At the duplicate thread, Denny asked about the 1956 version of Cecil B. DeMille's The Ten Commandments, which was apparently rated G when it was re-issued in 1972 -- which definitely seems a bit odd, since the version I first taped off of TV in the early '80s was "edited for television" to eliminate some of the more violent bits (a dagger being thrown into a slave's belly, etc.). FWIW, the 1959 version of Ben Hur was rated G when it was re-issued in 1969, too -- which again seems odd, given the sometimes bloody violence of the sea battle and the chariot race. And Gone with the Wind (1939) was rated G when it was re-issued in 1971. OTOH, Casablanca (1942) was rated PG in 1992 "for mild violence". And Psycho (1960) was rated the equivalent of PG when it was re-issued in 1968 but re-rated R when it was re-issued in 1984.

So I haven't got a clue what to make of the MPAA when it tackles older films -- though I will say that the ratings system, which was only invented in the late 1960s, was still in flux then.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Terry Mattingly's response (and my response to his response, in the comments). Personally, I think it's ridiculous that the government's getting involved in this. Chill out, everybody. There is no news here, no news at all.

Mind you, that said, I also don't buy the MPAA's assertion that religion had nothing to do with this. Just look at how the PG rating and the phrase "thematic elements" comes up with every other evangelistic movie they rate (and yes, I would even include Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth in this). Clearly there is a pattern here.

But I repeat: This is an OLD pattern, and it was applied to every Billy Graham movie for YEARS before this football-movie-that-no-one-had-ever-heard-of decided to capitalize on the rating and stoke up some free publicity by creating a controversy over it.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 2 weeks later...

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I'm definitely planning on missing this one.

This is from their website.

Why Audiences Enjoy Facing the Giants

IT HAS A GREAT STORY

By the writers of the award winning screenplay Flywheel, the movie Facing the Giants tells the inspirational story of a Christian high school football coach and his journey to cling to faith while battling his fear and failure. With powerful dialogue throughout, Facing the Giants refreshingly interweaves timeless moments of drama with action and humor.

IT IS FAMILY FRIENDLY

Facing the Giants connects with the huge segment of audiences who desire clean entertainment appropriate for all members of their family. Movie lovers can enjoy this story with their children and grandparents without apologizing afterwards or feeling like their values or spiritual beliefs were trampled upon.

IT IS FOR FOOTBALL LOVERS

Facing the Giants connects scenes from real football games with the masterful eye of director of photography Bob Scott (The Replacements, Any Given Sunday, Friday Night Lights). Facing the Giants also introduces The Death Crawl drill and features a special cameo appearance from the University of Georgia head football coach Mark Richt.

IT APPEALS TO WOMEN

While Facing the Giants is not a chick flick, women enjoy this movie. A sub-plot of the movie follows Coach Grant Taylor, who is inspired by the love of his committed wife Brooke. Her tears and prayer strengthen him as they face infertility together despite their dream to have children of their own. (Scroll down for more info...)

IT HAS SPIRITUAL / FAITH ELEMENTS

Recent movies like Passion of the Christ, The Gospel of John, Luther, the Fighting Temptations, and Because of Winn Dixie continue to reveal the massive group of people who desire entertainment that honors people of faith. Set in the context of a Christian high school, Facing the Giants follows a family who is sincere and committed to their spiritual beliefs. Based upon many true accounts from the lives of people of faith, Facing the Giants will appeal to the massive segment of Americans who attend church regularly and the 80% of Americans who view the Bible as divinely inspired by God. The story shows respect for the teachings of the Bible while not becoming shallow or too preachy.

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I'm definitely planning on missing this one.

Why? Curious, that's all.

"Could we ever know each other in the slightest without the arts?"

« Nous connaîtrions-nous seulement un peu nous-mêmes, sans les arts? »

Quoted on Canada's $20 bill; from Gabrielle Roy's novel La montagne secrète. The English translation, The Hidden Mountain, is by Harry L. Binsse.

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Why? Curious, that's all.

Have you seen the trailer and clips on their website? The acting looks painfully bad to me. And I'm wondering what the message of this film will be. That prayer and faith help you win football games? If so, no thanks. I haven't read the script, but from the trailer and other things I've read it looks like they win their last game. Why? Because they prayed hard enough? If so, what would have happened if the other coach had prayed also? I've seen and heard enough of that kind of "faith" to be really tired of it.

Have you heard anything else about the film?

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  • 2 weeks later...

Sorry for the late reply -- I've been away. And I really have only a minute for a quick reply.

I've seen this film twice; the first was an early cut that was somewhat European in style (pacing, mainly) -- I thought it was wonderfully contemplative (in the first half, at least), a perfect 'church film'. The second cut of the film I saw in February, and the pacing was quickened, storylines adjusted and it was more like a Hollywood-style inspirational cut.

The film-maker (Alex Kendrick) is a friend, and we've talked at some length about the plot -- specifically, my concern that there seemed to be linkage between prayer and football success. I think he took that issue seriously (the second cut made the linkage less obvious), but at the end of the day he stood by his initial idea for a story that was about being blessed.

Sometimes, he said, that IS what happens -- God just chooses to pour blessing into someone's life. I know that lots of times there are unanswered prayers, and often there are struggles, but there are also times of just being blessed, and that's what this story is.

Part of the story is, in fact, about how the coach learns to praise God when times are bad and when times are good, and he stresses that in the locker room with his players.

There are few enough truly great film-makers in the world -- I daresay that most A&F-ers would be critical of a majority of new films. So, Alex is a pastor who has made 2 films, one for about $20,000 and this one for something like $100,000 (before the studio spent more in post). It's been a labor of love (he gets none of the proceeds), made with many volunteers, and for a self-taught near-beginner, it would be hard to imagine a better start to a career. Is this one of the great films ever made? No, but it's better than a lot of stuff I see from people with more experience and more money. He is a solid storyteller, and ten years from now he's going to be making some very cool projects.

Let's give him a chance -- not a free pass, but a chance. I hope people wait until after they have seen this one before they decide to pass on it -- and to judge it the way we judge any film, on its merits.

"Could we ever know each other in the slightest without the arts?"

« Nous connaîtrions-nous seulement un peu nous-mêmes, sans les arts? »

Quoted on Canada's $20 bill; from Gabrielle Roy's novel La montagne secrète. The English translation, The Hidden Mountain, is by Harry L. Binsse.

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FWIW, my column on the ratings controversy.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 1 month later...

From interview with American Family Association:

Church members funded the making of Facing the Giants by giving $100,000 in only a matter of days.

In addition, God provided a high-quality camera for shooting and a team of five professionals who conducted a movie-making crash course for the crew prior to filming. But most amazing is God’s hand in orchestrating the theatrical distribution of Facing the Giants.

“We wanted to use a song called ‘Come Together’ from the [Christian music] group Third Day, so we called their publisher, Provident Music, in Nashville, Tennessee, and asked them if we could have permission,” Kendrick explained.

With only a slim chance that Provident, whose parent company is Sony, would give permission for use in a church-made movie, the music label asked to see the film.

“What began as a routine viewing for publishing approval led to the Provident president’s asking to distribute the film,” say production notes. “And Provident took it to Sony Pictures. When Sony executives saw the film’s high production value, they acquired it for [samuel] Goldwyn to release nationally.”

“The Lord provided all those things, … but part of the challenge is maintaining a mindset that at any point God could take His hand off this project, and it would lose its power,” Kendrick said.

“So we think if God’s hand is on this, it’s going to work to whatever degree He wants it to work.”

Be it a conversion, field goal or touchdown, Facing the Giants will score big for the sake of the kingdom.

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  • 1 month later...

Writer-director-star Alex Kendrick talks to CT Movies:

Did you read Dick Staub's commentary, criticizing your film as "another embarrassment in the name of Jesus"?

Kendrick: Yes. You know, people can say whatever they want; you're absolutely entitled to be your own critic. But this guy has an audience and he's saying this -- and he's not seen the movie. That is just flat-out irresponsible.

Anyway, he goes into this thing about how art should be the primary thing and that's how you glorify God -- through art, not through the message, not through the motive. It's all about the art. I agree with him that Christian art has been second rate at best, that it has been accepted because it's well-meaning -- and that's not good enough. But when we say, "God, we want to do our best," and he answers every prayer and we work our tails off and compromise in nothing, and we use every dollar of the $100,000 given, and then to have people saved, and to have Sony recognize it as something worth distributing -- all that, and then have a guy that's a Christian say this is an embarrassment to the name of Jesus, without seeing it? That's what stung me more than anything else.

If he wants to say it's still a big ball of cheese after seeing it, that's fine. But without seeing it, and God's given you a platform and you're shooting another brother in Christ, that is just flat-out irresponsible.

Well, technically, Staub said "I THINK this will be another embarrassment" (emphasis added) and "I know big budgets don't guarantee good films, but I can guarantee you the Sherwood project made in the 'hundreds of thousands dollars' range will be noticeably inferior to other Hollywood productions. A friend who has seen the film says it clearly looks like a low-budget made-for-TV project."

Was that enough to base an entire column on?

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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But is the low budget the problem here? Is the low budget relevant AT ALL to the question whether the film is "embarrassing", etc.?

Not that I'm in any mood to defend Kendrick, here. It is no defense against the charge of artistic "embarrassment" to say that [1] we worked really hard, [2] everything happened the way we wanted it to, [3] people claimed they were converted by this movie, and [4] a movie studio thought they could make money distributing it.

I just don't think that we should encourage an attitude which prejudices people against a film because it wasn't made with a lot of money. Yes, Staub says big budgets are not SUFFICIENT to make a good movie, but he does kind of leave you with the impression that they are NECESSARY to make a good movie.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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But is the low budget the problem here? Is the low budget relevant AT ALL to the question whether the film is "embarrassing", etc.?

Not that I'm in any mood to defend Kendrick, here. It is no defense against the charge of artistic "embarrassment" to say that [1] we worked really hard, [2] everything happened the way we wanted it to, [3] people claimed they were converted by this movie, and [4] a movie studio thought they could make money distributing it.

I just don't think that we should encourage an attitude which prejudices people against a film because it wasn't made with a lot of money. Yes, Staub says big budgets are not SUFFICIENT to make a good movie, but he does kind of leave you with the impression that they are NECESSARY to make a good movie.

Interesting. This is really making me think. Not really about the money thing, because I don't think the size of the budget should have much (if anything) to do with it. When a movie is "bad" because of it's small budget, it's usually not the budget that's the problem - there are deeper problems with story/talent/execution/etc. - and no doubt in many cases the small budget was necessary because the lack of excellence in material and talent was a factor in not being able to raise a larger budget. But lack of money could only make a film bad if the budget just isn't big enough to properly execute the story. And even then the problem is still more one of judgment. A filmmaker has to be smart enough to not attempt to tell a story that's beyond his/her financial capability. Or find another creative way to tell the story that doesn't necessitate the budget that doesn't exist. As we all know, there are plenty of excellent and terrible low budget films, and plenty of excellent and terrible big budget films.

Anyway, what interests me more is the question of artistic embarrassment, and what should or shouldn't warrant it. I understand your points about effort and conversions and studio interest not being a defense, but I might rather say that those things are not a defense against "lack of artistic merit" rather than "artistic embarrassment." Meaning, doing the best you could do and accomplishing what you hoped to accomplish is not sufficient to make a film good. But is this not sufficient to warrant lack of embarrassment?

Certainly not all will be capable of making exceptional art. And of those who are, certainly there may be a time before they've grown enough as an artist to do so. But should that dissuade people from making art - whether a private painting to hang in a bedroom or a feature film to be shown in a theater - or should they be expected to show embarrassment at the finished work, which - mediocre as it may be - might be the pinnacle of their ability?

I think this is a critical question these days with the ever increasing volume of art composed by Christians as the Christian community begins to re-embrace the arts. Sometimes I think we're all too eager to throw our fellow Christians under the bus for their inability to match up to the masters of the art form as a way to show the rest of the world that we "get it." Isn't the issue more about the artist maximizing their capacity and less about an objective comparison of the art to other works?

What I consider an embarrassment is when I see Christians do a half-assed job in their artistry because all they really consider the art to be is a vehicle with which to disperse their message. But I won't fault anyone for not being given (or not having yet fully developed) any particular level of artistic ability.

"You guys don't really know who you're dealing with."

"Oh yeah, and who exactly are we dealing with?"

"I'm the mother flippin' rhymenoceros."

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My review is up.

This is the third Christian movie I've reviewed for CT Movies-- one got zero stars, one got half a star, and this one got one. Either I'm turning into a softie or these lame-o Christian movies are starting to get a little better.

Partner in Cahoots

www.cahootsmag.com

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One of the people who worked on the film, who wishes to remain anonymous, wrote me a long letter that concluded with,

"God was good to us, and I think His approval this movies excellence will be in the saved souls, and the lives that are changed around the world because of it. I hope that even if you fear wasting your money at the theater, that you (and Mr. Staub) will rent the movie on DVD when it comes out."

Personally, while I'm always happy to see souls saved, I do not equate the excellence of a piece with the amount of "souls saved" by it. People get saved at Carman concerts all the time -- that doesn't mean he's a great musician, or that I should spend my time and money pursuing opportunities to attend Carman concerts.

But other Christian sites seem to think that the volunteer efforts and the faith of the filmmakers really did lead to a sensational result.

From the review at Focus on the Family's "Plugged In":

Lousy-team-finally-gets-its-act-together-to-win-the-big-game movies are as ubiquitous as passing plays on third and long. And if this film were just another one of them, there would be little else to say. But by embracing the spiritual concept of faith and then exploring the tension that exists between human experiences and spiritual realities, this little film that could

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Focus on the Family didn't have a choice but to like Facing the Giants. It would have undermined all the political capital they'd gained from this ratings controversy crap if it had sucked. So many people are pissed off about this, it would have been almost irresponsible to make them think it was actually something that wasn't that big of a deal.

There's been a lot said about the film's budget. By way of comparison, Pi was made for 60% of the cost of Facing the Giants yet launched the careers of two great artists (Aronofsky and Libatique) who are very highly regarded in their respective fields today. (Make that three... Clint Mansell as well.) It had a successful theater and DVD run without any sort of controversy adding to its following. Love it or hate it, it stood on its own merits, rather than having to prop itself up by some perceived influence on society or the fact that it was made for so little money.

People who are interested in art tend to reward great artistic accomplishments. For those most part, Christians just seem to reward great marketing accomplishments. After all, that's pretty much the extent of our concept of the Gospel. I can't comment on whether or not this film is a good artistic accomplishment, but hey... all the signs point in one direction. Yet it's unquestionably a great accomplishment in marketing.

For all my non-relevant vitriol (and please don't be offended, I'm just a generally angry kid with not enough outlets for my thoughts), I will say that the film's release isn't necessarily a bad thing. My main concern is that Christians will interpret its "success" incorrectly.... that is by producing more art of similar quality rather than aspiring to greater things.

Edited by theoddone33
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