How ‘Faith-Based Film’ Became a Dirty Term, by Emma Green in The Atlantic

“It’s a film that is not easily boxed into what has now become known as ‘faith-based,’” Oyelowo said. “Often, [in] films that have a faith element to them, the writing is sometimes substandard; they’re very heavy-handed from a [proselytizing] point of view.”

by Emma Green • The Atlantic

Screenshot 2015-09-22 14.25.27At times, it seems like religious films have become an entitlement program for former A-list actors who are low on work. September’s 90 Minutes in Heavennabbed Kate Bosworth, of early-aughts Blue Crush fame, and Hayden Christensen, who hasn’t done many big projects since he played baby Darth Vader in the last Star Wars reboots. Nicolas Cage joined the beloved-by-teens star Chad Michael Murray in Left Behind last fall. Exodus: Gods and Kings crammed in wasted speaking roles for Sigourney Weaver and John Turturro, and Heaven Is for Real featured Thomas Haden Church from Sideways and George of the Jungle.

Captive, however, is no retirement scheme. The film features David Oyelowo and Kate Mara, two actors near the top of their game: In 2014, he was nominated for a Golden Globe, and she an Emmy. The movie definitely has religious themes; it’s based on the true story of Ashley Smith, a single mother from Georgia who was taken hostage by a convict, Brian Nichols, after he escaped from jail and went on a shooting rampage. The two spend a night locked in her apartment, sometimes in conflict, sometimes talking about the meaning of life. By the end of the film, she has sworn off her addiction to meth, and he has effectively decided to turn himself in. As the real-life Ashley Smith said in an interview, “I honestly, that night, gave God every bit of me … God wanted me to lay down my garbage before him so he could turn it into something beautiful.”

At first glance, this would seem like a perfect movie to make for Christian America. But in interviews, both Oyelowo and the film’s screenwriter, Brian Bird, swore off the term “faith-based film.”

“It’s a film that is not easily boxed into what has now become known as ‘faith-based,’” Oyelowo said. “Often, [in] films that have a faith element to them, the writing is sometimes substandard; they’re very heavy-handed from a [proselytizing] point of view.”

Bird agreed. “There is sort of a faith-based filmmaking ghetto—a lot of the films are not up to par,” he said. “But people are so hungry for them that they’ll go plunk down their $10 for them and watch them. Our goal with Captive was to make a real movie.”

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See also

Time to Take Hollywood to the Woodshed, by Brian Bird

Opening Doors for Others: An Interview with Writer-Producer & Mentor Brian Bird