By Karen L. Willoughby, Managing Editor
[img_assist|nid=8091|title=John Schneider|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=452|height=640]Films with a Christian message have been on the rise since the unprecedented success of Sherwood Pictures’ Fireproof in 2008, and the rate is increasing.
The recent October Baby outperformed percentage-wise the blockbuster Hunger Games on the opening weekend they shared in late March. Doonby, with its similar pro-life message, though from a more overtly secular perspective, is likely to be even more successful.
“I’ve never had a movie in the top ten before,” said John Schneider, who stars in both October Baby and Doonby. He’s better known for his years on television’s Dukes of Hazzard and Smallville. “The hope is that October Baby will grease the skids so Doonby can come out in 500 to 600 theatres.”
Christian filmmaking seems to have come of age with these two films that address the issue of abortion. This means it’s a great time either to invite a friend to a worthwhile movie, or to invite the community to an in-church showing – especially in places underserved by a movie theatre.
“Both October Baby and Doonby are very cleverly written … and neither goes where you think,” Schneider said in a telephone interview with the Baptist Message. “I like to have to think, to figure out the puzzle and to be fooled – and surprised. Both do all these things.”
October Baby – inspired by a true story – is about the survivor of a botched abortion, a point of fascination to the many Americans who have never heard that the forced removal of a baby from the womb could go awry. Church folks appreciate the sweet story and pro-life message; others – who may be pro-choice – face for the first time the possible ramifications of an abortion that doesn’t “take.”
“I think that is why October Baby is touching so many people,” Schneider said. “It doesn’t force its message on you. It just lets the story unfold and you make your own decision.”
October Baby also is about the need for the healing benefit of forgiveness, including the forgiveness of herself by the woman who had agreed in her youth to have an abortion.
Doonby is about a guy from a small town in Louisiana, who drifts into an even smaller Texas town and gets a job at a bar.
The movie shows how Sam Doonby relates to the people he meets. He falls in love with one girl, and a different girl comes onto him. Embarrassed at being rebuffed, she sets out to destroy him.
Although a great guy, he – Doonby – has his own baggage, including some most unexpectedly with the father of the girl he falls in love with.
“This is a very interesting way to go after the issue of abortion,” Schneider said. “I think it has to do with the fact that Peter [Mackenzie, writer and director] is from the U.K. They tell stories differently there. It’s fascinating. Doonby moved me so much. It’s an amazingly intelligent way to table this discussion [of abortion].”
Doonby is a gripping drama that secular audiences probably will like even more than church audiences, in part because of its country-western setting and Doonby’s job in a bar.
“I’m telling everyone I know about Doonby,” said one reviewer. “It gives a whole different perspective on abortion that I never thought of before.”
Several other Christian films have been released in the last few years.
All but the very newest are available on DVD; several feature Schneider in a lead role. Hardflip: what to do when life gives you a 180, which revolves around skateboarding, is slated for distribution soon on DVD.
Other straight-to-DVD films featuring Schneider include What Would Jesus Do in 2010, an updated film version of the Charles Sheldon’s 1896 book “In His Steps.” Collier & Co in 2006 revolved around a race track.
Returning to the abortion theme, available at no cost on www.youtube.com is a 33-minute video called “180.”
It consists mainly of Evangelist Ray Comfort asking people questions related to the Holocaust that took place in the late 1930s and early 1940s.
While “180” exposes peoples’ lack of knowledge about the holocaust (one man asked if Hitler was an actor) and also features the street-preaching evangelism for which Comfort has become known, its main focus is dismantling the moral justifications people give for abortion, according to an Oct. 11, 2011, article in Baptist Press, news service for the Southern Baptist Convention.
To one pro-choice woman who said everyone needed to rise up against Hitler and the killing of Jews, Comfort asked if she thought everyone should do the same on the issue of abortion,
“I think you have a valid point there,” she said. “I never paralleled those two.”
The title refers to the 180-degree turn people made in their views about abortion after Comfort talked with them.
“Regardless of the justification people in the documentary initially gave for abortion, most of them, by the end of Comfort’s interview, concluded that abortion is wrong,” according to the Baptist Press article.
To date, nearly 2.9 million people have watched the “180 movie” You Tube video.
The Vow opened in mid-February.
It depicts the true story of the lifetime love of a newly-married man for his wife, who after an accident doesn’t remember him.
Nearly 40 years later, she still doesn’t remember him, but she has grown to love him because of his selfless love for her.
This film is still in theatres, and soon to be released on DVD.
The newest VeggieTales animated production, Robin Good and His Not So Merry Men, was released to DVD in March of this year.
“Home Run” is a fictional story set for theatrical release this summer about a Big League baseball player forced to confront the outcome of his alcoholic abuse, according to a pre-review by film cirtic Phil Boatright that appeared recently in Baptist Press.
Celebrate Recovery, a Christ-centered 12-step restoration program launched by Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church, is a central element to this sports drama.
There are more. How many? Hundreds, dating back to The Great Commandment in 1941. In 2006 alone, 50 movies were produced for the Christian market.
As of this April, the top ten films available on DVD are: Courageous, Robin Good and His Not So Merry Men, The Grace Card, Apostle Peter and the Last Supper, Twas the Night Before Easter, The Encounter, Facing the Giants, Journey to Heaven, Soul Surfer, and Resurrection.
Inviting in the community for popcorn and a movie is one way churches can participate in the God’s Plan for Sharing emphasis, which this year is event evangelism – providing attractional events to draw townspeople into contact with church members.