Faith, Media & Culture

Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

Help for persecuted Christians. Variety reports that producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey (The Bible, Son of God) have joined with the Arlington, Virginia-based Institute for Global Engagement to set up  the Cradle of Christianity Fund.  Their goal is to raise $25 million for relief efforts to assist about 800,000 displaced Christians in Iraq and Syria. The couple, who are currently at work on two upcoming miniseries (NBC’s A.D. and CBS’ The Dovekeepers), have seeded the effort with a million dollars of their own  money. Downey says “We want to wake people up to the horrors going on over there and speak out on behalf of religious freedom.” (h/t Big Hollywood)

T.D. Jakes X 2. The powerhouse preacher/entertainment mogul who scored a major box office hit this past year with Heaven is for Real is out to prove the appeal of faith-themed movies is for real. Toward that end, Hollywood Reporter reports he’s picked up the rights to the book Where a Man Stands: Two Different Worlds, an Impossible Situation, and the Unexpected Friendship That Changed Everything by Carter Paysinger and Steve Fenton. The book tells the true story of  the  Paysinger, who rose from humble beginning to become the first African-American principle of the predominantly-white Beverly Hills High, and Fenton, his Jewish friend who helped him turn the struggling school around. THR also says Sony has snapped up Miracles From Heaven, a faith-based project that reunites Jakes with his Heaven is for Real producing collaborator Joe Roth. Former Sony exec DeVon Franklin (also a preacher) will also produce. The latter film is based on the soon-to-be-released book Three Miracles from Heaven: A Sick Little Girl, Her Journey to Heaven, and the Lives Forever Changed by Christy Beam. It tells the story of Beam’s daughter who fell three stories, reportedly visited Heaven before being revived and went on to be healed of a rare and apparently incurable digestive disorder from which she suffered.

An Old Fashioned box office showdown. Rik Swartzwelder —  writer, director, producer and star of the upcoming independent, faith-friendly romantic film Old Fashionedis throwing down the gauntlet at the much higher profile S&M-themed Fifty Shades of Grey backed by Universal Studios. Both films are slated to premiere over Valentine’s Day weekend in 2015 in what looks to be a classic David and Goliath face-up. Think of Old Fashioned as the Rocky of romantic cinema. Here’s hoping it not only goes the distance but scores a knockout.  Swartzwelder, BTW, sorta reminds me of a young Robert Redford.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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