(Un)Fair & (Im)Balanced

(Un)Fair & (Im)Balanced

‘Blue Like Jazz’ Director Steve Taylor: The Christian Movie Establishment…is Out to Get Us

Director Steve Taylor (right) with author Donald Miller (left) (Photo by Christian Piatt)

It’s no surprise that some Christians and the organizations they represent are less than enthused about the forthcoming Blue Like Jazz movie. But Steve Taylor, the film’s director, claimed today on Donald Miller’s Blog that certain prominent Christian filmmakers “issued what amounts to a fatwa against Blue Like Jazz.”

One of the concerns involves a movie being released this month called October Baby, which is being distributed by Provident Films. Taylor received word that Provident had ordered exhibitors not to show trailers of the Blue Like Jazz movie at October Baby showings. Taylor also shared this excerpt from an email forwarded to him, which reportedly came from the Vice President of Provident Films (text is verbatim from Taylor’s post):

i think exhibitors are going to try to play the Blue Like Jazz trailer with october baby

this can not happen – the trailer actually has the words “I hate Jesus” in the voiceover along with a number of images that will be very offensive to catholics

it is in the best interest of theaters to not run the trailer because they are going to have a lot of angry patrons if they do

thanks for your help here

Not surprisingly, this upset Taylor for many reasons. Specifically, there is nowhere in the Blue Like Jazz trailer or the film where the words “I hate Jesus” are used.

“I did talk to, and am talking to, the marketing head at Provident Films,” Taylor told me by phone. He says he emailed the woman at Provident and did not hear anything in response for five days. Once he reached her, she said she never received his original email.

Taylor’s contact at Provident assured him they would correct any misinformation coming from Provident about the content of the Blue Like Jazz film.

So where is such pressure coming from? Taylor has connected the dots, which seem to lead him back to Sherwood Baptist Church. Sherwood Baptist is a well-known producer of Christian films, including Fireproof and Facing the Giants (both of which are distributed by Provident), directed by the Kendricks brothers.

No one from Sherwood Baptist has contacted Taylor directly. However, several people have told Taylor personally that they are afraid to go on record, but were ordered to distance themselves from the Blue Like Jazz project for “fear of being blackballed” from working on future Sherwood Baptist movies.

Sherwood Baptist Executive Pastor Jim McBride

Taylor says this order came from Sherwood Baptist’s Executive Pastor, Jim McBride.

“(Jim) hadn’t seen the movie prior to his edict,” says Taylor, “hadn’t read the screenplay or anything. I’m puzzled why he feels so strongly about a film he hadn’t seen. And how do they do this when their distributor, Sony, released The Da Vinci Code?”

The Blue Like Jazz film certainly departs from traditional Christian filmmaking in many ways. For one, there is language, drug use and sexual content that earned it a PG-13 rating. But none of this is handled in a way that glorifies the issues. Rather, there is an attempt by the filmmakers to present a more authentic portrayal of American college life.

“This is not a family-friendly movie,” Taylor told me at a recent screening of the film I attended. “It’s not meant to be.”

And because the movie does not ascribe to what Taylor calls the Christian formula for filmmaking, doesn’t necessarily consider it a “Christian film,” in the traditional sense. Rather, it’s a film that deals head-on with many Christian themes.

Release is scheduled for April 13th, showing on 100 screens in 25 cities the first weekend. It is being distributed by Roadside Attractions, a traditionally “secular” film distributor.

For more about this story, see a recent post on the Christianity Today blog.

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