Faith, Media & Culture

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

Faith TV. Three big faith-themed movies debut on TV this weekend.

The Color of Rain (Saturday, 5/31, @ 9:00 PM ET on Hallmark Movie Channel)

Synopsis (from The Hallmark Movie Channel website): When Matt Kell, husband and father to two young boys, succumbs to terminal cancer on Christmas day 2005, his widow, Gina (Lacey Chabert) is left to cope with the pain of his loss. Wanting to be close to her kids, Gina starts to volunteer at their elementary school and meets the Spehn children, Jack, Danny and Charlotte. In a tragic coincidence, just weeks after Matt’s death, the Spehns’ mom, Cathy, was also suddenly taken by cancer, leaving her distraught husband, Michael (Warren Christie), to care for their three kids on his own. Sensing the hopelessness in Michael that she so recently saw in herself, Gina reaches out to him and his kids and the two families begin to forge an unlikely friendship. During the year that follows, the lives of the two families become intertwined as they learn to lean on each other, beginning to heal with laughter, compassion and faith.

Mini-review: I was given the opportunity to preview the film which is based on the inspiring true story and New York Times bestselling book of the same name by Michael & Gina Spehn. The Color of Rain simply rings true in its portrayal of two families wracked by tragedy who eventually find their way to becoming one family. The movie deftly chronicles how Michael, Gina and their kids struggled through the fears and sense of loss to help each other move forward while honoring the memories of their respective spouses and parents. To be sure, there is humor sprinkled throughout film but, unlike the artificial world of the aforementioned Brady Bunch, it flows with a sense of how such a scenario would affect real people. In other words, there’s genuine heart here. The Color of Rain is highly recommended.

Love Find You in Sugarcreek (Sunday, 6/1, @ 7:00 PM ET on UP TV)

Synopsis (from UP’s press release): Rachel Troyer (Sarah Lancaster) is a smart, focused, single policewoman in the quaint town of Sugarcreek, nicknamed “The Little Switzerland of Ohio” and located about an hour south of Akron, in the heart of Amish country.  She frequently looks in on her three kindly Amish aunts: Bertha (Kelly McGillis), Anna (Marianna Alacchi) and Lydia (Annie Kitral), who raised Rachel from girlhood after she was orphaned.  They are the proprietors of a picturesque, although faded, farmhouse inn that is set to close after the season.  When a mysterious, scruffy stranger, Joe (Tom Everett Scott), shows up on the inn’s doorstep with his five-year-old son, Bobby (Thomas Kapanowski), the aunts insist on taking the pair in as a matter of good will and faith.  Rachel’s police instincts immediately tell her that this seemingly broke outsider is much too refined to be the drifter he presents himself to be.  So, while the aunts welcome Joe as a handyman and enjoy having a child around the Sugar Haus Inn again, a wary, suspicious – yet attracted – Rachel becomes determined to uncover his identity.  Her digging not only reveals his surprising identity, but the fact that he’s run away from his home, his life, and a shocking unsolved murder.  Unfortunately, Rachel’s digging doesn’t go unnoticed, which brings Joe’s past – and its violence – right into this quiet Amish community.   

I just screened this one and, as usual with UP film, I found it be reminiscent of the type of film CBS would have aired on Sunday nights in the nineties. That is a compliment, BTW, because those films (airing after Touched by an Angel) tended to have intelligent plots, interesting characters that you actually liked and simple lessons that weren’t preachy but where, nonetheless, powerful in their simplicity.  Sugarcreek is indeed sweet — but not saccharine — and its suspense is, more or less, or Murder, She Wrote which is sometimes all you want on a lazy Sunday night. Love Finds You in Sugar Creek is recommended.

Signed, Sealed, Delivered (Sunday, 6/1, @ 8:00 PM ET on Hallmark Channel)
“Something Good”
Episode 7 of this delightful series from Touched by an Angel producer/writer Martha Williamson finds postal investigators Oliver (Eric Mabius), Shane (Kristin Booth), Rita (Crystal Lowe) and Norman (Geoff Gustafson) attempting to unite a lost letter with a wildly talented but anonymous singer/songwriter using only the lyrics of his undiscovered song. As the team follows the song’s clues, they quickly unravel the details of a fated night, where two lives were changed. Meanwhile, an old friend of Shane’s (guest star Valerie Bertinelli) arrives and stirs things up in the Dead Letter Office. If you haven’t already caught it, this show — which is very faith-friendly, is worth checking out. Note: I’ll be running an interview with series star Eric Mabius next week.

Jerzy Popieluszko: Messenger of the Truth (Sunday, 6/1 and Monday 6/2, PBS, check your local listings or the film’s website)

Synopsis (from the film’s website): Messenger of the Truth is one of the first feature documentary films to reveal the story of Polish martyr and a true 21st century hero of human rights, Father Jerzy Popieluszko. Father Jerzy was an ordinary priest, whose strong faith, conviction and courage mobilized a nation to believe that they were indeed free in their hearts. His pursuit of the truth stood against the Soviet-backed regime’s pursuit of power. They were willing to kill, he was willing to die. The Soviets saw this one man speaking the truth in a country full of lies as a threat.

Note: I haven’t actually seen this film which is narrated by Catholic activist and actor Martin Sheen but it was awarded first place in the documentary category at the 28th International Catholic Film Festival in Warsaw, Poland and also recently won a Christopher Award in the TV category

Ricky Skaggs on INSP’s Moments
The Grammy Award-winning country music legend is the latest artist to be featured on INSP’s interstitial Moments series. Over five installments, Skaggs shares his personal reflections on faith and family and how they have impacted his life and career. Here’s a sample:

Celebrities who have previously offered life reflections for Moments include Corbin Bernsen, Kirk Cameron, Roma Downey, Mark Burnett and the late Ralph Waite. The Skaggs segments can be seen June 3 – 8:00 PM (during The Waltons), June 5 – 10:00 PM (during Matlock), June 7 – 8:00 PM (during The Virginian) June 8 – 4:00 PM (during The Waltons) and June 12 – 2:00 PM (during Little House on the Prairie).


A great film does well. I really liked Return to the Hiding Place and am happy to report that the film, about a band of teenaged heroes during World War II, found success during its limited release this past week. The riveting independently-produced drama (from Spencer Productions), ranked in the Top 5 for per screen average reaching $7,338.40 per screen (3-day) in its opening weekend, beating out such high-profile releases as Neighbors ($4,294), Blended ($4,018) and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 ($2,476). The film played in Chicago, Ill., San Antonio and New Braunfels, TX, and Washington, DC. A wide opening of 300+ theaters is planned for later this fall. Catch it.

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

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