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

Films to inspire. A busy couple of weeks hampered me from reviewing these films but, given the themes and talent involved, I think they’re worth putting on your radar.

Woodlawn premieres nationwide in theaters Friday (10/16). An Erwin Brothers film produced by Kevin Downes in association with Roma Downey and Mark Burnett’s LightWorkers Media banner. The movie stars Sean Astin, Jon Voight, Nic Bishop and Caleb Castille.

Synopsis (from the film’s press release): Woodlawn tells the true-life story of Tony Nathan (newcomer Caleb Castille), who lands in a powder keg of anger and violence when he joins fellow African-American students at Woodlawn High School in Birmingham, Ala., after its government-mandated desegregation in 1973. The Woodlawn Colonels football team is a microcosm of the problems at the school and in the city, which erupts in cross burnings and riots, and Coach Tandy Geralds (Nic Bishop) is at a loss to solve these unprecedented challenges with his disciplinarian ways.

It’s only when Hank (Sean Astin), an outsider who has been radically affected by the message of hope and love he experienced at a Christian revival meeting, convinces Coach Geralds to let him speak to the team that something truly remarkable begins to happen. More than 40 players, nearly the entire team, black and white, give their lives over to the “better way” Hank tells them is possible through following Jesus, and the change is so profound in them it affects their coach, their school and their community in ways no one could have imagined.

The Colonels make a run at the state playoffs led by Nathan, who achieves superstar status in Birmingham and attracts the attention of legendary University of Alabama football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant (Jon Voight).  It’s the miracle, Hank says, of what happens when God shows up.

Roma Downey says “The goal of all of our faith-based projects has been to spotlight the power and goodness of God (and) Woodlawn fits that bill perfectly: It’s an exciting and emotional look at how faith changes the fortunes and hearts of a football team, a high school and an entire city. This story is an important reminder of what faith in action looks like. Woodlawn is filled with truly memorable performances and at the heart of the film young Caleb Castille .
October Kiss airs Saturday (10/17) @ 9:00 PM (ET) on Hallmark Channel. Ashley Williams and Sam Jaeger star.

Synopsis (from the Hallmark Channel press release): A temporary nanny (Ashley Williams) is hired near Halloween by Ryan Lawson (Sam Jaeger), a widowed, work-obsessed executive. The eternally optimistic Poppy sets out to teach Ryan and his two young children what’s important in life – unconditional love, family and the joy of everyday occurrences.

I Am Potential airs Sunday (10/18) @ 7:00 PM (ET) on UP TV. The UP Premiere Movie was produced by American Family Studios for the American Family Association (AFA) and stars Burgess Jenkins (Remember the Titans), Jimmy Bellinger (Geek Charming), Jama Williamson (Parks & Recreation), Lance Nichols (Mom’s Night Out) and Judge Reinhold (Beverly Hills Cop). I Am Potential was written and directed by Zach Meiners and produced by Stephanie Whonsettler and John S. Howard. Executive Produced by Jeff Chamblee.

Synopsis (From UP’s press release): (Jimmy) Bellinger plays Patrick Henry Hughes, a talented musician who always wanted to be part of something bigger than himself. He dreamed of one day joining the University of Louisville marching band but there was one problem: Patrick was born without eyes or the ability to walk. Before Patrick was born his father, Patrick John (Burgess Jenkins) had his own goals for the boy and a very ambitious career plan. Now, the father must learn to let go of all that to help his son achieve his dream.

UP Programming SVP Sophia Kelley describes the I Am Potential as “a wonderful family film about a father who sacrifices everything for the sake of his son. She adds “We are delighted to be working with the AFA to bring this true story of courage and perseverance against the odds to our viewers.”

John W. Kennedy is a writer/development consultant specializing in teleplays, screenplays and novelizations. He can be reached at

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

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