Here’s the latest from the crossroads of faith, media & culture: 09/24/21

This is a big month for fans of Alex and Stephen Kendrick. The Kendrick Brothers are known as the visionaries behind such successful faith-themed films as Flywheel(2003), Facing the Giants (2006), Fireproof(2008), Courageous(2011),  War Room (2015) and Overcomer (2019). Their productivity is particularly on view this month as the creative Christian siblings premiered Show Me the Father, their first documentary feature, on September 17th. That film is still in theaters even as today they’re unveiling Courageous Legacy, a remastered 10th anniversary edition of the original Courageous movie that includes new footage and a new ending that follows up on what’s become the film’s characters a decade later. In a way, it’s a companion piece to Show Me the Father in that both films celebrate the value good fathers play in their children’s lives.  My conversation with Stephen Kendrick follows the trailer below.

JWK: So, tell me first about Show Me the Father.
Stephen Kendrick: Show Me the Father is a cinematic roller coaster of a journey taking people through the stories of five different true fatherhood stories. It really will connect with everybody at some level because you see both good and bad examples of fatherhood. Everybody has a fatherhood story that is connected to their heart whether through pain or joy. We end up talking up talking about the perfect Fatherhood of God and how He can help us complete our fatherhood story, in a sense, with a closer relationship with Him. There are twists and turns in it. It’s for all ages. Anybody can watch it. It has some big surprises that are in the film that are fun to experience with an audience.
JWK: I understand one of the stories told in the film is your own personal story.

SK: Yes, one of those stories is my daughter’s adoption story. My wife and I adopted a baby girl from China in 2013. We did not realize that God was going to lead us to adopt. So, that was a surprise and then the way He went about communicating that to us was a surprise. The things we learned about the Fatherhood of God in the midst of the adoption were unexpected as well.

JWK: What did you learn?
SK: The Bible says in Ephesians 1 that anyone who gives their lives to Christ becomes spiritually adopted by God, in that He becomes our Father and we become His beloved children. So, even as our daughter’s adoption was not something she had earned or even asked for, we set our hearts upon her. We flew to China and adopted her as she was – with (all) her emotional concerns. She had a major heart condition and needed surgery. (She had) educational needs, all of those things. So, when we brought her back to the US, her identity completely changed. It went from being an unwanted orphan with no hope and no family in China and no faith future in a communist country to now being a beloved daughter in a Christian home with two committed parents and siblings, prayer support and all the provision and the education and medical support that she needed.
JWK: How old is she now?
SK: She is ten now.
JWK: How many kids to you have?
SK: I have six.
JWK: One adopted and five others?
SK: Mia is the only one we adopted. The other five are biological children.
JWK: Show Me the Father is your and your brother’s first documentary. What’s the difference between telling stories via a documentary as opposed through a scripted and fictional narrative?

SK: With a documentary you go in with a hope but you don’t have a finished script. You are praying for God to lead you to treasure that you’re mining out of lots of stories. So, when we were beginning the process of beginning to interview people, we didn’t know which stories we would use and which ones we wouldn’t. We interviewed dozens of people but we landed on five stories that really highlight the extremes of really good examples and really bad examples of fatherhood. People will be able to see themselves and their own journey in the stories.The stories also feature God’s intervention – answered prayer- how He brought a lot of healing, forgiveness and restoration where there was brokenness. So, Show Me the Father not only takes you on this emotional roller coaster but it lands in a place with a lot of hope and encouragement. People have left the pre-screenings very excited about sharing the movie with other people and even talking about how much it meant to them personally.

We’ve had two responses from the film. There’s the initial response in the theater of how they feel right away and then we’re hearing back from people days later when they talk about how, the more they thought about the film, it’s helping them with their own children or to reconcile with their own dads or even in their own walk with God. That was our hope.
JWK: Both these movies seem like perfect Father’s Day movies. Were their releases perhaps delayed due to COVID?
SK: We decided we wanted to release both of them in the fall for a few reasons. The summer theatrical releases historically are too jam-packed with big films. So, there is that issue – but secondly theaters (were) just opening up and getting back into the rhythm. We wanted there to be a little bit more time so that churches could feel more comfortable going to watch the films together. Plus, the fall has been a really good time for our films in the past. Almost all of our films have been released in either August or September. So, we realized September (is) a great window for both of the films to come out – before the Thanksgiving-Christmas rush comes in but also after school gets back in. I hope that the films will be used next year for Father’s Day at churches and that people will be able to feature them in their own communities as well.
JWK: Turning to Courageous Legacy, it’s a follow-up to the original Courageous which hit theaters just about exactly ten years ago. Why do you think that film resonated so well with the audience?
SK: Courageous came out in September of 2011. It was our most cinematic film at that point…We had hit a rhythm on our fourth film with Courageous. It had lots of action that men enjoyed. It had multiple fatherhood stories between these different police officers. It had some unexpected tragedy in it. At the same time, it had a lot of humor sprinkled throughout the film.

It hit a chord with international audiences. We were hearing back from countries all over the world – from Russia, China, South Africa, Mexico, Ecuador, Panama, the Philippines – (about) large groups of men and churches and people being deeply impacted by Courageous. It was translating very well internationally. My brother Alex even received a call from the International Space Station. They had watched Courageous in space on the space station!  (So, that) was exciting and unexpected to find out.

It’s been ten years since the movie came out and we’ve got a new generation of young men that have become fathers – millions of them who had either never seen Courageous or they would watch it with completely new eyes holding their own children. So, we were thinking what if we went and not just rereleased the film but what if we made it way better? We reedited the film. We added an introduction that shares about the impact it’s had around the world which is inspiring. We’ve recolored it. It is now in 4K which is the way we shot it in the raw form. We originally released it only in 2K quality. The sound has been redone. The music has been enhanced. We’ve added in new bonus scenes. We filmed a new ten-years-later ending to the film. You get to watch where the officers are ten years later. So, it feels more like an event now but it’s still safe for families to go see. Courageous fans are gonna love the film, we believe. It will be the best version for a new generation.

JWK: What makes a good general audience movie – and what makes a good Christian audience movie? What are the similarities and differences between those two categories?
SK: Christian audiences are intelligent. So, they still want it to be a great story. They want good characters. They want to go on an emotional journey. They want it to be filmed well, edited well, acted well and all those things.

From a secular perspective, the story is #1. (Everyone wants a) story (that) really works. An audience will actually tolerate amateur acting (and) a lower budget…if the story is strong. That’s the most important thing, not the budgets or who the actors are.

Secondly, I think the character development is very important – that you care about these people that you’re going on a journey with and you want to see what happens to them. Emotionally, you want to audience to have highs and lows. You want them to be on the edge of their seat wanting to know what gonna happen next. You want the acting to be realistic and authentic to the scene and to the context of the moment.

Then, the professionalism. You want it to be artistically beautiful – that the scenes are beautiful to look at, the music is beautiful to hear, the pacing and the unfolding of the story keeps your attention all the way to the end. You want to have a sense of a gratifying ending, whatever that may be – whether it’s a mystery, a happy ending or something that’s challenging or convicting because you discover truths that will help you in life.

From our perspective on a Christian film, we want people to have a spiritual experience when they watch the movie. We want them to encounter God (and) at some level (to) discover truth about who God is or about who they are or discover a truth from Scripture that can help them in their most important relationships. We talk about how, if a person is on their deathbed, they don’t care anymore about how much money they have or how much they worked in the office or the places around the world they traveled. They’re gonna be thinking about where they stand with God and they’re gonna be thinking about the people they love the most.

It’s interesting that our films basically focus in on those two things. All of our films focus in on helping people in their faith, in their relationship with God, to hopefully draw close to Him, be more committed to Him and to know Him personally and not just know about Him.

Secondly, we want to help people to be stronger and healthier in their most important relationships. So, Fireproof focused on marriage. Courageous focused in on fatherhood. Overcomer talks about identity but there’s a reconciliation that’s demonstrated. An important theme for us – that’s even shown in Show Me the Father, as well – is how beautiful reconciliation can be.

JWK: So, with these two movies in the can, what’s next for you and Alex?
SK: We’ve actually already filmed another movie that we are editing right now that we plan on announcing next year and then we have other things that we’re praying about that are on the docket…but, right now, we’re thrilled about Show Me the Father and Courageous Legacy and are hoping that people will bring their families, their friends and come to the theater and enjoy these films.
Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11
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