I do not often comment on films, as I am not a particularly astute critic of the medium. However, I was pleasantly surprised by an overdue viewing of Facing the Giants this past weekend. Though many friends had encouraged me to see this film, I declined, convinced that it would not be worth the watching. An indie production with a low-budget made by a church with a Christian message about football? Sad to say, all those were strikes against it for me. I don't care for football, nor do my kids (who initially refused to watch it). Low-budgets usually mean low-quality. A Christian film made by a church? That means hokey, corny, preachy, and definitely just preaching to the choir, right?
Almost all wrong. This is a surprisingly good film. True, it won't win any Academy Awards, but then the judges there wouldn't understand the film anyway. And yes, the plot is predictable and the acting not top-notch -- but wait a minute, none of these people are even trained actors! And yet they are very believeable. Finally, while there is a message in this film, the story wins out. After a half-hour forced viewing, my kids were hooked, as were we. Good stories always win out. And they do not have to be morally ambiguous, complicated, and be left painfully unresolved at the end to earn the status of "art."
The basic plot runs like this: In six years of coaching, Grant Taylor has never led his Shiloh (Christian School) Eagles to a winning season. Everything is going wrong for him. He and his wife Brooke face infertility, his team is losing, his car won't start, there's a putrid odor in the house (a dead rat), the stove won't work, and then he discovers that a group of fathers are secretly organizing to have him dismissed as head coach. After what seems like too, too long, he cries out to God in desperation. It's the beginning of charting a new purpose for his life, his team, and his school. Essentially we watch a spiritual revival occur in Grant, his football team, and the school as a result of his surrender to God.
The cynic in us cries out that it can't be so neat and nice. Things never turn out so well. Isn't this idealistic rubbish? But ask yourself this (I did): Are we so jaded that we can't simply be inspired by a film that encourages us to trust God and praise him, "whether we win or lose?" And doesn't God sometimes answer prayer with a resounding "Yes?" Sure He does. We simply live in a cynical time when such stories -- stories of miracles and happy endings -- are dismissed and mocked. I even hear that attitude of dismissal in some "scholarly" Christian reviews I read -- the critics too sophisticated to simply say they enjoyed a good story and seeing how God can work in the life of a people. In fact, isn't the problem that sometimes, deep down, we really don't believe the very true "fairy tale" of the Gospel, that wild vision of Heaven, is really true? Sure doubt comes to all of us at one time or the other, but persistent doubt tends to make one suspicious of any happy ending.
The movie led to some productive discussion in my family about what "giants" we face in our own lives. And we asked each other for prayer that we might stand up to those giants. That is another good result of such a film. No, we know it's not easy, and we know that sometimes God allows trials to go on and revival to tarry (someting implicit in the film, as they were a losing team for six years), but it's no crime to focus our attention on times that He does not tarry but answers prayer in miraculous ways.
The backstory to this film, some of which is explained in some extras with the DVD, is just as much a story. The film was produced by Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia. Two brothers in the church, Alex and Steven Kendrick, expressed the desire to their pastor to produce Christian films. He and the church supported them, raised the money, and made the film. Now that right there is amzing enough. Only after it was completed did Provident Distribution pick it up. All the actors came from the church, the church school, or the community. Only five professionals were used, all technical people. And this is precisely what a church should do for artists -- support them! No, it's the way they should encourage the giftedness of every person. The church should support them and not put roadblocks in their way. These Baptists got it right.
I want these brothers to make more films like Facing the Giants. They will get better. They will master the craft. Let's support them. Don't rent the film, buy it here. And next time, when a film like this comes out, go see it on the opening weekend. That can make or break a film.
Now, back to my own giants. . .