As some of you will recall, the new pro-life film October Baby opens this weekend. I reviewed it here; look for Chuck Colson's radio commentary on it tomorrow. The short version of my review is this: There are some weaknesses in the film, but also some great strengths. October Baby demonstrates that, while there's still a lot of room for improvement, faith-based filmmaking has come a long way.
(And in the interests of total honesty, yes, I have a vested interest in this, as I have a thing for October Baby actor John Schneider. Shut up.)
Anyway, as this movie is about to open, Steve Taylor, director of another upcoming faith-based film, based on Donald Miller's Blue Like Jazz, took the opportunity to slam those involved with it.
Taylor got hold of an e-mail from Provident Films' Kris Fuhr to Michael Silberman of Samuel Goldwyn Films, suggesting that it would be a bad idea to run the Blue Like Jazz preview before showings of October Baby. Now, since the two films are very different and will probably appeal to very different groups of people, I think Fuhr may have a point, though there were some errors in her e-mail about the content of Blue Like Jazz. However, Taylor promptly went public with the claim that "the Christian Movie Establishment . . . is out to get us."
There are, I think, faults on both sides here. You all know my feelings about Christian films and how and why they need to improve, so I do agree with Taylor's summary in his blog post about everything that's wrong with contemporary Christian films. I appreciate that he's tried to make a film that doesn't fit the stereotypes. And if everything Taylor said in his post about the "Christian Movie Establishment" and its treatment of him at various times is true (Christianity Today was able to verify only part of his story), that establishment has a lot to answer for.
That said, Taylor's blog post -- especially when you look at the timing of it -- really does read more like a lashing out than a thoughtful critique. Particularly when he claims that Sherwood Baptist Church, maker of films like Facing the Giants, has "issued what amounts to a fatwa against Blue Like Jazz." (N.B., Sherwood Baptist didn't make October Baby, but they have worked with Provident Films, which is presumably why they were lumped in here.)
There's room for all kinds of movies, in the Christian world and out of it. Many people who hate October Baby might love Blue Like Jazz, and vice versa. But if you ask me, there's no reason why family-friendly filmmaking and edgy filmmaking can't co-exist in the Christian world. Here's a concept: See them both, think about their respective flaws and virtues, and share your thoughts about what they did right and what they could do better. And as we're doing this, let's see if we can't raise the tone of the discussion a little. We need to be honest -- as honest we can possibly be -- about the problems with Christian films. But when honesty turns into deliberate insults, put-downs, and talk about fatwas . . . that's when I have a problem.
Yes, there's no such thing as bad publicity, and so forth. But aren't Christians supposed to follow a more excellent way?