The Pacific and Unbroken. Last night, I got a little obsessed with Louis Zamperini’s story and started Googling like mad. I was amazed to discover the forgiveness he extended to the guards that beat him mercilessly in addition to seeking out The Bird and extending forgiveness to what has to be one of the most sadistic men in contemporary history. A forgiveness that extends from a strong faith in Christianity. That may very well be in Unbroken, but I’m currently only in Chapter 27.
Universal picked up the rights to this book. In addition, they bought the rights to his 35 minute talk-turned book Devil At My Heels way back in ’57 or so. Naturally, with the success of Seabiscuit, Unbroken should make for an absolutely amazing film.
This last month has found me musing about the development of films for the faith-based market with an executive at a major studio. Fireproof, Facing the Giants, and Soul Surfer (stupid name, I know) have all done well enough in the market to garner some attention by the major studios. I’ve not seen any of these movies because I don’t like schmaltz (and never heard of Soul Surfer). Needless to say, my conversations have made for some rousing and interesting discussions around the house and my buddies as to what qualifies as a faith-based film and what doesn’t.
Historically, faith-based films are schmaltzy, tied too-tightly to the inspirational genre, and contain decisive “coming to Jesus” moments. And while there certainly is a place in the market for films of this nature, I don’t believe this is the only kind of faith-based film you can have. Other films of discussion included: The Machinist, To End All Wars, Black Snake Moan, LOTR, The Shawshank Redemption and many others that were never intended for the faith-based market.
The difference is the theme of the film. Christian themes include sacrifice, forgiveness, charity, grace, mercy, standing up for the weak or the poor and oppressed, overcoming personal demons, etc. As usual in story telling, the amount of said theme is only as amazing as the contrast it’s placed in. Forgiveness is only as costly as the level or amount of what’s being forgiven- as in Zamperini’s story. The violence experienced is what makes the forgiveness so utterly amazing.
While I don’t suspect Universal will market this in the least to the faith-based market, it would only take a simple couple of paragraphs at the end of the film telling the rest of the story: he went back to Japan, he forgave his guards, attempted to seek out The Bird for the same and this was all the result of his faith in God.
Universal makes what will hopefully be an incredible film that makes hundreds of millions. And with two or three short slides, they can tell a genuine, true story and market a major blockbuster to an incredibly large and underserved faith-based market without compromising the films mass appeal.