It has all the ingredients of a faith-based blockbuster: an astronaut who finds God after she’s pushed to her limits.
And space monsters.
But you won’t find “A Prayer in Space” in theaters soon.
The fictional Christian film plays a central role in “Faith Based,” a new satirical film about the Christian film industry that premiered this past weekend at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.
The comedy stars Luke Barnett and Tanner Thomason of Funny or Die fame as two not particularly pious friends who decide nonetheless to make a Christian film, because, as Barnett’s character puts it, “the entire genre is a gold mine.”
Christian films, the two decide, are made with small budgets and see big returns. And they don’t even need to be good to make money.
“Christians support anything Christian,” says Barnett’s character.
The story was pulled from real life. While pitching projects together with little success, Barnett, who also wrote the film, jokingly made a similar argument for making a Christian film to Vincent Masciale, the director of the film.
Like his character, Barnett’s father is a pastor, and he has watched his father’s church bus members to showings of new Christian films.
And Masciale, who identifies as a Christian, wanted to poke some good-natured fun at “weird things that we do,” he said.
“It’s not making fun of people that believe in something,” Masciale said, noting that some of the movie’s scenes were filmed in the church he attends. “It’s more just kind of taking this idea that there are people who will believe something blindly, and there are people out there that will take advantage of those people.”
“Faith Based,” which also features Jason Alexander, David Koechner, Margaret Cho and Lance Reddick, sold out all three showings at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, Barnett said. One audience member said it was what he or she wished Christian movies actually were — the best compliment, according to the actor.
But not everyone has been thrilled with the movie.
Before the film was even complete, Breitbart and Fox News published stories dismissing the movie as a “Christian-bashing comedy.” Those stories racked up hundreds of angry comments — some of which ended up being used in a short video to promote the movie in place of a trailer.
“They will laugh today,” reads Barnett, quoting a commenter. “They will cry for eternity.”
According to Brett McCracken, a film critic who has written for Christianity Today and The Gospel Coalition, Biblical stories and movies with religious themes have been around since the earliest days of cinema. That includes many of Cecil B. DeMille’s films, like the 1956 epic “The Ten Commandments” starring Charlton Heston as Moses, which was aimed at a mass audience.
Recent years have seen a series of successful films aimed at evangelical Christians, including the “God’s Not Dead” franchise and a series of films produced by Alex and Stephen Kendrick.
The Kendrick Brothers’ 2006 film, “Facing the Giants,” was financed with $100,000 by a member of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia, where the brothers were pastors, according to reports at the time. They filmed it on the campus of Sherwood Christian School with church members stepping in to act and support the crew.
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Source: Religion News Service