I AM movie review

Posted: October 6, 2010 by pastorerichann in Music and Movies
Tags: , , , ,

An old Christian songwriter once crooned “why should the devil have all the good music?

An appropriate question for our time might be “why should the devil have all the good movies?

I’m thankful there are Christian filmmakers (many with only limited funding, backgrounds, experience in cinematography) who are taking the plunge into the film-making world. I’m confident in the future it will be the norm for films produced by Christians to be headlining right next to other films (in a similar vein of how, these days, there are numerous Christian bands getting equal billing as other bands). I’m also confident that films produced by Christians will one day match, in the least, the quality and creativity of those produced by their secular peers (something we often forget in our Christian circles is that secular filmmakers weren’t always producing films with the same prowess as they are today – in fact, you can go here  to get a glimpse of Steven Spielberg’s first film).

Enter John Ward, someone who has had a certain amount of industry background and also some experience in producing Christian media. For those who don’t know, he is one of the creators of the “Liquid” DVD study series on Thomas Nelson publishing and Navigators Press. Ward hails from the Mariner’s Church in Orange County, California, where he is a High School student worker and small group leader. He (along with Todd Ziele, and Mariner’s church associate pastor Jeff Pries) recently caught a vision to move beyond the Liquid DVD series and attempt to produce a feature length, faith-based film. Thus, we have the birth of “I AM” the movie.

“I AM” is a kind of parable about the 10 commandments being played out in modern day life (set in Los Angeles, Ca.). The approach of the film is intended to be contemplative and somewhat moody, with the goal of prompting viewers to think and discuss the subject matter. I want to say that on my first viewing of the film I was a little taken aback by one of the initial plot subjects because I perceived it to be somewhat over the top (and maybe a bit… corny). Keep in mind that I was born in Los Angeles (county), lived most of my life in California, and often stereotypes abound that are far from accurate regarding mainstream life on the west coast. However, after some dialogue with others and doing some research on my own, I discovered that the subject matter of this particular plot line is very much a cutting-edge issue right now. To keep this from being a spoiler, I’ll let you decide for yourself if you’d like to go to this link to read more about it. Certainly this is yet to be “mainstream” in any locale, but the character in the film is clearly portrayed as one of the jet-set elite as opposed to an everyday Joe or Jane. With this in mind, I commend the filmmakers for tapping into a theme which can prompt dialogue about not only its ethical implications but also the various worldview ideologies surrounding it. Aside from a couple of weaker acting moments toward the beginning of the film (and my own subjective preference for the font and words of the Decalogue to be presented differently), I found the film ultimately to be thought-provoking and very much worth my time. Though one of the commandment applications (on “graven images”) seemed a little vague, most of the others were not only clear but also poignant and convicting. I found the intertwining of the themes of “stealing” and “coveting” to be especially powerful. Furthermore, the voluntary restitution and making amends exampled is a timely contrast to the scratch and claw backstabbing portrayed in another recent film release (“The Social Network” – based on the alleged true story of the founders of Facebook). Some professional film critics will likely try and debunk it along the lines of borrowing techniques and formulas, but anyone watching a fair amount of secular movies will have to concede that this is pretty standard fair in most films – and in virtually every art form (I was just thinking recently; How many times is Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rear Window” theme going to be regurgitated by Hollywood?). Some Christian critics will likely be expecting an approach more along the lines of “Facing the Giants” and “Fireproof.” Personally, I appreciate the film-makers breaking away from that and placing their own fingerprints on this project.  

In all, Ward and company have produced a solid, entertaining, life-challenging film (with a strong sound-track), and we’ll be anticipating more from them in the future as a welcome addition to the Christian movie scene. They’re also to be commended for the free advance promo DVDs being made available to churches.

We’ll be showing the film (for free) this Sunday night (October 10, 5pm) at Cornerstone Community Church – 120 Northwestern Ave – Chariton, Iowa  (641) 774 – 5683

 -Eric Hann

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