As Tinsel Town gears up for the next Academy Awards, are family, faith, and freedom friendly films being ignored?
By Melissa Charbonneau
CBN News White House Correspondent
CBNNews.com – As Tinsel Town gears up for the next Academy Awards, are family, faith, and freedom friendly films being ignored?
“They repeatedly overlook films that could be making a great amount of money at the box office because it doesn’t accord with their political agenda,” the head of Liberty Film Festival, Govindini Murty, said.
Libertas Web site blames Hollywood’s gatekeepers. Major studios and distributors, Murty says, are run by 60s-era executives with a left wing point of view.
She cites an industry bias in the recent rash of war pictures, that give harsh portrayals of America’s troops.
“Very anti-war films, six films that show our brave troops in Iraq and Afghanistan as rapists, murderers, people who kill innocent civilians. People who are psychopaths who come back to America after their war service and commit more murder. It’s really disgusting, and that’s the only view of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan coming out in theaters this fall, versus the films we saw back in WWII that showed our troops as brave and heroic,” Murty said.
She says family and faith themes are also dismissed. It took Mel Gibson’s personal wealth and celebrity to get the blockbuster Passion of the Christ to the big screen.
“The Passion really showed how an independently financed film with a very bold vision could connect with a large portion of the American audience that so far has not been going to theaters, has been very alienated from movie theaters over the past 30 years – and that is the conservative public,” Murty said.
Movie producer Sean Wolfington said, “It’s a $30 million film in a foreign language about Jesus. Foreign language films don’t do well and historically films about Jesus haven’t done well.”
He says The Passion blazed a trail for films like Bella, an independent film he co-produced that took top honors at the Toronto film festival.
“Normally a film like ours would get picked up that night. But for a year, distributors were reluctant to distribute it because we heard often it didn’t have enough edge,” Wolfington said.
Shut out by the studios, Bella’s makers followed The Passion’s lead. They took their leading man, Eduardo Verastegui, on the road in a grassroots marketing campaign targeting religious and Hispanic groups.
“We are a very small budget, little film with a big heart that is competing with films that are giants. And the studios, they have agreements with theaters, so it is very hard to have a film like Bella to survive through Thanksgiving unless a miracle happens,” Verastegui told CBN News.
“What the faith community can do is give an advantage to faith friendly films because unfortunately there is a disadvantage, and critics don’t historically like what they call soft films,” Wolfington said.
Films like Bella, The Passion, and The Chronicles of Narnia show movies with morals do make money.
But without studio backing, most still struggle to be seen in theater chains nationwide.
For example, Amazing Grace – a film on abolishing the slave trade in Britain that won rave audience reviews – lacked major studio support, according to the film’s producer Ken Wales. He said the film suffered from limited theater release.
“We only had it in 800 theaters. All the big films had 3,000 to 3,500 theaters, four or five times as much. And yet when the tallies came in for the first week, we had $4.3 million, and per theater average is what really counts. So the number two and three films had 5,700 per theater average. We had 56 – only a hundred dollars less than number 2 or 3, and yet we had a fifth of the theaters,” Wales said.
Oscar winner Morgan Freeman, star of the upcoming film The Bucket List, told CBN News that even film legends find it hard to get some projects produced. He says Clint Eastwood’s controversial Million Dollar Baby with its $30 million budget was rejected by his own studio.
“So clout is — I don’t know how you would define it. If Clint doesn’t have it, who does?” Freeman said.
Freeman himself launched a production company, and formed Clickstar to distribute films online.
But producers of films Hollywood finds less politically correct face a tougher challenge.
One answer may lie in cutting-edge technology that allows them to bypass the screeners to make movies of their own.
Murty said, “When films are shot on 35 mm, the cost of film stock and processing the cost can be upwards of $35 million. Now with digital filmmaking, you can make a great feature film for under $100,000. You can make a great documentary for as little as $25,000.
If independent film makers are successful, it could pressure Hollywood to produce movies with a different kind of message. And that means more choices for what moviegoers can see on the silver screen.