Hollywood usually doesn’t acknowledge it, but Christian entertainment has increasingly become a very lucrative market. Even if movies made exclusively for Christian markets don’t get the marketing that Hollywood budgets can afford, grass roots campaigns have led to some substantial success. Take for instance the independent Christian film “Fireproof” back in 2008 that became the highest-grossing indie film of the year. Of course, Mel Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ” created the tidal wave leading to such things even managing distribution.
Then you have Roma Downey and Mark Burnett managing to sell a “Son of God” feature to 20th Century Fox and taken from “The Bible” miniseries on History Channel earlier this year. That’s going to be followed up by Darren Aronofsky’s “Noah” next March.
With the above, you can see why a Christian movie script isn’t going to necessarily get an automatic order to the shredder in a mainstream movie studio. But a movie like “I’m in Love with a Church Girl” is one that had to go through an independent Christian production company despite being an interesting movie experiment. It manages to blend the gritty drug and prison world of many mainstream movies with another side that’s clearly about Christian themes.
This movie might be mistaken to be a mainstream studio movie when it really isn’t. The studio behind the film (Reverence Gospel Media) somehow managed to raise enough marketing money to give it some significant promo spots on network TV. And it might be the beginning of a compromise in the Christian movie market where two different worlds ultimately collide. In fact, “Church Girl” may be the most significant Romeo and Juliet story of this decade.
You can say that when you consider you have Ja Rule playing a drug dealer who happens to go clean. However, after getting away from drug trafficking, he still manages to find himself hanging out with his old acquaintances. This conflicts when he meets a young girl (played by Adrienne Bailon) who happens to be a faithful Christian. It’s the beginning of two different lives clashing while still drawn together through a passionate love affair.
That sounds like an impossible combination when trying to be a Christian-themed film. And, indeed, it has some elements that you probably wouldn’t have found in a Christian movie a number of years back, including some language and violence. Yet, Christian-themed studios may find it necessary now to show a real-world scenario to resonate on a more relatable level.
Is this the olive branch toward more Christian films finding inroads into the mainstream? There’s been enough arguments made to show that some Christian films in the past were simply too tame to send a powerful enough message to those who live and experience harsh reality. There’s finally an acknowledgement that the clashing of harsh reality with the more peaceful Christian world creates more compelling drama. It’s the same when a character’s set Christian faith in a film is tested to the limits.
Considering most bible stories have the same themes, it’s strange it hasn’t been done before when depicting the modern era. Now as faith becomes more and more tested for many Christians, showing that plight in film is going to become a different movie genre. It may get to a point where you can expect a Christian-themed film to get some unexpected mainstream movie award attention down the road.