All posts from “June 2010”

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June 30, 2010

Unlikely Quartet: Aretha, Condi, Handel, Mozart

The Queen of Soul, a former Secretary of State, and great composers "team up" for concert

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Aretha Franklin will team up with Condoleezza Rice for a benefit concert in Philadelphia next month. You read that right: Condi Rice, the former Secretary of State, is an accomplished pianist who will accompany the Queen of Soul as she sings "Handel, Mozart and the hits," according to a press release, at Philly's Mann Center for Performing Arts on July 27. Proceeds will benefit programs that support inner city children and the Mann Center's own education initiatives.
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Rice will accompany Franklin on her hits "Say a Little Prayer" and "Natural Woman," in addition to performing a 20-minute set with the Philadelphia Orchestra. It will be the first of a series of concerts with Rice and Franklin, who calls Rice "a consummate classical pianist and since I sing the arias, I thought that we could do something, a bipartisan effort for our favorite charities."

June 29, 2010

'100 Cupboards' Coming to Big Screen

Beloved Pictures to produce N.D. Wilson's children's series

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Just a week ago, Beloved Pictures announced that it was partnering with Mpower Pictures for a cinematic adaptation of C. S. Lewis's The Great Divorce. Now Beloved has announced that it will make films out of N. D. Wilson's popular 100 Cupboards, a fantasy trilogy for young adults.

The books, published by Random House, focus on a 12-year-old who discovers that the old farmhouse he calls home harbors mysterious cupboards leading to worlds and dangers beyond his imagination.

“This is truly one of the most outstanding works of fiction our company has ever had the pleasure to read.” said Beloved CEO Michael Ludlum. “Wilson is an incredible writer with an imagination that knows no bounds. We are thrilled to help shepherd this instant classic to the screen, and believe it will garner the same type of fan loyalty and passion as other successful book-to-film brands.”

June 28, 2010

'HolyWars' Documentary Getting Some Buzz

Film depicts two 'religious fundamentalists' -- a Christian and a Muslim -- on their journeys

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A compelling new documentary called HolyWars made its world premiere at the SilverDocs film festival last week, where it caught the eye of IndieWIRE magazine. IndieWIRE asked director Stephen Marshall about what they called his "unusual approach to the subject of religious extremism in a post-9/11 world after his film completed both of its Silverdocs screenings," adding that Marshall had set out to make a film about end-of-the-world rhetoric.

“The inception point was in 2006; Bush was still in power," Marshall said. "The zeitgeist was focused on apocalyptic thinking. This was the original idea that got me the money to make the film. The question was: Could they make it happen? Could they make a self-fulfilling prophecy?”

More info here.

June 26, 2010

Bristol Palin Plays a Teen Mom on TV

Art imitates life with upcoming appearance on 'The Secret Life of the American Teenager'

Sarah Palin's daughter Bristol, who made the news during the 2008 campaign as a teenage mom, makes her television acting debut on the July 5 episode of The Secret Life of the American Teenager. She plays -- surprise! -- a teen mom. Check out a snippet here:

June 25, 2010

Pope Joan Film Sparks Catholic Outcry

The Roman Catholic Church debates the merits of whether she even existed

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According to the UK's Telegraph, a new film based on the legend of Pope Joan – an Englishwoman who purportedly disguised herself as a man and rose to become the only female pontiff in history – has sparked debate in the Roman Catholic Church.

Peter Stanford, a former editor of the Catholic Herald and the author of The She-Pope: a quest for the truth behind the mystery of Pope Joan, said, "It's perfectly feasible that Joan existed. A monk's cowl is baggy and well suited to covering up a woman's body. We know that some women bound their breasts and cut their hair to pass themselves off as men."

June 24, 2010

Chapman Family to Join Steven on Tour

'A Night with the Chapmans' will include Mary Beth talking about finding hope after tragedy

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When we interviewed Steven Curtis Chapman last fall about how he and his family have dealt with the pain of losing a daughter, it was one of the most-read stories of the year on our website.

This fall, Chapman is hitting the road for "A Night with the Chapmans" tour with his entire family, including wife Mary Beth, who will share some of her own stories from the stage about finding hope in the wake of losing their daughter, Maria Sue, to a tragic accident at home two years ago. Mary Beth Chapman recently penned a book, Choosing to SEE (Revell), that chronicles their grief and still ongoing healing process. The book releases in September.

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Mary Beth has never taken the stage before in her husband's almost three decades in music. “There are three things I told God I would never ever do: homeschool, adopt, and speak in public,” she says. “Well, we've already homeschooled, you know we've adopted, and now this fall I'll be on stage speaking at Steven's concerts." She adds, "Now I'm telling God I will not go to Hawaii for three months."

The tour, sponsored by Show Hope, the adoption agency/ministry founded by the Chapmans, will include warm-up act Caleb, featuring Steven and Mary Beth's sons Caleb and Will Franklin. Tour dates and ticket info can be found here.

June 23, 2010

'The Gang Became My Family'

Mini-documentary shows Central American gang members discussing hunger for belonging

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For almost a year, Christianity Today has partnered with The Lausanne Movement for The Global Conversation, a series of stories meant to spark, well, global conversation as a run-up to the Third Congress on World Evangelization to be held in Cape Town, South Africa, October 16-25. The goal of the conference is to promote unity, humbleness in service, and a call to action for global evangelization.

Part of The Global Conversation includes a series of videos meant to add another layer to the discussion. One recent mini-documentary profiles Central American gang members who have been incarcerated for their crimes. The men all spoke of how they were abandoned or neglected by their families, and rejected by the church, and they turned to gangs to find friendship and love. "The gang became my family," said one. A pastor who ministers to the inmates talked about how only the love of God can reach these men.

Anyway, it's one of several fine short films that Fourth Line Films has produced for The Global Conversation. Check out Family below, and the other Global Conversation videos here.

Family from The Global Conversation on Vimeo.

June 23, 2010

Glee-ful Over Christian Stereotype

New Christian character in 'Glee' cast could be a really good thing, even if a caricature

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When our colleague Laura Leonard heard that Glee was adding a Christian character to its second season, "I worried that she might be just another outrageous caricature representing the worst people think of us," she writes on our sister blog, Her.meneutics. "But in the hands of a show like Glee, which combines choreographed musical numbers with high school drama and teenage self-discovery, this might just turn out to be a good thing."

Leonard continues, "I anxiously await Glee’s interpretation of the American Christian teenager, having been one myself and knowing many who currently choose to identify themselves with Christ in the halls, and play fields, and choir rooms, of their schools. If she can demonstrate Christ’s love in her relationships with others without giving up the values and beliefs that form her identity, it will be a great success indeed,"

June 22, 2010

'Great Divorce' Gathers More Steam

Mpower Pictures joins with Beloved Pictures to give the project more clout, reach

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When it was announced last October that Beloved Pictures had picked up the rights to make a movie of C. S. Lewis's The Great Divorce, many reacted with a "huh?" Who is Beloved Pictures? Though respected director David L. Cunningham (To End All Wars) had signed on to helm the project, some still wondered if it would ever see the light of day.

Now it has been announced that Beloved is partnering with Mpower Pictures to produce the film, with Mpower founder Steve McEveety to lead the production team, moving the movie one critical step closer to reality. McEveety is best known for producing a number of Mel Gibson films, including The Passion of the Christ, Braveheart, and We Were Soldiers.

Beloved Pictures president Caleb Applegate says that McEveety and Empower are "keen on the project. It's definitely going to happen." He said the release date is still to be determined; the script hasn't even been written yet, but acclaimed children's writer N.D. Wilson (Leepike Ridge, 100 Cupboards) will tackle that task. "He's a phenomenal writer," says Applegate. "He's a Christian, and he's red-hot right now. I've got nothing but great things to say about him."

June 21, 2010

Coming Out in Smalltown USA

Documentary explores a Pennsylvania town's attitudes about homosexuality

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When Joe Wilson got married, he put an announcement in his hometown newspaper in Oil City, Pennsylvania. Nothing unusual about that, except that Wilson had married another man--and a picture of the two of them appeared in the paper. Angry, even hateful, letters to the editor poured in; one said that it would've been better for Wilson not to have been born. Wilson responded not in anger himself, but by revisiting his hometown, with his partner and a couple of camcorders, to look into the town's attitudes.

The result is Out in the Silence, a 65-minute documentary that ends up following four main subplots in Oil City. First, a gay teen who was verbally and physically abused at the local high school, and the quest that he and his mother take to confront those attitudes and the school district's refusal to make things right. Second, a lesbian couple that buys a crumbling downtown art-deco theater and renovates it into a functioning civic showcase again. Third, a woman representing the American Family Association who seems to be on a crusade against gays, more anxious to speak out against their "agenda" to take the time to meet or listen to any of them.

Fourth -- and likely most interesting to CT readers -- a local Christian pastor and his wife who had written one of the letters to the editor decrying homosexuality, only to later show tolerance and love toward the filmmakers as they got to know them in the months ahead. The pastor didn't compromise his biblical beliefs at all; he continues to believe that homosexuality is a sin. But, for the first time in his life, he actually gets to know gay people, and by the end of the film is calling them friends. There's some interesting dialogue between the two "sides" as their unlikely friendship unfolds throughout the film. It's really a Christlike response from the pastor.

Though the film is made by two gay men, it doesn't seek to promote a "gay agenda" or to stereotype the "religious right." It's simply a matter of trying to understand attitudes in small-town America. The filmmakers end up advocating for the teenager to the school board and in a civil rights lawsuit, and the local school board ends up admitting they should've done more to help the boy who was abused; they incorporate staff training as a result. Despite some initial opposition, the two women end up re-opening the theater to a warm reception of both gays and straights. The AFA rep never changes, and refuses to look the gay men in the eye or even have a conversation with them. And the pastor and his wife seem glad to have made new friends, though they clearly disagree with their lifestyle.

The film is showing at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival in New York today, followed by broadcast on New York's two largest public television stations, WLIW (June 26, 3 p.m. ET) and WNET (June 27, 11:30 p.m. ET). For more on the film, click here. Watch the trailer here:

June 16, 2010

'Dawn Treader' Trailer Premiere: Right Here!

Check out the new trailer for 'Voyage of the Dawn Treader,' and let us know what you think

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Thanks to Walden Media and 20th Century Fox, CT is among several select outlets pleased to bring you the world premiere of the trailer for The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

Let us know what you think.

June 12, 2010

An Unbreakable Bond

Documentary 'Mine' looks into the lives of displaced pets and owners after Katrina

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If you weren't already a believer in the saying that a dog is man's best friend, you will be after watching Mine, a 2009 documentary about the pets that survived Hurricane Katrina, their subsequent journeys, and whether or not they were reunited with their owners.

Distributed on DVD by Film Movement (a terrific indie movie "club" chronicled by our friend Jeffrey Overstreet here), Mine has been hailed by various critics as "a must see" and "Oscar material." I'd add words like "tearjerker" and "heartwarming" and "a testament to passion and compassion" -- especially pertaining to the people who rescued these animals from New Orleans and tried desperately to reunite them with their owners . . . or at least get them placed into good homes.

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It's that last effort -- placing the pets in good homes -- that's the most gut-wrenching of all in this film. Those who took on the "orphaned" pets were doing a very good thing, sometimes as "foster parents," sometimes as permanent new homes. But then, when the original owner would finally find out the whereabouts of his/her old pet, they of course would want them back. The new families, already attached to the new pet (sometimes a year or more had passed), were sometimes reluctant to give them up -- and that subplot plays out as one of the film's most stirring, because there are no easy answers.

The filmmakers follow a handful of journeys here -- of Katrina survivors both human and animal -- and several of the storylines have happy endings. But, since this is real life, some of them don't, and that's the hardest part of this film. But it's an eye-opener to a situation that could happen again in the wake of a disaster -- natural or not. What laws and mechanisms are in place to take care of the pets left behind when people have to flee so quickly -- and their pets are not allowed to come along?

A highly recommended film. Check out the trailer here:


June 10, 2010

'The Apprentice' Meets 'Slumdog Millionaire'

Documentary 'The New Recruits' highlights a Christian using capitalism to help the poor

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The filmmakers behind The New Recruits, airing on PBS stations on Tuesday, June 15, say it's a cross between The Apprentice and Slumdog Millionaire. Perhaps, but the main thing is this: The documentary explores how capitalism and Christianity are doing a world of good to help the poor.

The film follows Joel Montgomery, a Christian from Alabama, and two other business school graduates who use their smarts in creative ways to alleviate poverty in different parts of the world. It documents Montgomery's quest to help rural Pakistani farmers counter an impending water crisis, using drip irrigation systems as an alternative to flooding their fields. Montgomery's faith is a focal point of the film.

The 30-year-old Montgomery, who had previously led missions trips to Costa Rica and Malawi and had delivered Christmas presents to Hurricane Katrina victims, told The Tuscaloosa News that as a specialist in international development, he entered the field of "social entrepreneurship," which explores ways that global business can serve, rather than take from, the poor.

"The premise is that you're helping the underserved go to the next level," he told the newspaper. "You're creating jobs, and ultimately helping the country develop. . . . [With charity alone], you create a tremendous amount of dependency. Number two, you're treating the poor as passive, not active participants. And your growth is always limited by the amount of money you can raise."

Montgomery continued, "I see myself as long-term being an ambassador between business and the church. The church sends billions of dollars a year abroad, and a lot of that money is not having the impact that people think it's having. One of my goals is to affect the lives of millions of people, not for my own glory, but because of my faith."

For air dates and times, click here. The DVD is also available for purchase, and here's the trailer:

June 8, 2010

'It's Just Clean, Family TV'

That's how ComStar's founders, including Rev. Robert A. Schuller, describe their new network

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Saying there's already enough "Christian TV" on the airwaves, the co-founders of a new network (both Christians) are focusing instead on bringing more family-friendly programming -- without an in-your-face faith message -- to millions of viewers.

ComStar, founded by Rev. Robert A. Schuller and Chris Wyatt, in 2009, is now in 50 million homes, according to a recent story in the Dallas Morning News. By pursuing a PG-rated audience, Wyatt and Schuller are steering away from traditional ministry-based Christian media to family-friendly shows.

"What we're doing is not teaching and preaching by any means," Wyatt said. "It's just clean, family TV. No objectionable material or ads. It's what you would be comfortable sitting down [watching] with your 8-year-old or 11-year-old."

Schuller, referring to a new show, Everyday Life, he hosts on the channel, says he's not looking to become a televangelist -- a role his father somewhat played as pastor of the Crystal Cathedral.

"There are many pastors airing their message and doing a very good job," he says. "My message on Everyday Life is pretty clear. In many ways, it's a sermon message without being a sermon."

ComStar programming can be found on Family Net TV and American Life TV.

June 7, 2010

R.I.P., Dana Key

Member of legendary Christian rock duo DeGarmo & Key has passed away

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UPDATE: A memorial service for Dana Key will be held 1 p.m. Thursday, June 10, at the TLC Church in Cordova, Tennessee. A memorial fund has also been set up; donations may be sent to TLC Church / Dana Key Family, 4199 Pheasant Hill Cove N, Lakeland TN 38002.

Dana Key, who with musical partner Ed DeGarmo formed one of the great rock bands in CCM history, died of a ruptured blood clot Sunday night at the age of 56, according to CCM's website and various other reports. In recent years, Key was a senior pastor at TLC Community Church in Memphis, Tenn., which was his and DeGarmo's hometown.

"Dana Key was an awesome guy," DeGarmo told Christianity Today. "Extremely talented for sure, but he was much more than that. He was absolutely passionately in love with Christ, his wife Anita and their three children.

"He lived his life fully dedicated to building God's kingdom with every breath he took. He was a true pioneer. He could preach the gospel in a way that compelled thousands to accept Christ, and he could play guitar and sing like you were getting a glimpse of his soul. He was my friend and my brother. The world will miss him. I will miss him dearly."

TobyMac first met Key during his days with dcTalk in the late 1980s and early '90s, when dcTalk would open for DeGarmo & Kay. He said Key "was genuine and passionate to the core. He seemed to love God's Word more than the songs he sang about it. He obviously made huge impact with his songs and songwriting. But what I learned behind the curtain was even richer.

"He taught us from God's Word . . . most nights before we took the stage. That is something I admired. Thank you Mr. Key, you will truly be missed. Enjoy the view, my friend."

Christian musician Todd Agnew, whom Key signed to Ardent Records some years ago, wrote on his website that Key was "a believer and proclaimed Jesus Christ. Dana was a mentor and role model to me. There’s no way I can capture what I learned here in a hotel typing on my phone. I wish I had recorded it all and could put it in a book for you: Wisdom from one Christian Generation to the Next. But I can’t. . . . Dana was a man of God. Before he was a musician, he was a minister. And before he was a minister, he was God’s child. He will be missed."

Doug Van Pelt, editor of HM Magazine, posted a nice tribute to Key, noting how a D&K song ("You Gave Me All") was instrumental in helping him decide to commit to the Christian faith. "It’s neat how that song made a profound impact on me that night," Van Pelt writes. "It described the condition of my heart, which broke and I wept before the Lord for the first time in 9 years. I’m grateful for Dana Key and his faithfulness and his creativity."

Harold Smith, CEO of Christianity Today International and a friend of both Key and DeGarmo, said, "Dana's passion, pure and simple, was the gospel. He sang its truth from countless stages (amplified with some wicked guitar work), and preached its truth from the pulpit he so loved. 'Christ died for me,' he would say. 'I'll live for him.' And he did -- at high volume."

Ardent Records has set up a tribute on its website.

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Key grew up just a few blocks from Graceland in Memphis, and attended school with DeGarmo, dreaming about being a rock star, according to Mark Allan Powell's Encyclopedia of Contemporary Christian Music. The two boys formed their first band, The Sound Corporation, in sixth grade. As a high school junior, he was invited to join the secular rock group Black Oak Arkansas as lead guitarist, but he and DeGarmo were already involved in music ministry for Youth for Christ.

DeGarmo and Key formed in 1977 and performed off and on for 20 years. The band was known initially for its innovative sound, as good as anything in secular music, and they remained commercially viable through the 1980s even as their sound became more predictable. But their lyrics and mission always remained the same: "Ministry is the primary reason for the existence of D&K," Key said in 1993. "Our music is simply a vehicle to communicate a message." They often held altar calls at the end of their shows.

Key -- a direct descendant of Francis Scott Key (composer of "The Star Spangled Banner") -- went on to become an executive with Ardent Records (while DeGarmo went on to co-found ForeFront Records), and wrote the books Don't Stop the Music and By Divine Design.

Here are two music videos featuring D&K:

Editor's note: This blog post may be updated throughout the day as we learn more.

June 1, 2010

Little Ricky's Dance Troupe Twirls for Jesus

Keith Thibodeaux, who played the son on 'I Love Lucy,' leads Ballet Magnificat! with wife

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Ballet Magnificat!, arguably the world's premier Christian ballet company, is gearing up to celebrate its 25th year with a former child TV star and his wife at the fore.

Keith Thibodeaux, who played Little Ricky on TV's I Love Lucy, and wife Kathy, a professional ballerina, formed Ballet Magnificat! in 1986. Keith had long been a drummer for David and the Giants, a Christian rock band; Kathy had come to Christ at one of their shows.

Today, Keith is the ballet company's executive director, while Kathy is its artistic director. Ballet Magnificat! was recently featured in an excellent story in the Washington Post-.

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