MOVIES: One film, 2 big themes

by Phil Boatwright, posted Friday, September 15, 2017 (3 months ago)

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (BP) -- "Because of Gracia" ventures into two challenging themes -- chastity and freedom of speech -- in a poignant teen drama featuring former "American Idol" contestant Moriah Peters.

Set for a limited theatrical release by ArtAffects Entertainment on Sept. 15, the first scenario in Because of Gracia concerns a Christian high school student who finds herself in a debate class defending the right to teach creationism.

The second plot involves her pledge to remain chaste until her wedding, while a fellow student loses her battle for virtue to a devious boyfriend.

These are two big themes for any one movie, but I'm pleased to say that writer/director Tom Simes handles his creative duties with aplomb while Ms. Peters displays a compelling screen presence, coming across as bright and charismatic.

During our Civil War, America found itself facing divisive issues that nearly destroyed a nation of great promise. Today Americans can scarcely find even one topic that brings us all together. Worse yet is a new form of McCarthyism nurtured in Hollywood's studios and academia's classrooms, that allows for only one side of social, political and moral issues. One such issue: How the universe came into being.

For most who control classroom curriculums, a cosmic explosion and time provided the magical ingredients that formed a complex yet uncannily constructed planetary system and everything in it. And if their students are not in line with the doctrine, they can be ridiculed or graded with prejudice.

Films such as "The Case for Faith," "The Case for Christ," "God's Not Dead," "God's Not Dead 2," "The Genesis Code" and "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed" have championed free speech, defending those promoting a God-designed origin.* These films conclude that, despite the cosmic declarations, it takes as much faith, if not more, to think there is no intelligent designer as it does to believe there is.

For example, there are these troublesome queries: As more universes are being discovered, can the discoverers be contented with the explanation that one formative eruption created all the universes? Or must one now rationalize that each galaxy had its own big bang?

Gracia enters the fray by also dramatizing the defense of creationism and the right to discuss a faith-based ideology in classrooms, as did the earlier productions, and its assertion that people and planets aren't mere accidents is defended rationally and factually.

In the second storyline, Ms. Peters' protagonist represents those determined to abstain from any physical affection until married. This is also the view of the film's star in real life.

From the press notes: "At age 16, Moriah Peters tried out for American Idol and told judges Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson, Kara Dioguardi and Avril Lavigne that she was a Christian who was saving her first kiss for marriage. Peters said the celebrity judges praised her looks and her singing but belittled her chaste lifestyle. One judge told her, 'You're trying to be too perfect,' while another told her, 'Go out, kiss a guy. Come back.'"

It takes conviction and a great deal of self-control to maintain such a stand, and teens who hold to this conviction should not be mocked. Indeed, if the commitment is made out of reverence for God, the choice should be applauded. Of course, getting the teen populace to adopt abstinence as a lifestyle in 2017 is like throwing snowballs at a forest fire.

Because of Gracia tackles these two concepts -- creationism vs. evolution and courtship vs. dating. But it's a movie, not a science class, not a church service sermon. If motion pictures are to be successfully used as teaching tools, they must first entertain. Does this one?

Just my opinion, of course, but I found that everything from its big-league production values, to the resonant musical choices and its incisive dialogue and sensitive performances aided in constructing a successful film venture. It's a message movie, for sure, but its makers know the golden rule of cinema -- put the story first.

Because of Gracia is rated PG-13 for mature subject matter but I caught no offensive or exploitive content.

Phil Boatwright is the author of "MOVIES: The Good, the Bad, and the Really, Really Bad," available on Amazon.com. *These films were discussed in Boatwright's August column: MOVIES: Atheism, science and education.
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