- Film Festival
By Le Anne Lindsay
On Sunday, PFS members were given a chance to not only see a preview of Machine Gun Preacher, fresh from its Toronto Film Festival premiere, but we were also privileged to meet the former gang biker, and drug addict, Sam Childers, whose incredible life transformation inspired the movie.
Gerard Butler plays Childers in the film, and although Butler has a bad boy reputation of his own, he just can't quite pull off low class, low life, from the middle of nowhere, junkie. He possesses an innate privileged quality that's hard to mask. On the other hand, Michelle Monaghan, who plays Childers' former stripper wife, fits the bill.
The film begins with Childers getting out of jail for God knows what, and returning to his family -- only he pretty much ignores his mother and beautiful young daughter, and becomes enraged to learn his wife has quit stripping after finding Jesus. But even this news doesn't distract him from his real purpose, which is getting back to his pre-incarcerated life of drinking, drugging and wreaking havoc for havoc's sake.
The real Sam Childers says the timeline of his actual transformation from this way of living, to becoming a preacher and savior for orphaned children in war-torn Sudan, took a heck of a lot longer than how it's portrayed in the film, however, the basis of the story is completely true - he really not only found the strength to straighten up and live a clean life as a good husband, father and provider; he did one better by leaving his home, family, business and country to take on a never-ending, nearly futile fight for other people, in a foreign land, for no other reason than pure compassion. But keep in mind, he's no saint, he's still a hard man, who feels the need to have a fight on his hands. The film shows him becoming overzealous, reckless and crazy with judgement in his preaching when he returns from Africa and wants contributions for Sudan. This is a driven man, but one who has learned to channel his energy into something important.
Because many of us don't understand the need for war or why demonic dictators and military leaders are able to rise up and carry out unspeakable acts of atrocities against innocent people, we're quick to say there is no God. If there were, these things wouldn't be allowed to keep happening. But on the other hand, it can only be God's power that could transform a life to the degree Sam Childers' life was changed. This is wonderful inspiration to take away from a film.
On a less uplifting note, I didn't feel the movie itself was very good. Director Marc Forster (Monster's Ball, Quantum of Solace) can be commended for a valiant effort - good sets- a lot of grit and grunge in PA. The scenes in Africa are believably brutal and dangerous - one horrific image of a woman whose lips were cut off still haunts my thoughts; still, it's just not a truly engaging film. In fact, if it weren't for Childer's Q & A (embedded below), I would have walked away from the film without feeling much impact.
Sam Childers (excerpt):
Let's get one thing straight here, I am a freedom fighter, I fight for the freedom of every man and every woman to choose who they want to serve. Sometimes people think I'm a radical Christian, I am not a radical Christian. I fight that if somebody wants to serve Allah, you can serve Allah, if you want to serve Buddha, you can serve Buddha. Or you can end up not believing at all, but that's what I fight for - freedom. Me and my family choose to serve Jesus Christ.
Le Anne is a PFS blog contributor. More of her work can be found on her blog, Tinsel & Tine.