Still from "Believe Me" | Photo courtesy Riot Studios

Still from “Believe Me” | Photo courtesy Riot Studios Photo courtesy Riot Studios


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Four guys asking questions about faith and Jesus is something of a formula for Riot Studios–they did it first with their film One Nation Under God and again with Beware of Christians. But those were both documentaries, films in which the filmmakers were also in front of the camera as they traveled the world wondering what real faith looks like. In Riot’s newest feature film, Believe Me (out September 26th), the story is front and center and the filmmakers stay behind the camera to make room for stars like Parks and Rec‘s Nick Offerman, Glee‘s Max Adler, and Christian rapper Lecrae.

(Now, I know what you’re thinking: Why would we talk about any other movie when 22 Jump Street is coming out on Friday? Are you DYING of excitement? Me, too. In fact, I am leaving my own birthday party early on Friday night so that I can make it to the 9:40 showing. But, having just turned 29, I now understand that maturity occasionally demands you focus on things other than what is currently occupying all your emotional energy. Anyhow. I digress.)

Faith-based films are, more often than not, overburdened with a message to the point of being didactic, not to mention boring. Who wants to pay to see a film that is really just a sermon in disguise–and a bad sermon at that? Movies like God’s Not Dead and Fireproof and Grace Unplugged never rise above the category of message movies. But this looks promising. The basic premise of Believe Me has nothing to do with academic persecution, preventing gay marriage, or solving the question of whether heaven is for real. Instead, it focuses on four college students who, seeing an opportunity to pay their tuition and make some extra money, create a fake charity and capitalize on Christian fundraising techniques to line their pockets. Take a look at the trailer.

Were it just a Saved!-style parody, this would be a film worth seeing. But the fact that it is made by Christian filmmakers makes it all the more intriguing, because what we usually see from Christian filmmakers is so very different from what Believe Me is offering. An article at the Christian Post gave this statement from the team behind Riot Studios:

“We’re proud of what we’ve written in ‘Believe Me. We’re excited to hold up the mirror, not point the finger, at our religious culture in hopes of making you laugh a lot and think a lot about how Christians are perceived by others.”

Holding up a mirror to a particular culture is exactly the kind of thing that film does beautifully. It’s hard to imagine a better medium for this kind of story, and the filmmakers clearly know the world they’re entering into. “Christians want the emotional high of giving,” one of the scheming students says in the trailer. “We’re just going to supply that demand in exchange for a small fee.” Or, a bit later, by way of explanation of worship: “There are four essential hand-raising techniques.”

It’s all true, and if this doesn’t make evangelicals uncomfortable with recognition, I don’t know what will. The film is both parody and, in Riot Studios fashion, one big question: Why are we so quick to believe anyone with a platform?

And this is why I think (and hope) Believe Me might be the first good Christian film, or at least the best since Chariots of Fire. Good filmmaking will always get at the truth, and one resounding truth borne out by plenty of headlines is that the church has fallen prey to its fair share of religious scandals. These scandals almost always come from within, from people who say they believe but live differently. And at some level, that’s all of us. And that’s why this film, holding up a mirror instead of pointing a finger, might be just the bitter pill the church needs.

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Laura Turner

Laura Turner

Laura Turner is a writer and editor living in San Francisco. In addition to being a regular contributor to Christianity Today’s “Her.meneutics” blog, she has also written for publications such as Books & Culture and The Bold Italic. She is interested in the intersection of church and culture.

15 Comments

  1. I’m very excited for this film, for many of the same reasons you are. However, if you haven’t seen it, I suggest you check out the film “Blue Like Jazz.” The reasons both of us are looking forward to this film (Christian culture both skewered and honored in comedic form by Christian filmmakers) are on great display in “Blue Like Jazz.” I look forward to “Believe Me” hopefully joining its ranks.

    Here’s the trailer for “Blue Like Jazz,” if you’re interested: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wg2O1LqkYEU

    • Blue Like Jazz?
      Loved the book!
      The movie?
      Much hype, but I am very sorry to say I found it to be lame, just as lame as “Fireproof”, etc.
      “Believe Me” looks good, but I will belive it when I see it.

  2. Silly, immature, self centered commentary on the history of christian film making, clearly reflective of your youth, and your obvious sense that no one before your generation has any intuitive depth.

    • I’m sorry, but most people are in total agreement with Laura, I know a plethora of people who are just like you, thinking even contemporary christian music, like Matthew West, Chris Tomlin, is all dead. Has no spiritual value whatsoever. I would like to say that you need to be more open minded and listen to people. Not anywhere near opening it to any other beliefs, but just listening to people, about what they have to say. We are all on the same team!!
      Ephesians 4:4-5
      …4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism,
      It says it right there in the Good Book. Thanks, bye :)

  3. A dislike of Christian flims that have a message, that tells me one thing people don’t like hearing God’s truth. People would rather see films that make them comfortable in their sin filled life rather than hear a message that saves. My concern, watching this preview a person can’t really tell if it will be a truly Godly film, whenever a movie preview comes with the title “a Christian film” but seems to look like others that are clearly non Christian films, there is a compromise somwhere in the mix. A person is either on fire for the Lord or their not. Luke warm does not cut it, God will spew you out his mouth.

  4. Just because a film is made by a Christian does not make it a Christian film. Just watching the trailer, it shows a group of non-believers deceiving, which could lead people to believe this is how the church really is. Christian based movies are faith based movies. This movie looks like it is designed to encourage the exact stereotypes that Christians are so often associated with, seems to me it is more of a Christian Deterrent and not a magnet.

    • It should naturally be assumed that the guys in this trailer are going to deceive for most of the movie and will probably turn towards God at the end. This is just a trailer, I’d hold judgments till after the movie.

  5. I do find extreme potential in this movie, definitely more than any Christian film I’ve ever seen. I just hope it’s not too cheesy. A common element in nearly all Christian movies I’ve seen. One gripe I have is that the poking fun at hand gestures thing, I feel, is already a cliche in Christian culture. Now I know I’m talking a lot of negative, but I feel that going into a movie with as low of expectations as possible, without specifically looking for faults, is the best approach becuase then there is a lot more room for the movie to gain speed and blow the roof off your metaphorical entertainment factory. Not to mention the severe dissappointment of figuratively falling from the tip of the Space Needle when a movie doesn’t live up to expectations. So that said, I am very restraintfully hopeful and even sadly excited.

  6. Hey guys and girls. Get paid to promote “Believe Me” Don’t spend your money. Promote and get paid then treat your friends and family to the BIG SHOW going down this September 26th!! jump on board with me == http://believemefilm.com/?hlr=-296xpap

  7. Brave Sir Robin

    “The best Christian film since Chariots of Fire.”

    ???

    Sorry, I could have sworn you just put THIS film and THAT film in the same sentence…

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