When someone says the term “Christian film,” you probably have an idea in your head of what they mean by that. They probably mean some kind of cheesy movie about a broken person who, through some strange series of events, realizes that Jesus is the solution to his or her problems. Most Christian films end in some kind of altar call where a character, along with the members of the audience, is invited to become a Christian. While I think there is a place for movies like this, they can also be seen as gimmicky. They rarely live up to the same standards of quality, acting, and storytelling of secular films, and therefore, their appeal is usually limited mostly to people who are already Christians.
And then there’s Believe Me. If Believe Me can be considered a Christian film (and I’m sure that is something that will be debated), it is certainly on the fringe, pushing the limit of what a Christian film can be. Believe Me isn’t about convincing people to come to know Christ. There is no altar call at the end. It’s a film, created by Christians, that seeks to positively criticize the Church by pointing out of some of the biggest issues within the Church today. And I love it.
Believe Me tells the story of Sam, a guy whose plans to graduate college and go to law school are crushed when he finds out he owes his school thousands of dollars. In order to pay off his debt, Sam enlists three of his friends to pretend to be Christians and create a fake charity in order to raise money. The ruse spins out of control when the four guys find themselves on a national Christian tour raising thousands upon thousands of dollars for a charity that doesn’t exist. Throughout the film, Sam has to come to terms with the implications of his actions and ultimate decide what he believes.
The film comes from Riot Studios, who some of you may know as the creators of the documentary Beware of Christians. Now they’re venturing into the narrative film genre led by writer and director Will Bakke, a Baylor alum. The fact that the film comes from Riot Studios is an indication of its Christian tendencies, and it’s also what got me initially interested in the film. I had seen the guys’ work before, and I was excited to see how they would do in transitioning from documentaries to fictional stories.
But what really intrigued me about Believe Me was the combination of the Christian production company with the cast. The cast features some surprising additions considering the fact that it’s created by a Christian film company. I didn’t know much about Alex Russell, Sinqua Walls, or Miles Fisher when they were announced as cast members, but I knew that Johanna Braddy was a professing Christian, so that wasn’t too surprising to me (although I am glad she’s in it because I’m a big fan of hers). The fact that Lecrae agreed to appear in the film was really cool, but again, not unexpected for a Christian film. The two cast members that really surprised me were Max Adler and Nick Offerman. I had seen Max Adler on Glee, and his performance on there made me wonder how well he would fit into a Christian film. And then they announced the inclusion of Nick Offerman (of Parks and Recreation acclaim), who I know is not a Christian and also very critical of the Church. So it made me wonder, “What kind of Christian film would feature this kind of cast?”
All of this took place before I really knew anything about the plot of Believe Me. And then the first trailer came out, and it became very clear that this was not your typical Christian film. The story is something unheard of in the Christian film genre, featuring non-Christians pretending to be Christians for personal gain. The marketing of the movie was unlike any Christian film before it. T-shirts featuring slogans like “F Satan” and “I’ve been to Africa. Twice.” showed up on the Believe Me store, and I started to wonder if this was really a Christian film at all. And the fact that I couldn’t tell if Believe Me was a Christian movie or not actually got me really excited to see it.
After seeing Believe Me twice, I’m still convinced that it’s a Christian film. It’s got some inappropriate language and lots of drinking, it doesn’t offer an altar call, and it is highly critical of the Church, but I think the film is still trying to do and say something positive for the sake of the Christian message. It has a broader appeal than any Christian film before it, and it overtly challenges people (including Christians) to really think about what they believe and who it is they are putting their faith in. And to me, that sounds like a Christian film.
Despite the language, I think this is a film Christians, especially ministers, should see. It tackles so many issues that I see within the Church today that we need to be talking about, including Christians who are just mean people, Christian leaders who put their own ministries and programs before the cause of Christ, and “Christians” whose faith is really in their spiritual leaders and not in Christ. The movie is funny, it’s well-made, and it makes you think. I really enjoyed Believe Me, and I suggest you check it out.