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- Spring International Film Festival at Keith Albee Performing Arts Center - March 2-5
"God is not Dead" Weaves Many Stories of Faith
Josh and Professor Radisson
After Professor Radisson’s “God is Dead” classroom mandate and personal atheist declaration, he and Josh are caught in a tense battle for victory. Unaccustomed to being challenged, Professor Radisson becomes aggressive and punitive toward the seemingly ignorant freshman. Though it seems an insurmountable and intimidating task, Josh is driven to try to prove that God is not dead. Has Professor Radisson actually met his match? The seemingly intellectually superior academician finds himself threatened by Josh’s well-researched arguments. Josh repeatedly finds himself in conflict with Professor Radisson throughout the film, leading to friction that bubbles over into the hallways outside of class.
Shane Harper reflects on his character; “He’s [Josh] a brave guy. And he goes through a bit of trial with it, too.”
As Josh presents over the three class sessions, we begin to see another side of Professor Radisson. Over time, Josh is able to solicit from his professor the reasons that he holds his atheistic views. Kevin Sorbo says of his character; “Professor Radisson was a Christian in his youth but after his own mother’s passing, he lost his faith. And so he has pretty much just mentally prepared himself for the battle of thinking God never existed and there couldn’t be a God like that to let bad things happen in the world.”
Sorbo reflects upon what was happening in the story as Josh continues to make his case for God’s existence: “And here he’s [Professor Radisson] getting basically taken to school by this 18-year old kid, this freshman who wants to challenge him on the existence of God, and he becomes a very big thorn in his side. I think one of the nice things about the script is that during these three class sessions where Josh gets up in front of the class to try to make his case, there’s a slow crack in the veneer of my character -- about him questioning everything he thought he believed in and everything he once believed in.”
Sorbo enjoyed this particular role. “The teacher becomes the pupil and the student becomes the teacher, and it’s a wonderful story; and that’s one reason why I think I was attracted to the part. “
Harper noted the impact of standing up to the professor in the film. “It’s meaningful for him [Josh] as a Christian, as a person of faith, and as a theist who wants to defend the love he has for a God he believes to exist. But it’s also so important because there’s all these kids in the class, too, who are swayed by this bully figure in Professor Radisson.” Harper continues, “Martin [classmate played by Paul Kwo] ends up getting saved at the end of it. That’s the kind of importance it has.”
Producer Russell Wolfe, also notes the significance of character Josh’s role in the film to one of the direct goals of the film; "We wanted to create a film that would inspire people to stand up for their faith, and have more confidence in sharing the Gospel, while raising awareness of the Anti-Theism agenda that is promoted in our schools and Universities."
Ayisha’s story of converting from Muslim faith to Christianity is a brief but moving sub-plot within the film. Ayisha has grown up in a strict Muslim household, but found a faith in Christ. Ayisha’s brother discovers her secret and she is terrified that he will tell her father. A dramatic scene unfolds in which Ayisha is physically assaulted by her father and kicked out of her home over her faith. We experience her father’s grief over what he must do, in sending his daughter away from the family, and Ayisha’s despair over this as well.
Hadeel shares her thoughts on this daunting scene, “The scene in the bedroom where my father bursts in and is confronting me about my transition over the religious aspect of my character was pretty intense. It was hard, but it was great. As far as being in the moment, Marco was so fantastic playing that character. I believed him [in the scene], which made me scared. I think it will come across very well. Powerful and painful.”
Ayisha ultimately finds solace in Pastor Dave, as he helps her find some footing in her new life on her own.
Mark and Amy
Mark and Amy are a power couple with little regard for others. Mark, a successful businessman, has a trophy girlfriend in Amy. Amy, a talented writer, finds the same in Mark—a handsome and rich boyfriend, and someone with whom she can enjoy the finer things of life. When Amy discovers she has cancer, she turns to Mark for support, only to find him apathetic.
“My character, Mark, is a very driven guy,” shares Dean Cain. “He’s extremely pragmatic, not too emotional, and he sees a deal in everything. He doesn’t have a very strong faith in God at all, to put it mildly, and he just wants to get stuff done.”
Trisha LaFache notes on her character, Amy, “She’s a really strong girl, a really strong-minded girl, who is very determined in her career. And I think in life, there are things that people care about: family, health, career, spirituality, and I think she sacrificed a lot of those things to pursue her career.”
Cain said, “They [Mark and Amy] sort of formed an alliance, if you will, and had a deal that they would sort of take over the world together. And then when Amy turns out to have cancer, that just throws a wrench in Mark’s plan.”
“It’s very difficult to see somebody go through something like this by themselves,” remarks LaFache.
Cory Oliver (Mina) felt strongly connected to her on-screen persona during the filming, “My character Mina is actually dating Jeffrey Radisson. She’s a Christian and he’s an atheist, which is something personally that I’ve had experience with, which is why this part really resonated with me.”
“They have kind of a struggle going on because he’s an atheist and they’ve made a deal not to discuss her Christianity, and throughout the movie you see how it becomes increasingly more difficult,” said Oliver.
Oliver shares her sentiments on the message the film will provide for viewers, “I think it’s a really beautiful story about how to come to Christ, about hope, about encouragement, about the triumph of humanity and what God can do.”
Pastor Dave is woven throughout the entire film. He and his friend, Rev. Jude [Benjamin Onyango], are trying to leave town on a vacation, and a series of interesting and sometimes comical circumstances prevent them from leaving. Ultimately these circumstances weave each of the main characters into Pastor Dave’s life, and we experience his role in helping each of them in some way. We also begin to see that the delay of his trip is not merely “coincidental,” but most likely divine intervention by God.
When discussing his Pastor Dave character, David A.R. White says, “He’s [Pastor Dave] looking to do something when the story starts; he’s trying to do something meaningful for God. He feels like he’s challenged and frustrated because he’s not really doing anything other than being this assistant pastor at this little church, and nothing is happening. But ultimately at the end of the movie we find out that God really has called him to a greater purpose and that’s where he intersects the main characters of the movie. “
White was also one of the film’s producers and notes, "We want the audience to walk away energized to show their community that God's Not Dead. He is alive, with us, and working through Christians all over the world every day. We hope to see people equip themselves with the knowledge to answer the questions from those who are searching, with confidence."
Co-producer Lisa Arnold sums it up, “We like to do movies that draw people closer to Jesus Christ and show the love of Christ. GOD’S NOT DEAD is going to be an amazing movie because not only is it going to show that God still exists today, but it’s also going to help Christians understand how they can talk to people that are not believers, and how they can convince them that God is here with us today, very much alive. He is loving us and caring for us and with us every step of the way. “