New faith-based films tone down religion, amp up star power

For some filmgoers, hearing a movie described as “faith-based” makes it a must-see. But just as many others find the term a turn-off.

To reach audiences beyond the Christian churchgoers that generally propel the genre, some producers of faith-based films are ramping up the star power and tamping down the evangelical messages.

The latest example is “Miracles From Heaven,” starring Jennifer Garner and Queen Latifah, which tells the true story of a 9-year-old Texas girl who inexplicably recovers from an incurable condition after surviving a 30-foot fall.

Among the film’s producers are pastor T.D. Jakes and preacher DeVon Franklin — the team behind 2014’s $100 million hit “Heaven is for Real” — who say they aim to make movies for all audiences, not just religious ones.

“I think sometimes when people hear ‘faith-based,’ to them that is code for preachy, that is code for more medicine, and it’s also sometimes code for lower quality, lower budgeted,” Franklin said in a recent interview.

“It’s the way people think when you use labels that is the barrier,” Jakes said. “It’s not necessarily the film, but the image that comes up in people’s minds … It suggests a discrimination that was not intended. We didn’t do this film just for people of faith. We did this film for everybody.”

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