"This is really a tremendous piece of work," said Alan Braun, pastor of Royal Heights Baptist Church in Delta, British Columbia. "They've done a super job, way beyond what I thought they would be able to do."
The reaction is even more surprising when considering the fact that the church behind the film -- The Connection, a Canadian National Baptist Convention church plant in metro Vancouver -- has no more than 50 people in attendance on Sundays.
"Be prepared to be pleasantly surprised at the quality of this production and impressed with the message it sends," Tom Blackaby, international director of Blackaby Ministries International, who also lives in Maple Ridge, said in an e-mail.
Filmed on a $20,000 budget, The Scarf tells the story of two girls working on a high school science project about UFOs. One of them is so determined to get an A+ in hopes of impressing her absentee father that she puts herself at risk by dabbling in the occult. Woven through the narrative are dialogues on spiritual warfare and the power of prayer.
Most of the cast were unchurched teenagers with no acting experience. As a result, most in the near-capacity crowd who attended its red-carpet premiere at a movie theatre in nearby Coquitlam were non-Christians. John Martens, the pastor of The Connection, said that when the movie ended, they broke into "thunderous applause."
Martens wrote the script for The Scarf. Youth and media minister Kyle Lawrence was its director, cinematographer and editor.
The film contains "strong spiritual stuff" but is deliberately not "in-your-face" evangelistic, said Martens.
"We wanted to make people think and open up their eyes to some new things that they maybe hadn't really thought about before," he said.
Braun likes that approach.
"I really think if you're going to touch teens today, they want you to get them to think and to let them discover the answers, instead of just being spoon-fed," he said.
Gerry Taillon, national ministry leader of the Canadian National Baptist Convention, said he, too, "really appreciated" the fact that the movie's "purpose is to pique interest and to help young people in their discussions."
"I think it could do exactly that," he said.
The challenge now is to make The Scarf available to as many people as possible.
"We're hoping to get it on TV." Lawrence said. "We have a number of DVDs of the movie in the hands of different distributors and people in the industry that are looking at it that we're waiting to hear back from."
Martens is working on DVD-based study materials based on the movie that churches can use in their small groups or Bible studies.
Martens' desire is that The Scarf will be only the first of many movies The Connection will produce as part of what he calls "our long-term, world-touching strategy."
"We hope over time -- it may take 10 or 20 years -- to train a variety of young Christian filmmakers like Kyle to be able to go out and make their own Christian films and create a wave of media evangelism and discipleship out there, bringing the Christian worldview into the public consciousness much more strongly," he said.
But for their next project -- which they plan to film in 2011 -- Martens hopes there will be more people actively involved in both the moviemaking and the church.
"It was a lot of fun doing it, but because of the work in the church plus the work on the movie and all that, it was really a very hard experience for us too," he said. "And so to have the church a little bit stronger would be a big deal."
He said he's spoken with people who "assumed we spent hundreds of thousands of dollars."
"The very fact we got this done, I think, is just one of those indicators that God wanted it done," he said. "He helped us and strengthened us. Because sometimes I wondered, 'How did we make it through all this -- and get a neat, little product out of it, too?'"
Frank Stirk writes for the Baptist Horizon, a publication of the Canadian National Baptist Convention, online at www.cnbc.ca/national-ministries/horizon. To learn more about The Scarf, visit www.TheScarfMovie.com.
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