EXCLUSIVE: Armor Of Light, a documentary about faith and guns which marks the directorial debut of producer Abigail Disney (granddaughter of the late Roy O. Disney) is bowing in theaters on October 30, backed by an unusual grassroots marketing effort that is working hard to bring in both card-carrying NRA members and conservative evangelicals, as well as those who are in groups for gun legislation.
Plans are underway right now to be able to make the movie free to card-carrying members of the NRA in 10 of its playdates for its entire opening weekend. The film is being released via Disney’s Fork Films and has made its own deals directly with various theaters in areas where faith-based films have performed well. They have commitments to open in 25 theaters in 20 markets in big mutli-plexes that have, in the past, embraced Christian-themed films. That includes AMC theaters and Regal Cinemas and others in such cities as Denver, Colorado Springs, Orlando, Phoenix, and Charlotte. In some areas, they are playing in locales that are unconventional theaters for documentaries to play in. For example, in Denver, the film is playing at the AMC Highlands Ranch 24 instead of the art-house Landmark.
The film is about evangelical minister Rob Schenck’s spiritual awakening and his mission to try to stop gun violence in America by asking faith-based questions of his evangelical following and how they reconcile their 2nd Amendment stance into conversations about God and what Jesus preached.
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He has admittedly lost friends over this effort to get even a conversation going in his own following and with various opposing groups. “He is really trying to get Christians to do their moral homework and look at their belief system and ask themselves questions about how their pro-life beliefs fit with this country’s gun culture,” said Fork Film’s distribution executive Jeff Reichert.
Reichert is a familiar name to many indie filmmakers. He has worked in publicity for some of the most theatrically successful documentaries in recent years including the Academy Award nominees Capturing The Friedmans, Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room, Jesus Camp, No End In Sight, and the Academy Award-winning Man On Wire for Magnolia Pictures. He also worked in distribution and/or marketing at various companies around town, including Magnolia Pictures, IFC Films and Cinedigm Entertainment.
“The broad themes of the marketing campaign have always been to elevate the conversation away from the anti or pro-gun issue. This is really about dialogue and conversation between people with different backgrounds who may come from opposite views,” said Reichert.
In doing so, Fork Films has sought out pastors from across the country to screen the film and then talk to Disney, Schenck and victim of gun violence Lucy McBath afterwards in a Q&A format. McBath is the mother of Jordan Davis an unarmed, 17-year-old boy who was killed in Florida in November 2012. The killer tried the Stand Your Ground defense, but the jury didn’t buy it and the gunman was sentenced to life in prison.
Under the name Faith Over Fear, they went from town to town talking to pastors from Philadelphia, Chicago, Houston and Orlando. They also screened the film for evangelical students in Philly. They have also reached out to public safety and victims of gun violence groups to offer free screenings as well.
They are collaborating with the faith-based website Patheos for those who have seen the film to offer commentary as well.
Kathleen Hughes is the producer and co-director of the film. Among her films is Two American Families, a 21-year-long look at downward mobility, which recently appeared on PBS’ Frontline. Her 90-minute Bill Moyers special Buying The War detailed the media’s failure to examine the Bush Administration’s case for invading Iraq.
They have been criticized for being liberal filmmakers with even Bristol Palin taking aim. But Schenck is the chairman of the National Clergy Council and runs the non-profit organization Faith in Action which promotes evangelical values in politics. He serves as clergy to conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and is a fixture in the pro-life movement.
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