I made the trip to be a part of pre-screening for the new Blue Like Jazz movie. It is based off of Donald Miller’s best selling book Blue Like Jazz. I read this book almost four years ago, but I distinctly remembering how it changed my view of Jesus and others. I recommend all of Don’s books, but if you have to read one or recommend one that will be create the easiest avenue for conversations with Christians and nonChristians alike, recommend Blue Like Jazz. It will not disappoint.
If you do not know the history of this film, I want to share really briefly how I ended up in Atlanta at a pre-screening. I remember hearing the rumors it was going to become a movie and was really excited about the details. Then I remember reading Don’s blog post explaining how the movie did not have enough back and was pronounced dead. I remember feeling a sadness because I was really looking forward to the movie and the conversations it would create, but there was nothing I could really do about it because I did not have half a million dollars to spare to help offset the start up costs and neither did my closest friends.
This did not stop two guys from Franklin, Tennessee from pitching the idea of starting a Kickstarter campaign to save Blue Like Jazz. With a blessing from Don, Steve Taylor (director), and the team, they launched the project to fund the movie and raise $250,000 in 30 days. Apparently, there were a couple thousand other people who wanted to help as well, and, before you knew it, we had raised over $340,000 to save the movie! I had the privilege and honor to be part of the team that backed this campaign and was thrilled when I found out the dream to make Blue Like Jazz a reality was alive again.
Fast forward to this week. Updates had been sent out to backers for months updating everyone on details of shoots, editing, marketing, and so much more. Of most importance, the film has been accepted to premiere at SXSW in early March– one of the most prestigious film festivals in the country. To gain more feedback and to give backers an inside look, the Blue Like Jazz team is holding pre-screenings across the country in 29 different cities. The first stop was in Nashville and then to Atlanta. I knew if there was a screening in my backyard, I had to go. So I rounded up a couple friends and made the trip from Athens to Atlanta.
The movie itself was one of the most refreshing movie experiences I have had in a long time. Most Christian movies have a cliché, predictable storyline in which tragedy strikes and a God comes through in the end because of faith and prayer. Not to knock those at all, but the Christian film genre has been criticized for the content, production value, and acting with more and more films being released under the banner of Christianity.
Blue Like Jazz did not fit this mold in so many ways. The story was a glimpse into reality. It showed the human condition and the struggles that every college-aged person struggles with when trying to live in the world but not of it. It shows the reality that we sometimes succumb to these pressures, but we are reminded that God’s love and grace covers even those moments where we slip and fade away.
Words like forgiveness, honesty, and genuine come to mind when I reflect on the film. As we interacted with Steve Taylor after the film, everyone spoke so much high praise for the down-to-earth, real feel that the movie had from beginning to end. The Christian clichés were minimal, the storyline flowed, there was humor sprinkled throughout in the right places, and there was enough scenes and interactions that caused tension that you could have experienced on one level or another. It was not just a movie about one man’s experiences years ago; it was a story about the human condition. It was a story about the identity we have as an individual and a community and how those feed each other. This film just happened to show it through the lens of Christianity.
Some may find the film offensive, sacrilegious, or disrespectful. I find that sad because there is a beauty Blue Like Jazz carries with it that has transcended the pages of a book and found its way on screen. It disarms those hostile to Jesus by humbly admitting our own sin while acknowledging our own questions, doubts, and concerns. It lays all the cards out there on the table and invites each audience member to make a choice for themselves.
Blue Like Jazz is–as Steve put it–the little movie that could. It was thought to have been dead and many thought it was, but God did not. He breathed life into something that was once dead and gave it new life. The story of Blue Like Jazz is the story of every Christian, being moved from death to life. And, what a life it has the potential to live.
I cannot encourage you enough to see this film. It will encourage your heart, challenge your motives, and forever shape the conversations you have with everyone you come in contact with in the future.
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