Category: News & Trends

Netflix’s ‘Dogs’ Will Give You All the Fido Feels

On Nov. 16, Netflix is going to set tails a’wagging with the streaming premiere of Dogs, a six-part cinema vérité series exploring bonds between humans and canines around the world. So, sit, stay and learn what it’s all about.

The Netflix Original Documentary Series — a real switch from such recent true-crime fare as Making a Murderer and The Keepers — travels to Syria, Japan, Costa Rica, Italy and the U.S. to profile the love between dogs and people.

It’s gonna be a heart-tugger, so get out those hankies (and grab a warm puppy, if you have one).

Who’s Behind Dogs?

If you’re wondering if the folks producing this series really love dogs, meet executive producer Glen Zipper, a former criminal prosecutor whose life was forever changed by his encounter with a shelter puppy named Anthony. After adopting Anthony days before he was to be euthanized, Zipper was inspired to become a shelter volunteer.

Eventually, that led him to leave his job as a lawyer, pack up Anthony and drive cross-country to L.A. to tell stories. In an essay provided by Netflix, he writes:

For the last 14 years — through successes and many more frequent failures — Anthony has always been there for me. With his wagging tail at the door after a long, hard day; with his smiling face always managing to pierce the gloomiest of moods; and most importantly, with his constant, unrelenting, unconditional love.

Dogs don’t just make us feel loved; dogs make us feel safe. They allow us to venture out into the world, take our lumps and come back to the best friend any of us could ever want or imagine.

In the world we live in today, no matter how divided we are, we should take care to realize how dogs can bring us together. Our love for them speaks to our unanimity of needs: love, friendship, companionship, loyalty. We all want these qualities in our lives, and dogs are the only souls on this planet who guarantee us each and every one of them in spades.

Our series Dogs is created in this spirit — to honor our dogs, and to help us realize that a love for dogs is something we all have in common. Understanding this, it is also our hope that sharing these stories might help us find more ways to love each other.

How Should Christians Think About Dogs?

I’ve always believed that dogs offer a mirror of our relationship with God. As God made us to love and serve Him, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Him, so we have made dogs to love and serve us, and their hearts are restless unless they’re getting a belly rub.

As Christians, we should always put our fellow humans first, especially children. But caring for dogs, and being cared for by them, can open up windows in hardened human hearts and teach us much about the nature of love. One has to think every wagging tail is pleasing to God.

Here’s more on the episodes:

1: The Kid With a Dog

Directed by Heidi Ewing (Jesus Camp, One of Us)

Corrine, an 11-year-old girl with traumatic seizures, is paired with Rory, a dog trained to detect an oncoming seizure.

2: Bravo, Zeus

Directed by Amy Berg (Deliver Us From Evil)

Ayham fled war-torn Syria for Germany, but had to leave his husky, Zeus, behind. He and his friends risk everything to bring Zeus out of Syria to safety.

3: Ice on the Water

Directed by Richard Hankin (The Jinx)

Italian fisherman Alessandro relies on his partner, Labrador retriever Ice, to be his companion and help in the family business.

4: Scissors Down

Directed by Roger Ross Williams (Life Animated)

Renowned California dog groomers fly to Japan to compete in a high-level grooming competition.

5: Territorio de Zeguates

Directed by T.J. Martin and Daniel Lindsay (Undefeated, LA 92)

Dedicated people sustain a sanctuary deep in the Costa Rican rainforest that saves street dogs.

And, last but  not least …

6: Second Chances

Directed by Berg

The New York City charity Hearts and Bones travels to the south to return dogs to the Big Apple for adoption.

 

Will you be watching? Here’s a peek:

Images: Courtesy Netflix

Kate O’Hare, a longtime entertainment journalist, is Social Media Manager at Family Theater Productions.

Keep up with Family Theater Productions on FacebookTwitter and YouTube.

NBA Star Steph Curry Signs on as Executive Producer on DeVon Franklin’s Faith Film ‘Breakthrough’

Steph Curry

Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry has signed a deal to become an executive producer on Breakthrough, a faith- and fact-based film starring Chrissy Metz of NBC’s This Is Us.

Breakthrough is based on the book, The Impossible, written by Joyce Smith. As reported here previously (before the film changed titles from The Impossible to Breakthrough), Metz plays Smith, a mother whose adopted son, John, fell through the ice and was declared legally dead. But, an hour later, after his mother’s fervent prayers, the 14-year-old boy came back to life. Topher Grace also stars as a pastor. Already filmed in Canada, the movie, launched by Christian producer DeVon Franklin (The Star), is set to come out in April.

Chrissy Metz

Curry recently launched a production company, Unanimous Media, which has an overall film/TV deal with Sony Pictures Entertainment. As the Hollywood Reporter learned exclusively, Curry, a devout Christian, was attracted to Breakthrough because he’s also interested in producing family-suitable and faith-friendly projects.

From the Hollywood Reporter:

“John’s story is nothing short of incredible,” said Curry in a statement to THR. “It’s a story about the power of prayer and perseverance and one I immediately connected to. After reading the script, I knew I wanted to be a part of bringing it to life onscreen.”

DeVon Franklin, who focuses on faith-based projects and produced Breakthrough, said Curry was moved by the true-life story and the movie “checks all his boxes: faith, true story, family and sports.” Curry and Franklin had a meeting on general movie projects and Franklin pitched him Breakthrough, the movie he was working at the time. Franklin gave him the script, which Curry read almost immediately; 24 hours later the basketball star was ready to get involved.

Curry and his co-founders at Unanimous, Jeron Smith and Erick Peyton, gave overall notes on themes tackled in the movie as well detailed notes on a couple of key scenes. They also gave editorial notes on the basketball scenes and helped license some of the imagery in the film.

Curry will also lend his high profile to the marketing of the film as the release draws nearer.

Images: Wikimedia Commons

Kate O’Hare, a longtime entertainment journalist, is Social Media Manager at Family Theater Productions

Keep up with Family Theater Productions on FacebookTwitter and YouTube.

CBS News: Dr. Phil Lands Faith-Based Drama; Garth Brooks at Notre Dame

Garth Brooks (L); Dr. Phil McGraw (R)

TV personality and psychologist Dr. Phil McGraw and son Jay McGraw, via their Stage 29 Productions banner, have sold the faith-based medical drama Chaplain to CBS.

From Deadline.com:

Written by [Nick] Weiss and [Isaac] Laskin, Chaplain centers around a talented, scientifically minded ICU doctor and her free-thinking, faith-oriented brother[, who] clash over the best approach to the business of saving lives when he is hired as chaplain at her hospital.

Weiss executive produces with McCarthy, while Laskin is co-executive producer.

Well, gosh, we’d hope that a hospital chaplain would be “faith-oriented,” at the very least.

The duo has also sold a legal drama called Melanie. Both projects are coming from CBS TV Studios, where Stage 29 has an existing deal.

In other CBS news, country singer Garth Brooks will be at the center of Garth: Live at Notre Dame, set to air on Dec. 2, during the pre-Christmas season on CBS. To be taped tomorrow, Oct. 20, at the University of Notre Dame’s legendary football stadium, it marks the first standalone concert in the facility’s 88-year history. According to the South Bend Tribune, the 84,000+ tickets went on sale in mid-September and sold out in two hours.

Brooks has put out Christmas albums, but despite the December airdate, there’s no indication in the CBS release of any holiday music being included.

Incidentally, Notre Dame was founded by the Congregation of Holy Cross, the same order in which Family Theater Productions’ founder, Venerable Patrick Peyton, was ordained a priest, and of which FTP remains a vital part.

Images: Wikimedia Commons

Kate O’Hare, a longtime entertainment journalist, is Social Media Manager at Family Theater Productions

Keep up with Family Theater Productions on FacebookTwitter and YouTube.

BASED ON: ‘Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer’ and the Book That Preceded It

 

Earl Billings as Dr. Kermit Gosnell

Our producer-at-large Father Vince Kuna, C.S.C., a USC film-school grad, reviews the new true-crime procedural film Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer, released Oct. 12, and the book that preceded it, Gosnell: The Untold Story of America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer — both were based on grand-jury testimony, news reports and trial transcripts.

Married couple Phelim McAleer and Ann McElhinney produced the film Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer, basing it on a book of a similar title. The style of filmmaking follows the book closely, a verbatim account of Philadelphia abortionist, Dr. Kermit Gosnell, convicted of grisly murders at his decrepit abortion clinic.

(Note: While the film discusses grisly and horrific crimes, it is not gory or sensationalized. There is no sex or overt violence. Its PG-13 rating refers to adult themes and things more implied than shown. That said, it’s probably not suitable for anyone under its stated age range.)

The book and film rely on police reports, grand-jury testimony, the court stenographer and interviews with Gosnell himself (subsequent to his conviction). The account of Gosnell’s misdeeds left me speechless as the crimes were unraveled in 2010; the movie elicits the same response now. One illustration of the banality: Gosnell felt it appropriate to gleefully play classical music on his grand piano as Feds search his home, following a more recent search of his clinic which uncovered jarred baby parts from previous abortions.

The verbatim approach follows a rarely utilized adaptation style most famously realized in The Passion of Joan of Arc.  Directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer, this silent film’s source material was based entirely on St. Joan of Arc’s heresy trial transcript. The stark, silent format that 1920s technology demanded actually worked to the film’s advantage. The back-and-forth interrogation between the saint and her inquisitors needed no embellishment from a screenwriter. The story speaks for itself. An innocent young woman dies at the hands of an overweening religious tribunal. The viewer, then has the opportunity to respond to St. Joan’s witness or not.

Philadelphia and federal law enforcement, city prosecutors, a journalist blogger and later, filmmakers, faced Gosnell’s brutal crimes in their verbatim form. They all played parts in not shirking from this evil, but instead exposed it in all its gruesome literalism and brutality.

Most suspiciously absent from the expose was (ironically enough) the institution most entrusted with uncovering truth and exposing lies … the mainstream media. As documented in the film and book, one journalist blogger snapped a photo of any empty journalist gallery and posted it to social media. A lay Twitter campaign publicly shamed traditional media outlets into sending their journalists to cover the trial. I would posit blame at human knuckleheadedness and typical shying-away from admitting some conspiratorial media blackout, but recent events might prove me wrong.

The book’s release immediately made it a bestseller, but the New York Times initially refused to place it on its list, despite empirical book sales demonstrating otherwise. Perhaps, more jaw-dropping was National Public Radio’s denial of the filmmakers’ attempt to pay for ad spots referring to Gosnell as an abortion doctor, even though the radio station’s own previous scant reporting on the case used the very same title.

I prefer themes subtly massaged into the media I both consume and produce. After all, our own Savior spoke through parables, metaphors and good ole-fashioned stories. When confronted with evil so depraved, there’s something to be said about lifting high the Cross and exposing evil in all its lurid detail. Does one respond with facing evil head on and administering justice, or retreat back into a bed of lies, blanketed by sins of omission?

Image: Courtesy Hat Tip Films

Click here to visit Father Vince Kuna’s IMDB page.

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BASED ON: Netflix’s ‘The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society,’ and the Book That Inspired It

The latest in a series by Father Vince Kuna, C.S.C., USC film-school grad and producer-at-large at Family Theater Productions …

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, screenplay by Don Roos, directed by Mike Newell based on a novel of the same title written by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. (Now streaming on Netflix.)

The Netflix original movie tells the story of the German occupation of the Channel Island of Guernsey during WWII and the ways in which the tiny island community copes with their situation. In some ways, they’re creative in their predicament: one small band forms a reading group, of sorts. In other ways, occupation becomes a veritable prison for the inhabitants and boredom ensues, evidenced by the serving of potato-peel pies as the culinary staple of choice.

The novel executes the story by way of written letters between the main characters. After the conclusion of the war, Juliet Ashton (played by the lovely Lily James of Downton Abbey fame) hears of the underground literary society and begins a written dialogue with the former members, in hopes of impressing her publisher in London. The entire novel then, alternates in these back and forth letters between her and the society. When she arrives at the island at novel’s mid-point, correspondence in this same letter form continues between her and her publisher, Sidney Stark (Matthew Goode).

The novel’s chosen medium is essentially personal narration for nearly 300 pages — it’s like reading dialogue the entire time, without there actually existing a line of dialogue. It makes for a tedious read to say the least. To borrow language from the translation field, I’m glad the filmmakers decided not to adapt this using formal equivalence. For had the film told the story entirely through letters, as the novel did, it would have required tremendous amounts of voiceover … a smart choice only if Terrence Malick directs your film.

Don Roos’ best adaptation technique is to write the story more in real time — Juliet interviews the islanders on past events, and her poking and prodding create the effect of an engaging procedural. Juliet soon uncovers the central tension between society members. They provide cover for Elizabeth McKenna (Jessica Brown Findlay, also from Downton Abbey) who mothered an out-of-wedlock daughter with one of the German officers.

Reading these events in the novel’s letters format produced what I would call a “settled effect.” Since the letters reference a past sin, the only thing left to do on the other side of its committal is to offer forgiveness. With the filmmakers’ adaptation choice to dispense with most of the letter writing, the morality takes on a more immediate effect. When Juliet first learns of Elizabeth cavorting with the Germans, an innkeepers’ judgmental quip on the whole indiscretion takes on a more considerable bite.

A wise screenwriting professor once told me when adapting material, try to answer the question: “What is the one thing the story is about?” The filmmakers accomplished that in capably updating this story of mercy and forgiveness. Discerning the “form” through which the novel tells the story, and determining whether or not that suited the big screen, was an even better question the filmmakers answered.

Image: Courtesy Netflix

Click here to visit Father Vince Kuna’s IMDB page.

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Ken Burns Reveals the Mayo Clinic’s Catholic Roots in PBS Documentary

Airing on Tuesday, Sept. 25 and repeating Wednesday, Sept. 26, on PBS stations (check local listings; channel, dates and times may vary), acclaimed documentarian Ken Burns’ latest effort, The Mayo Clinic: Faith – Hope – Science explores the history of the famed Minnesota hospital and medical-research facility … and finds some determined Franciscan nuns.

From the press release:

When a deadly tornado tore through their small community in 1883, the Mayos took charge of recovery efforts, enlisting the help of the nearby Sisters of Saint Francis to care for patients. Afterwards, Mother Alfred Moes, the leader of the convent, told Dr. Mayo she had a vision from God that instructed her to build a hospital, with him as its director. She believed it would become “world renowned for its medical arts.”

Blending historical narrative with contemporary patient stories, THE MAYO CLINIC: FAITH – HOPE – SCIENCE is a timely look at how one institution has met the changing demands of healthcare for 150 years—and what that can teach us about facing the challenges of patient care today.

Born in Luxembourg, Mother Alfred Moes was the founder of the Sisters of St. Francis of Mary Immaculate, who eventually became a teaching order in the Midwest. They cared for orphans and educated girls from early childhood through their teens.

From her bio at the order’s site:

Our Lady of Lourdes Academy and several other schools under Mother Alfred’s direction were flourishing in Minnesota, when on August 21, 1883, a tornado ravished the area. Mother Alfred and her Sisters opened their schools to the victims. After this experience, Mother Alfred recognized the great need for a hospital. She petitioned Dr. Mayo to plan and staff a hospital at the expense of the Sisters. Within a few years, on September 30, 1889, Mother Alfred opened St. Mary Hospital, Rochester, Minnesota, which eventually became the renowned Mayo Clinic.

Although Mother Alfred died in St. Paul, Minnesota, on December 18, 1899, her ministry, as that of St. Francis of Assisi, “to rebuild the church” continues to this day by the Congregations known as “Al’s gals.”

It’s clear from Burns’ documentary that St. Mary’s, and the eventual Mayo Clinic, would not have been possible without the physical and fundraising efforts of the sisters, who transformed themselves in many cases from teachers into nurses.

The sisters remain involved with the world-renowned clinic to this day, which maintains a St. Mary’s Campus as part of the overall Mayo Clinic property.

Ken Burns

Burns’ documentary not only highlights the Church’s long involvement with healthcare — stretching back centuries — but shows how the involvement of a higher purposes and a higher calling can elevate science.

Said Burns; “The history of healthcare is a larger reflection of who we are as a nation. It includes advances in science and technology, but also touches on more universal themes of love and compassion. This is an extraordinary story that places our fundamental need to care for each other within the larger framework of America’s healthcare system and modern medicine.”

The two-hour documentary airs at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Tuesday, Sept. 25, on many PBS stations; and repeats on Wednesday, Sept. 26, at 10 p.m. ET.

Also, with a PBS membership, you can watch the whole thing here; or you can buy the DVD here.

Images: Courtesy PBS

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