First-Ever Biopic of Military Chaplain Reveals Life-or-Death Struggles at Home and Abroad
On the front lines of the Iraq War, an Army chaplain loses friends and his purpose in Indivisible. Knowing what soldiers face enables Americans to help, the director says.
With pressures of work, school and relationships, most Americans rarely consider the realities faced by those serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. These 1.3 million military service members in a nation of 325 million people often seem forgotten and their sacrifices disregarded.
Independent director David G. Evans believes shining light on a soldier’s complex troubles at home and abroad can help close that gap. For the past seven years, he has worked with decorated U.S. Army chaplain Darren Turner and his wife Heather to tell their remarkable story.
Turner deployed to Iraq in 2007 as part of the troop Surge. Coming back home, he faced the same pattern of depression, anger, and broken relationships he had sought to help soldiers escape.
“I was in the Surge and it was much tougher than I expected or prepared for,” Turner told The Stream last month. “Our Battalion lost a lot of great men, but also they did a lot of great work. Peace is not without cost, as the Cross of Christ demonstrates.”
Indivisible opened last fall in theaters on what is recognized as National Day of the Deployed. Now his film releases on home media this week. Director David Evans shares how he started making movies, why this story matters, and some unexpected partners his team gained in their mission to create a meaningful film.
An Eye for Filmmaking
The Stream: What was the genesis of this project?
David Evans: I’m an eye doctor, and I never went to film school. Similar to my mentors the Kendrick brothers, who made movies when they were growing up, I did the same thing with my brother. I always dreamed of making a film and never thought it would be possible.
For 15 years, my home church has done a Passion play during Easter season which I wrote and directed. One night after we finished a show, the cast and crew did an outing to see Fireproof. I wept through the whole movie because I never realized that a church could make a film.
Walking out of it, I turned to these folks who worked so hard every year on our Passion play and said, This is what God has been training us to do. Now my wife stopped speaking with me for a few days — no, I’m kidding. She also felt called to do what Sherwood Church was doing.
God put on my heart the story of The Grace Card, which is about a white cop and black cop both working together in Memphis. A couple of patients of mine inspired that story. My wife and I formed our own production company, I wrote the script and we funded the entire project. That’s a huge risk, as filmmakers who’ve been through the process will tell you.
We screened the movie for Provident and Sony’s Affirm Films one time. They loved the film so much, they said, We want this to be in theaters. It was a miracle how all that happened. A short time after it opened in theaters, back in February 2011, I felt the call to do a story about an Army chaplain. That’s what gave birth to Indivisible.
The Stream: Could you share about the themes in this story?
Evans: The heart of this story focuses on marriage. For couples where hope seems lost, Indivisible lets them know there is a solution in offering forgiveness to one another. From Ephesians 6, we know the armor of God can protect your marriage.
This story is so unique in that it comes from a chaplain, someone who is a pastor to the troops. The fact that this can happen to he and his wife, and they can overcome it, serves as an encouragement to the military — and to everyone who has a relationship that needs healing.
Dedicated Talent Silences Derision of Critics
The Stream: Some criticize faith-centered films as nothing more than cheap sermons. How do you respond?
Evans: As a tribute to our troops, we didn’t want to make a project that would feel anything less than top quality. That all starts with a compelling story as well as great actors. Once someone experiences this film, they’ll understand we’re all trying to raise the bar.
Yes, some critics say the acting is really cheesy in Christian films. That’s the reason why we hired experienced SAG [Screen Actors Guild] actors. After seeing them in action, they are not only passionate about this story but really talented.
We have Sarah Drew, who has starred for nine years on Grey’s Anatomy, along with stars from NCIS, Black Lightning and Without A Trace.
The Stream: Where did your team film this story, which recreates scenes of combat in Iraq?
Evans: One of the hardest parts of this project was finding sets that would emulate Iraq without us having to go anywhere outside the country. We visited multiple sets trying to find something that might work. Then someone told us about Blue Cloud Ranch in Santa Clarita, California.
They have incredible operating bases and an entire Middle Eastern village. Now these were present a few years ago, but when Clint Eastwood came in to do American Sniper he expanded many of the sets. They’re still used for TV shows, and it worked out perfectly that those sets were available when we were filming last June.
Then this incredible stunt supervisor based in Los Angeles, along with several stuntmen, heard about our project. They were willing to help us out for a few days because of the great cause behind this movie. It all brought greater accuracy and believability to the film.
Awareness and Action to Support Service Members
The Stream: Why do you believe Americans should seek to understand the experience of military families?
Evans: It’s important for people outside the military to see this film. The reason is it gives such a better appreciation for what our troops face in deployment and what’s going on back at home. When the moms, dads and children are left behind, what struggles do they face?
It’s great to welcome your service member back home, but we underestimate the reintegration process sometimes. There are troops who need so much help in this area. We hope to offer help not only through the themes in the movie, but also the groups we are partnering with for follow-up.