Boosting Films that Foster a Culture of Life

By John Zmirak Published on July 23, 2018

The late Andrew Breitbart famously said, “Politics is downstream of culture.” But of course the converse is true: Culture’s downstream of politics — unless you think that segregation would have shriveled just as fast without the Civil Rights Act.

In fact, there’s a feedback loop that links both politics and culture. So we’re summoned to struggle in both, for the sake of the Kingdom and for the least among our brothers.

One of Breitbart’s closest friends was Stream contributor Jason Jones. He works in both vineyards, promoting life both in culture and in law. His personal reasons for waging that war have appeared at the Stream already. He also leads a non-profit, Movie to Movement. He founded it after the experience of promoting the classic film Bella.

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Movie to Movement’s goal is to build up a Culture of Life through the arts. The Stream interviewed him on the latest film which Movie to Movement is promoting. It’s called Running for Grace. It stars Matt Dillon (There’s Something About Mary) and Jim Caviezel (The Passion of the Christ), with Ryan Potter. The film is set and was filmed in Hawaii.

An Adoption Story

The Stream: So what’s this movie about?

Jason Jones: It’s set in the 1920’s on the Big Island.  Running for Grace is a story about a young orphan named “Jo.” He is half Japanese and half “haole” (Caucasian). In the age of legal and cultural discrimination, both communities reject him. Eventually the new plantation doctor (Matt Dillon) takes him under his wing. Jo becomes the “medicine runner” for the Japanese Issei coffee pickers and eventually wins over the community of immigrant farmers. However, Jo’s forbidden love for the plantation owner’s daughter “Grace” brings the whole community to a boiling point.

 

What the audience for the movie?

This is a film for the entire family with themes of identity, adoption, perseverance, struggle and romance. It was 100 percent made in Hawaii and shares an important chapter of Hawaii’s immigrant story.

“I Was an At-Risk Youth.”

Why did you choose this movie for one of the short list you promote each year?

When I was a kid I would often ride my bike several miles to the nearest theater. I would hide my bike behind the garbage dumpsters in the back of the shopping mall. I would pry the fire exit open and sneak into the theater. Once in, I would go from screen to screen watching every movie in the multiplex. My time in the theater was an escape from my confused and lonely childhood.  As soon as I saw Running for Grace I wanted to share it with every “at risk” kid in America. It offers hope.

Would segregation have shriveled just as fast without the Civil Rights Act?

 

How did you go about filling up theaters for the opening weekend, to help the movie go big?

For our Hawaii premiere event, we partnered with local businesses. And with organizations that serve children in government and Section 8 housing. We were also approached by donors who wanted to sponsor tickets for diverse groups. They ranged from an all-girls Catholic high school and an organization that serves the children of our armed service men and woman. 

Helping Kids Know They’re Children of God

How did the premiere go?

Amazingly. As I saw the hundreds of kids stroll out of the theater together laughing and high fiving, talking about the film I reflected on my time as a child alone in the theater. As a kid who didn’t know where he belonged. Helping such kids know that they are loved because they’re unique and dignified children of God…. I can’t think of a more important message to get out there. I have never been more grateful to our donors, my board and our partners for making Movie to Movement a reality.

 

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M2M

Jason Jones and local Hawaiian kids at movie premiere.

How are you trying to elevate the culture?

When I first founded the Movie to Movement it seemed strange to folks to use film to serve an educational purpose. Today it’s conventional wisdom — though often for the wrong causes.

In our less than 10 years we have held movie events around the world. They’ve ranged from the White House and the U.N.  with the most powerful people in the world in plush theaters to a mountainside refugee camp in Iraq with Yazidi children. And the battlefields of Sudan, where we screened the Passion of the Christ for Christian freedom fighters with AK-47s strapped to their back. And now my local theater in Honolulu where a theater packed with kids from Section 8 housing mix with bank presidents and politicians. 

We don’t just promote movies. We evangelize for them, since our goal is evangelical. And it works. Thanks to Movie to Movement’s strategy, Running for Grace made in the splash in the industry. Now we think it has a strong chance of a good national distribution. And that’s always the challenge for faith-based and life-affirming films: getting them into theaters long enough for believers to notice them and tell their friends.

 

This interview has been updated.

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