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Film experts say it's time to retire 'faith-based' movie genre title

Film experts told Fox News this week that the “faith-based” film genre title needs to be retired because it limits audiences.(Image source: ScreenSlam/YouTube screenshot)

The faith-based film genre has become increasingly popular in recent years, but some of its biggest advocates want to ditch the frequently used movie descriptor.

Producer Mark Joseph, known for “Ray,” “The Vessel,” and “I Am David,” told Fox News that the “faith-based” title “scares away both the marginally religious and the irreligious, and it’s a signal to them that the story is going to be preachy and overbearing.”

“The term ‘faith-based’ is an odd term to describe movies — or anything else,” he continued. “For most Americans, faith is a normal part of our lives, so it’s only normal that faith is weaved into movies as it's weaved into most of our lives.”

Filmmaker Howie Klausner, whose works include “Space Cowboys, “The Grace Card,” and “Hoovey,” agreed with Joseph’s conclusions. Over the years, he said, Christian movies have been praised by religious moviegoers just for being Christian.

“As a result, we’re not taken very seriously in the world of real movies,” Klausner lamented.

And conservative documentary producer John Sullivan contended that ascribing a “faith-based” title to movies puts religion into a vacuum, which doesn’t reflect genuine faith that impacts all aspects of life.

“It diminishes the role of faith like it’s [something] second-tier when a majority of Americans are still religious,” Sullivan told Fox News. “Having faith in God is not an extreme view but a very common one, so it should be natural for stories to incorporate that element without being sidelined.”

“I think recent films like ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ and even ‘American Sniper’ demonstrate how characters embraced and struggled with their Christian faith without it being a ‘faith-based’ movie,” he added.

“Hacksaw Ridge” grossed $67 million in the U.S., and “American Sniper” wrangled a whopping $350 million domestically.

Producer Thurman Mason, whose movie “Generational Sins” comes out later this year, went a step further than Sullivan, saying the problem isn’t with the genre title, but with the films themselves. Essentially, he feels they are too white-washed.

“The secular world cannot relate to on-screen, faith-based characters who have been so sterilized that they never curse, make bad decisions, or engage in bad behavior like the majority of folks — Christian or not — in the real world,” he argued.

In an interview with TheBlaze earlier this year, journalist and author Billy Hallowell, whose new book “Fault Line” chronicles the “seismic shift” away from free speech, called on Christians to pursue work in Hollywood, to infuse secular culture with faith-centered stories.

“I think one of the big solutions is for us to engage culture,” he said. “I think when we totally retreat, it only leaves what we’ve seen, and I do think we could stem that tide a little bit by having a presence.”

Hallowell pointed to the success of films like “Miracles From Heaven” and “God’s Not Dead 2,” which brought in $61 million and $20 million, respectively.

In the end, the film experts took no issue with movies centering on Christianity. Rather, as Sullivan pointed out, dropping the “faith-based” title would likely usher in larger audiences.

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