Treasure Blind
by Phil Boatwright

Cloud Ten Pictures and Koch Entertainment have just released the Newsong Films church-made film on DVD. Written & directed by Brian Shoop.

FILM SYNOPSIS: Written and directed by veteran actor Brian Shoop (The Rookie, Infamous), who also stars as Cliff Edwards, a Tulsa cabbie and amateur treasure hunter. In his spare time, the reclusive cab driver is hunting for a legendary stash of Civil War gold. With the unexpected arrival of his blind grandson, literally left on his doorstep by an uncaring young woman, Cliff slowly begins to care for the child. He begins to realize he’s been searching for the wrong kind of treasure.

The project was produced with a miniscule budget and completed mainly with the aid of members of the Tulsa Baptist Church, who volunteered their time to serve as cast and crew. Additionally, the film stars Daniel Brookshire as the grandson, a member of the church who often serves as a greeter at Sunday services and also happens to be blind.

PREVIEW REVIEW: Well, I was afraid of this. Because one church got away with it, several are going to hop on the bandwagon. The brothers Kendrick (Facing the Giants, Flywheel, Fireproof) from Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia, managed the near impossible – they made a movie with little to no money, aided by nonprofessionals (with few exceptions). Though those films lacked almost everything it takes to make a film successful, they did have one magic factor – the Holy Spirit. Truly those film efforts were blessed and used by God to aid and encourage the body of Christ.

Is Treasure Blind also aided by the Holy Ghost? That’s not a call I would dare make. But looking at the film from a purely artistic level, I was unable to get past its three main shortcomings: a rhythmless directorial pace and the artificial performances that lacked dimension or verve, and an emotionally inert script that only marginally able to relate the effect of faith.

Oh, everyone is sincere with their onscreen efforts. But there’s a reason why real actors get paid real money – they are able to become a character, not just memorize lines and not bump into the furniture. Plus, most actors who make the big time have a charisma, that something extra demanding our attention whenever on screen. The cast of Treasure Blind, while game, lack that intangible something that draws us into their celluloid world.

Now, if that sounds harsh, I’m sorry for the bluntness. Hey, I’m a Baptist, I went to school in Tulsa and I like blind people. And I certainly don’t want to grieve the Comforter. But I also think I’m being generous in my assessment.

I’ll catch it from a few, as there are some who believe we should support a Christian-themed movie no matter what. If I were in any other line of work, I’d probably agree. But I’m rough on secular filmmakers when they do work that seems slipshod. I can do no less to Christian brethren who think making a movie is as easy as planning a church picnic. You need more than Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland enthusiasm. You need professionalism.

I’m hoping those involved weren’t just trying to cash in on the hey-congregation-let’s-make-a-movie craze. But it often seemed that way. This is no slight to writer/director Brian Shoop. I’ve seen his work in other projects. He is a talented man. But it’s a collaborative art form…well, I’ll leave it at that.

DVD Alternatives: The Apostle. This perceptive drama, written, directed and starring Robert Duvall, never condescends, nor is it antagonistic toward people of faith while telling its story of a good but imperfect man’s redemption. PG-13. I found nothing offensive for exploitive purposes. The implied adultery, its one violent scene, the reverend's faulty nature, and a couple of mild expletives serve to further the story rather than shock us or malign the ministry.

The Gospel. Set in the impassioned world of the African-American church, The Gospel tells the story of David Taylor (Boris Kodjoe), a dynamic young R&B star torn between his successful new life and the one he used to know. A semi-autobiographical film about the transformative power of faith and forgiveness, The Gospel is a contemporary drama packed with the soaring, soulful sounds of gospel music.

Ponette (1997). French with subtitles. After the death of her mother, a child attempts to understand where her mother is and believes if she can get close enough to God, He will send the mother back. Sometimes difficult to view, as we are frustrated that we cannot relieve her sadness, but it’s an insightful look at the world of children, with an uplifting ending and the performances of the three lead children make for great (mature) entertainment. The film includes a positive portrayal of a Christian woman as she relates the story of Christ to this little one. Four-year-old Victoire Thivisol won the 1996 Venice Film Festival Best Actress that year. How they got such a dynamic, moving performance out of this cherub is beyond me, but even if she never does another thing, this little girl has greatly contributed to the world of art. Not rated (3 or 4 obscenities, but I caught no misuse of God's name; adult subject matter as the lost of a parent and subsequent unhappy searching for her mother may disturb children).

Tender Mercies. Robert Duvall stars as a country western singer on the skids until a religious widow and her little boy take him in. Rated PG for some objectionable language in the beginning, but when the Christian woman has an effect on his life, out goes the profanity. Oscars went to Duvall and writer Horton Foote. A great American film.

Together (2002). This Chinese film concerns a widowed father who sacrifices everything in order to support his teenage son’s gifted musical abilities. The son can’t see the sacrifices made on his behalf until the end. Beautifully filmed in the “Forbidden City” of China, full of humor, drama and insight, Together is a powerful morality tale with an ending that moved me to tears. This film reminded me of 1 Timothy 5:8, “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, he has denied the faith.”