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Journey to Bethlehem image
Image Credit © Affirm Films

A musical interpretation of the Nativity Story, Journey to Bethlehem is brought to life through creative filmmaking and charismatic performances resulting in a Bible-based film of high entertainment and spiritual value.

The brainchild of acclaimed songwriter and producer Adam Anders (who makes his directorial debut),Journey to Bethlehemtells the story of a young woman named Mary (Fiona Palomo) who is betrothed to Joseph (Milo Manheim). When Mary is chosen by God to give birth to the Messiah, she and Joseph undergo the ultimate test of faith, while the power hungry King Herod (Antonio Banderas) hunts for the soon-to-be newborn king.

Anders successfully melds the spiritual with the entertaining in The Nativity Story, largely in part to his catchy and at-times heartfelt compositions. In a year where musicals made a comeback (Wonka, The Colour Purple), faith-based musicalJourney to Bethlehem just might be the best of the bunch.


Sound of Freedom image
Image Credit © Angel Studios

“God’s children are not for sale.”

It’s hard to think of a more impactful line of dialogue from a recent film that perfectly encapsulates the mission statement of a movie and its lead character. Sound of Freedom tells the story of Tim Ballard (Jim Caviezal), an accomplished and principles driven Homeland Security agent who wades through the slimy depths of child sex trafficking trade to save as many children as possible.  

As Ballard, Caviezel brings a stern resolve to his portrayal of a man who wrestles with the anguish of how the most vulnerable and innocent of society can be abused and exploited with such frequency, callousness, and greed.

In choosing not to say on the sidelines, Ballard embraces his calling as a protector of children from evil men (and at times women) in a mission that holds much in the way of spiritual prominence. Sound of Freedom is indeed a film about good combating evil that highlights an important yet too often ignored issue.


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The Hill image
Image Credit © Briarcliff Entertainment

Many obstacles were placed in the path of former baseball prodigy Rickey Hill. Raised in a home poor in money yet rich in love and faith, strong too was Rickey’s love for baseball, and when it came to handling the bat, God blessed Rickey with a swing that clapped like thunder and saw baseballs soaring to Heaven itself.

Yet with such a gift came a humbling series of crippling injuries, including a spine equal to that of a 60-yer-old man. What could never be broken was Rickey’s dream to play professional baseball, no matter the suffering he had to endure.  

Rickey’s story of trial and tribulation is perfect fodder for a movie, and true to form if would take a 12-year struggle to get The Hill to the big screen. With assured direction by Jeff Celentano (Glass Jaw), and the expert writing of Rudy and Hoosiers scribe Angelo Pizzo, along with the late Scott Marshall Smith (Men of Honour), The Hill is a homerun of a faith-based baseball movie.


Exemplum image
Image Credit © Palindrome Pictures

A provocative conspiracy thriller, Exemplum tells the story of Father Colin Jacobi (played by the films writer and director Paul Roland), a young Catholic priest whose popular online channel “Exemplum” has made him a hit to a generation of lapsed Catholic’s, resulting in cues of sinners lining up at his confession door. Little do they know is that Colin is recording their confessions as fodder for his online videos.

When Colin is found out by his superior, he is given the choice to either cease his social media shenanigans or leave the priesthood. Choosing ego over his calling to serve God, Colin soon finds that leaving the grace of God and sanctuary of the Church has left him open to attack from a corrupt world.

Shot in grainy black and white on a very small budget, Exemplum proves to be an intelligent and hauntingly powerful Catholic tech-noir thriller in which the false illusion of fame corrupts the soul of the films holy man protagonist. Roland later has Colin mired in a conspiracy involving cyber hacking and blackmail, yet the most riveting and tragic thing about Exemplum, though, is watching this man – once devout, once content, once called to God – fall from grace and become slave to a different master.


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Deliver Us image
Image Credit © Magnet Releasing

Filmed on a limited budget in the Northern European country of Estonia, Deliver Us certainly does not feel like an independent feature, with directors Lee Rou Kunz and Cru Ennis delivering an incredibly crafted horror feature that more than equals most major studio fare.

Set in Russia, Deliver Us tells the story of Sister Yulina (Maria Vera Ratti), a nun who claims immaculate conception when she gives birth to twin boys: one alleged to be the new coming of the Messiah, and the other the Anti-Christ. Ordered to investigate by the Vatican is Father Fox (Lee Roy Kunz) who uncovers a sinister conspiracy.

While certain plot points in Deliver Us have previously been explored in The Omen and Prince of Darkness, there is a stern seriousness to the philosophical and theological supernatural worldbuilding of Deliver Us that increases the stakes of good versus evil to William Peter Blatty (The Exorcist) levels of Catholic influenced religious horror.


Jesus Revolution image
Image Credit © Kingdom Story Company

The first faith-based film of 2023 to create waves at the US box-office, Jesus Revolution told the true-life story behind the 1960s Christian revival dubbed the “Jesus Movement.”

Kelsey Grammar stars as Chuck Smith, a pastor at a complacent and half-empty church who forms an alliance with street preacher Lonnie Frisbee, who is played with charismatic ease by Jonathan Roumie of The Chosen fame. Together they begin a congregation for those “kids searching for all the right things in all the wrong places”, among them a disillusioned young man named Greg Laurie (Joel Courtney.)

Directed by Jon Erwin and Brent McCorkle from the popular faith-based studio The Kingdom Story Company, Jesus Revolution is a biopic of resolute spirit and impressive in its ability to overcome the cringe factor found in a lot of Christian stories.


Nefarious image
Image Credit © Blessed Films

A chilling and thought-provoking example of fine religious horror filmmaking, Nefarious stars an excellent Sean Patrick Flannery as a demonically possessed serial killer awaiting execution, who in his final hours tries to convince a non-believing psychiatrist (Jordan Belfi) into delivering his manifesto to the world.

Written and directed by Cory Solomon and Chuck Konzelman (Unplanned), Nefarious provides a welcome alternative to the usual demonic possession movie tripe: dialogue driven, intelligently written, and foreboding Catholic-infused horror that takes the insidious and corrupting nature of evil seriously.

A commanding performance from Sean Patrick Flannery elevates the spiritually and thematically compelling Nefarious into upper echelons of faith-based horror that will haunt the soul.


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After Death image
Image Credit © Angel Studios

After Death opens with a shot of the cosmos. Beautiful, mysterious, and ethereal, it just might be the closest thing we mere mortals think Heaven might look like. According to those who have experienced Heaven firsthand, though, the cosmos is but a stick figure drawing compared to a Rembrandt.

Near Death Experience (or NDE) is the topic at heart in After Death, and it’s a documentary as emotional as it is fascinating. Directed by Stephen Gray, After Deah is also very cinematic, where even the interview footage pops off the screen.

Just as impressive are the visual recreations of the experiences which the varied men and women in the documentary had while crossing over to the afterlife. Recreating such an experience visually is a tall order, especially when one NDE witness says, “there is no earthly words that do it justice”. The makers of After Death attempt to do so, and it is truly a wonder how an independent production could pull off such exquisite imagery.


Are You There God? image
Image Credit © Lionsgate

A coming-of-age and coming-of-faith movie, Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret succeeds as a sincere and sensitive adaptation of Judy Blume’s controversial novel.

Set in 1970, Are You There God?... tells the story of 11-year-old Margaret (Abby Ryder Fortson) whose happy life in New York City is upended where her parents Barbara (Rachel McAdams) and Herb (Benny Safdie) announce they are moving to suburban New Jersey. Along with her burgeoning transition into womanhood, Margaret begins an informal prayer life asking God for help while exploring the different faiths (namely Judaism and Christianity) that her parents had long abandoned.

Director and writer Kelly Fremon Craig (Edge of Seventeen) does a fantastic job in addressing taboo issues (religion, menstruation, bigotry) without sacrificing charm or relying on stereotype. Margaret’s spiritual journey is especially engrossing in the sincerity in which both the character and the filmmaker allow this exploration of faith – and the institutions and people who represent it – to play out. While some might not like the results, Margaret’s faith in God cannot be denied.


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Beyond Utopia image
Image Credit © Roadside Attractions

The startingly powerful documentary Beyond Utopia is very much a modern-day Exodus story.

Directed by Madeleine Gavin, Beyond Utopia chronicles the efforts of South Koreon pastor Seungeun Kim and his church Caleb Mission in helping defectors from North Korea escape the tyrannical communist nation.

With camera crew in tow, Gavin captures the gruelling and dangerous journey to freedom undertaken by a North Korean family while evading detection by North Korean and Chinese authorities. Alongside them is Pastor Kim, who just like a good shepherd should, guides his flock through dangerous territory as red star adorning wolves try to track them down.

Archival footage that shows the cruel and inhumane conditions that has befallen upon the North Koreon people – especially those caught escaping their supposed “utopia” – heightens the stakes in a treacherous journey fuelled by hope and faith.


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