'Case For Christ' brings Arlington Heights' Lee Strobel home

  • Former Arlington Heights resident Lee Strobel will return to Chicago next week to promote the new Christian faith drama "The Case for Christ," based on Strobel's conversion from atheist to believer.

    Former Arlington Heights resident Lee Strobel will return to Chicago next week to promote the new Christian faith drama "The Case for Christ," based on Strobel's conversion from atheist to believer.

  • Dann & Raymond's Movie Club takes on remakes -- including "Kong: Skull Island" -- on Thursday, April 6, at the Schaumburg Township District Library.

    Dann & Raymond's Movie Club takes on remakes -- including "Kong: Skull Island" -- on Thursday, April 6, at the Schaumburg Township District Library.

 
 
Posted3/30/2017 6:00 AM

'Case For Christ' brings Strobel home

Writer and lecturer Lee Strobel -- former Daily Herald metro editor, Chicago Tribune legal affairs editor and a staff member at Willow Creek Church in South Barrington -- will return to Chicago next week to promote Jon Gunn's movie based on his book "The Case For Christ," tracing Strobel's transformation from hedonistic atheist to believer.

 

Mike Vogel, Erika Christensen, Faye Dunaway and Robert Forster star in "The Case For Christ," opening at theaters April 7. On Thursday, April 6, in 400 cinemas, moviegoers can see the film as a special event from Fathom Events. Strobel, Gunn and the cast will conduct a live simulcast Q&A at the River East 21 Theaters, 322 E. Illinois St., Chicago.

Go to TheCaseforChristMovie.com for tickets and details. I recently talked to Strobel about the film:

Q. What was it like to see your life story up on the silver screen?

A. My first reaction was a sense of embarrassment, because the movie shows some of the ugly aspects of my life. It's an honest film that doesn't blink when it shows me drinking too much and having anger issues, and treating people with hostility for thinking differently than I did. You wish the story could be sanitized and show only the good stuff. But we didn't want to do a film like that. We wanted to be honest.

Q. What does your wife Leslie (who inspired Strobel to investigate Christ) think about the movie?

A. Leslie has watched the movie 10 times. I asked her why she keeps seeing it, and she said, "I want to get cried out, so when I see it in public, I won't cry." This is emotional for us. We're reliving things that actually occurred. Some of the scenes are almost verbatim from our lives. They bring back moments and emotions that we had already gotten past.

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Q. So what's your brief review?

A. It's not like a lot of faith-based films where you cringe as you watch it. I was really impressed with the production quality, the acting, editing, everything. And it was quite an education for us, because we'd never been part of a movie before. We feel it really represents our story well.

Q. What do you hope viewers get out of seeing "The Case For Christ"?

A. They will learn two things. People will hear the evidence for Jesus returning from the dead, thus authenticating his claim to being the son of God. Plus, they're going to hear the gospel. They're going to see someone moving out of skepticism into faith.

What I love about the film is that it doesn't preach. Yet, the message of Jesus is woven into it in a creative and very compelling way.

Q. Some churches have been losing people while other churches seem to be magnets for new members. What's the secret to a successful church?

A. Trend lines show that churches that are conservative theologically are the ones that are growing. Churches that are liberal and have essentially watered down the message are not growing, or even shrinking. Willow Creek, even though it's avant-garde in the way it presents the message, is conservative theologically.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Churches that are conservative theologically -- but are creatively showing how the message is relevant to a new generation -- those are the ones that are growing because they're able to keep the fidelity of the message while presenting it in fresh and contemporary ways that 21st century people can relate to and respond to.

Note: Read our profile on former Arlington Heights resident Strobel's amazing life at dailyherald.com.

Revisiting 'Dances'?

Michael Mertes of Chicago responds to my review of white savior movies such as "The Great Wall" by defending Kevin Costner's Academy Award-winning Best Picture of 1990 "Dances With Wolves."

Dear Dann: Yes, there is such a thing as the "white savior" narrative in cinema, but I cannot understand the seemingly overwhelming labeling of "Dances With Wolves" as such a film. If you watch it again, or recall it correctly, you'll understand that applying such a concept to that movie couldn't be further from the truth.

First of all, the purpose of the film is to show that the Sioux are the saviors and heroes. Costner's Lieutenant Dunbar is a fish out of water among his own white race, even attempting suicide at the beginning of the film.

Only through growing positive interactions and finding community with the Sioux does he begin to understand himself and find peace and value.

The Sioux people not only save him metaphorically, but literally as well during the bravura rescue scene toward the end.

It's hard to call it a white savior movie when whites are specifically associated with cultural eradication.

People quickly forget the masterful cinematography, one of the best scores in modern film, and a story and casting that finally brought dignity to Native Americans who in most previous Hollywood cinema were relegated to perfunctory roles at best and as villainous savages even more regularly than that.

My advice, re-watch "Dances With Wolves." Considering that it was Kevin Costner's directorial debut makes the film all the more impressive. -- Michael Mertes

Michael: First, I apologize for editing your letter for space. I hope your salient points remain intact.

"Dances With Wolves" is a perfect example of the White Saviour Syndrome.

• The Lakota tribe, part of the Sioux nation, is starving and the warriors are too inept to locate buffalo herds, even though an estimated 6 million buffalo thundered across the plains during the 1860s. Dunbar rides out and before John Williams' score can crack a crescendo, discovers 90 kajillion buffalo, thereby saving the tribe from extermination by famine.

• The villainous Pawnees are poised to attack the weaker Lakotas. Dunbar supplies them with U.S. military armaments and trains them. They defeat the Pawnees, and Dunbar saves the tribe from extermination by attack.

• On another racist note, notice how Dunbar cannot be allowed to co-mingle with nonwhite females.

Hence, the movie provides him with Mary McDonnell's Stands With A Fist, a white woman adopted by the tribe as a little girl. Interracial dating crisis averted!

So, Michael, we can take solace in knowing that each of us is right, depending on how you look at the movie. FYI: I labeled "Dances With Wolves" as a white savior movie in the early 1990s, along with "Mississippi Burning," "Glory," "The Long Walk Home," "The Power of One," "Blood In, Blood Out," and "Thunderheart."

We don't need no stinkin' remakes!

Dann & Raymond's Movie Club presents "Remakes? We Don't Need No Stinkin' Remakes!" at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, April 6, at the Schaumburg Township District Library, 130 S. Roselle Road, Schaumburg (schaumburglibrary.org). Free admission!!

We'll show clips from the original movies, then their remakes, including "King Kong" (1933, 1976, 2005, 2017), "Casino Royale" (1967, 2006), "Yojimbo"/"A Fistful of Dollars" (1961, 1964) and 16 more.

Taking the 'Tall' view

Caitlin Parrish's "The View From Tall" -- a drama about the fallout of a student/teacher affair -- will be April's First Tuesday event at the Midwest Independent Film Festival 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 4, at the Century Centre Cinemas, 2828 N. Clark St., Chicago. Stay for the Q&A with co-director Erica Weiss and actor Michael Patrick Thornton. It's at 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 4, at the Century Centre Cinemas, 2828 N. Clark St., Chicago. Tickets are $10 and $15; visit midwestfilm.com.

• Daily Herald film critic Dann Gire's column runs Friday in Time out!

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