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Watch: Pure Flix and Chill: The David A.R. White Story

in Filmmaker Videos
on Mar 27, 2018

Several months ago I got an email with the subject line “Pure Flix and Chill,” which raised three possibilities a) I was on the receiving end of algorithmic spam cycling through the tail end of the least plausible word combinations b) I was being targeted by an especially inept publicist c) someone had, as they say, “seen me.” The last option was correct: to my equal gratification and shame, the email cited my “appreciation for Pure Flix and the genre of ‘Evangelical Cinema’ as evidenced in your many thoughtful AV Club reviews.” This is true: I do write for other outlets on the side, and reviewing mass-release Christian fare has been a sub-specialty of the last few years. But the emailer, doc filmmaker Anthony Simon, had taken it way further: “no exaggeration to say [I’ve] seen every Pure Flix production and many more of the films they distribute on their website. This project started as an inside joke between a friend and I 5 years ago and slowly materialized into a project in the last year.”

Unless you’re the target audience, if you’ve heard of any of the theatrically-released Christian films of the last five years, there were most likely 2015’s surprise hit War Room (the #1 movie in America for one admittedly slow weekend) or the previous year’s shamelessly titled God’s Not Dead, both the work of the two biggest forces in contemporary Christian film. War Room was made by the Kendrick Brothers, whose 2006 Fireproof was the first sign that explicitly evangelical Christian cinema was now a viable, if admittedly niche multiplex proposition; David A.R. White, founder of God’s Not Dead production company Pure Flix, had been toiling far longer with less attention than the Kendricks. Neither can be described as interview-shy (at least within faith-friendly publications) but unlike the brothers, White is frequently the star of the movies his company releases. Aside from people like Kevin Sorbo and Dean Cain (believers who bring some, admittedly diminished measure of pre-existing fame to the likes of God’s Not Dead), he’s the most prominent public thespian to emerge (and stay entirely within) this sub-genre. (Memeologists may know White via “Jesus, Man.”)

With God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness (starring White in his anchoring role as Pastor Dave) out this Friday, now is as good a time as any to get acquainted with White’s life and work. Compilation doc Pure Flix and Chill takes White’s interview words out of their friendly-audience context, marries them to his actual work and lets the dialectic ride. As Simon wrote me initially, “My goal with the project is to examine a failed culture war which in turn puts a mirror to the ideologies driving mainstream blockbusters that we may take for granted. Secondly, David A.R. White is a great character to explore as an unreliable narrator and opportunistic ‘false prophet.'”

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