I love sharing family friendly movies with our CatholicMom.com community. Every once in a while, I enjoy the opportunity to do this in very personal and unique way. Such was the case last week when I traveled to Atlanta to represent all of you at the world premiere of the soon-to-be-released film 90 Minutes in Heaven. This amazing film adaptation of Don Piper’s best-selling book by the same title releases in theaters nationwide on September 11.
Last week’s premiere was an opportunity for the cast and crew to gather together and celebrate the launch of a film that has vast potential to draw hearts to Christ. As I’ll share in an upcoming review of the film, I believe this movie will be a vehicle for sharing our faith with our loved ones. But it’s also the start of something unique and amazing in the movie industry: a vehicle for raising needed funds for great charitable organizations through the production company Giving Films.
Knowing the connection between 90 Minutes and Giving Films, it felt fitting that almost as soon as my feet hit the ground in Atlanta, I hurried over to the Fox Theater, site of the premiere, to help stuff thousands of goodie bags for the evening’s guests of honor, 1500 families involved with foster care. As we distributed those bags, I had the opportunity for behind the scenes look at the historic theater and to marvel at its beauty. Before long, it was time to head back and get ready for the red carpet!
This is my second opportunity to interact with the film in this way. In March, I visited the set during filming and to learn the history of this project and the mission of Giving Films. This return visit to Atlanta felt like a reunion of sorts. Standing at our special “Catholic Mom” position on the red carpet, I had one of those “pinch me” moments as I thanked God once again for the gift of representing our community in this way.
Some of you may imagine the red carpet of a movie premiere as a place which is concerned only with fashion, image and glitz. I wish I could find a way to share with you how vastly different this experience was from my pre-conceived notions. Yes, there were amazingly beautiful actors and dresses from the most talented designers. But what struck me as I had the opportunity to interact personally with each of the cast members and producers was the “mission” feel of this experience for them. To a person, they shared how much being a part of this particular film had meant to them personally and spiritually. I don’t believe that every one of the people I interviewed practices their faith in the same way. But I do believe that for them being a part of 90 Minutes in Heaven, interacting with the real Don and Eva Piper, and being a part of the mission of Giving Films will forever change them just as it’s changed my heart.
Movies are meant to be entertainment. But last week’s premiere showed me that they can be about much more. In my upcoming review, I’ll expand upon this sentiment. But today, I thought I’d simply use the following video to bring you along to the red carpet with me.
Three particular encounters on the red carpet particularly touched me. I’d had the opportunity a week prior to the premier to interview the amazing Michael W. Smith by telephone and to chat about his portrayal of Cliff McArdle. While Michael was anxious to discuss that role, he also wanted to share about his son Tyler Michael Smith’s involvement with composing the film’s score. The fatherly pride and love I heard in Michael’s voice on the phone played out on the red carpet before my eyes when I had the chance to watch dad and son enjoy this moment together.
The second eye-opening moment happened during my interview with the lovely Kate Bosworth (“Eva Piper”) and her husband Michael Polish. Michael co-wrote the screen play and directs the film. Seeing the two of them together as they prepared to celebrate the film’s launch was truly touching. Both were genuinely joyful, approachable and so passionate about the power of this film to do great things. To witness partners in marriage become partners in this mission was quite inspiring.
The third encounter played out over the course of several minutes as I met individual members of the “real” Piper family. Don and Eva came first. As I interviewed Don, Eva stood next to him with such love, listening as he answered my quick questions. I recalled my March conversation with Eva and how I felt then as I know now that 90 Minutes in Heaven is every bit as much Eva’s story as it is Don’s. More about this in the review, but it’s enough to say here that Don, Eva and their children Nicole, Chris and Joe seem to fully recognize that the sharing of their family’s story in such a major way is both a privilege and a responsibility. And each member of the family seems fully committed to the great good that can be done with this film.
When I entered the Fox Theater to screen the film, happy circumstance landed me a seat next to actress Cynthia Barrett who played Anita Onarecker in the film. To sit with Cynthia and watch her face as she saw the movie for the very first time was truly priceless. I’d imagine that the people who sat next to Hayden Christensen, Kate Bosworth, or any other members of this talented cast felt just the same.
We’d come to see a movie, but we departed the theater that night feeling part of a very special mission.