Christian Living


Overcomer Asks Critical Question: What Do You Allow to Define You?

Chris Carpenter - Director of Internet Programming

DALLAS -- As has become their custom, following the release of War Room in 2015, a film that grossed $74 million at the box office, brothers Alex and Stephen Kendrick took some time off to contemplate what their next project would be. 

Not unlike other contemporary filmmakers of the day, the process of generating new movie ideas is the commonplace progression for anyone trying to build momentum for their next release.  But for the Kendricks, beyond brainstorming and searching the blue skies for inspiration, their process might look a little different.  Before they do anything they enter a season of prayer, asking God for direction in determining the focus for their next film.

From Facing the Giants to Fireproof to their last film, the aforementioned War Room, the Georgia siblings have always found themes that address a critical topic in culture at just the right time.

Their latest release, Overcomer is no different.  With people searching more than ever to determine what defines them via social media or pop culture, the movie delves deeply into a person’s quest to find true identity and self-worth.

“It's interesting that our culture is debating who gets to define what our identity should be,” says Alex Kendrick, who once again serves a dual role on his latest film as lead actor and director.  “Culture would say it's your feelings or at least it's your status, your title, or your finances. Because God created us, we would say that the creator gets to define His creation and that we find the fullest intended version of ourselves when we find ourselves in the one who created us. What we say in the movie is God loves you the most, knows you the best, and has the authority to tell you who you are. For us, this is the right time for this message.”

“We have a generation that doesn't believe in God or thinks He's this distant God,” adds Stephen Kendrick, who co-wrote Overcomer with his brother and also serves as producer.  “When you disconnect God from your worldview, it's like turning off all the headlights, driving in the dark. And so when scripture says, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of both wisdom and knowledge, it is a knowledge of God and a respect for his character and who He is that turns on the light. When we discover God is loving, I can believe that I'm loved. When I discover He's the creator, I'm created in his image.”

Overcomer tells the story of high school basketball coach John Harrison’s struggle to maintain normalcy in his life after the local manufacturing plant shuts down.  Hundreds of families are forced to leave town, forcing Harrison to squelch his dreams of a state basketball championship.  Asked to take over the school’s cross-country team, he is faced with coaching a lone runner (Aryn Wright-Thompson) who not only battles asthma but also struggles with her self-worth. Along with his wife (Shari Rigby), Harrison pushes his young athlete toward a journey of discovery, one that eventually leads her to a newfound faith and the answer to a question that has plagued her since birth.

In her big screen acting debut, Wright-Thompson can certainly relate to many of the qualities her character experiences onscreen.  Just 16 years old, the young actress was at first daunted by the prospect of a leading role in a movie but quickly settled into a comfort level that was fueled by her faith.

“At first, I was really scared,” Wright-Thompson remembers. “I felt like I had a lot of weight on my shoulders. But I prayed about it and I was like, God wants me to be here.  I’m here for a purpose.  When Hannah (her character) was learning about her identity, I was kind of learning with her that I don’t have to know anybody else.  He is all that matters and I just need to praise God.”

With a message that is unabashedly Christian, general audiences have sometimes been skeptical of Kendrick Brothers movies.  Rigby, who has starred in and directed many faith-based films herself over the last decade, believes a good movie is a good movie regardless of its thematic roots.

“It's a time right now when we want to go to the movies as a family and be able to sit there and know that we're going to see a very powerful movie and that there's not going to be things that are embarrassing as parents while you’re sitting there with your kids,” Rigby shares.  “We have days in our society right now where everything just looks dark and bleak. This movie has a message of hope, light, power and encouragement.”

It is for these reasons that Hollywood veteran Cameron Arnett wanted to be part of Overcomer.  With film and television roles dating back to 1987, Arnett had grown tired of working on projects with little to any redeeming qualities.  He feels very fortunate that he was given an opportunity to play such a vital part in this movie.

“I know that God doesn't make any mistakes, so I take it very personally that He chose me to be in Overcomer, says Arnett, who plays a dying man buoyed by the prospect of regaining something long thought lost.  “I'm from Hollywood and worked in Hollywood a lot. I’ve done a lot of productions. They end in tension. The lack of tension (on the Overcomer set) was glaring. The fact that you can have that kind of synergy and oneness … it’s the way it should be.”

Due to the increasing financial success of their previous five releases, Overcomer is the beneficiary of the largest budget yet for a Kendrick Brothers production. Undoubtedly, audiences will see a marked improvement in the technical quality of the end product as well as a greater scope in set design.

“After War Room we went back and asked ourselves questions on how can we improve our writing and the storytelling process,” explains Stephen Kendrick. “So we incorporated some new things in that process. This movie has better cameras and better lighting. All of that stuff translates into a better film on the screen.” 

“We always want to keep improving the production quality,” Alex Kendrick adds. “We never want to sacrifice any level of excellence that we don't have to.”

Starring Alex Kendrick, Rigby (October Baby), Priscilla Shirer (War Room) and Wright-Thompson, Overcomer opens in theaters nationwide this Friday.

Watch a trailer for Overcomer:

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