Rob Carter has made it his mission through Jaron Ministries International to help connect the makers of faith-based films with local churches looking for family entertainment. His latest effort is a red carpet event for the feature film “Where Hope Grows” scheduled for Saturday, May 16.
“Our mission is to learn in advance about these movies and market them to local ministers and churches so they can better use the films as teaching tools,” Carter says.
“Where Hope Grows” features Kristoffer Polaha (“Life Unexpected”) as a former major league baseball player dealing with a life that has no focus and a daughter with whom he can’t relate. His alcoholism and lack of faith is keeping him from finding any hope for a better tomorrow.
He finally finds a way out through Produce (first-time actor David DeSanctis), a young man with Down Syndrome who works at the local market. The two become the most unlikely of friends.
Polaha and DeSanctis will be at the local red carpet event to be held at Edwards Cinemas, 250 Paseo Del Centro. Director/writer Chris Dowling is also scheduled to attend.
“Where Hope Grows” has many of the elements of a faith-based movie but Dowling wants to reach a larger audience than those who are drawn to such productions. He’s calling his movie “faith-based lite.”
“A lot of faith-based films are very exclusive. That means if you aren’t already on the team, you aren’t going to be excited about that film,” Dowling says. “My goal was to make this film inclusive.”
Dowling calls the term “faith-based” a marketing tool that is a double-edge sword. It’s good when it can motivate believers to go to the theater. But it can also turn away some people. The director prefers to look at his movie as one that has faith organically in it but generally has a broad appeal.
He’s found that those who have seen the film, who don’t have a strong faith, have found it inspirational. A lot of that has to do with the performance by DeSanctis.
Dowling wants to bring attention to how uninformed most people are when it comes to dealing with someone with Down Syndrome. The movie makes a strong case that derogatory words used to describe those with Down Syndrome are extremely offensive.
“We are truly inundated with these out-dated, ill-conceived stereotypes,” Dowling says. “I want people to understand that Down Syndrome doesn’t define a person.”
This isn’t a film that preaches. The director embarrassingly admits that he’s been ignorant in some cases when dealing with someone with Down Syndrome. When he first sat down with DeSanctis to read the script, Dowling wasn’t even certain if DeSanctis could read.
“I found out he had already memorized most of the script,” Dowling says. “I turned to my director of photography and said ‘We are going to be all right.’”
He cast DeSanctis — not the best actor to audition for the role — because of “a star quality.”
DeSanctis — a whirlwind of happy energy — wasn’t looking for an acting career when Dowling came to Kentucky to shoot the movie. He had just been laid off from his job and the film looked like an opportunity to work.
Being in the film gives him a chance to promote his work to help ban the use of the word “retard.”
“Chris Dowling made the whole cast and crew sign a pledge to end the use of the R-word,” DeSanctis says.
This ties into the red carpet event being a fund-raiser for Break the Barriers, a local organization that promotes programs that enhances the abilities of all people. The schedule includes: nonprofit booth displays, noon-3:30 p.m.; live performances, 3:30 - 5 p.m.; appearance by the film stars, 5 p.m.; VIP reception, 5:30-6:30 p.m.; and actors speak to audience before the film stars, 7 p.m.