How (and why) does a politician become a movie-maker? Recently, former senator and presidential candidate Rick Santorum visited Colorado and addressed a large crowd at St. Thomas More Parish in Centennial, providing the answer to that question and giving the audience a sneak peek at his company’s newest movie, “The Christmas Candle.”
Santorum grew up in an Italian Catholic family that attended Mass regularly. He and his wife Karen have seven children and remain devout Catholics.
He served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1991 to 1995, and then in the U.S. Senate from 1995 to 2007, before running for the Republican nomination for president in 2012 (where he won the Colorado caucus). He was one of Washington’s most prominent conservative voices in U.S. politics on issues such as abortion, sexual morality, evolution and euthanasia.
“I realized in the years I was in politics, that the culture was changing,” he said, “and it’s not politics that’s changing it.” What’s changing culture, he explained, is the technology we access every day: smart phones, tablets, computers, television, movies. “That’s changing the moral fabric of our country.”
Santorum told the crowd how the people who make the content don’t hold the same Christian worldview of those individuals filling the pews.
“Yet,” he said, “they are the ones who are shaping the moral imagination of your children.”
When he was asked to become the CEO of EchoLight Studios, he “embraced the opportunity to get involved with this little company that was going to make inspirational faith and family movies.”
A strange fit for a politician, perhaps, but he countered, “If liberal actors and producers can get involved in politics, then conservative politicians can get involved in Hollywood.”
Santorum pointed out that too often, followers of Jesus Christ have taken the position that the best way to fight the current culture is to play defense, to block. But he has a different approach.
“My feeling on playing defense is this: if we believe we have the truth, why are we playing defense? Why aren’t we going out and doing what we are called to do, which is witness to the truth and to push the truth?
“For the first 1900 years since the birth of Christ,” he continued, “almost all the great art, all the great entertainment, was made by or for the Church: the beautiful mosaics, the stained glass, the paintings, the sculptures, the music. That was the popular culture.”
But with the advent of technology, things have changed.
While Hollywood knows how to tell well-made, captivating stories, the creators of most television programs and movies don’t share the beliefs of much of the audience.
“They subtly put things in there, just quietly, to turn you a little bit,” he said, “to desensitize you.”
For him, going on offense means producing really good content that adheres to the values of faith and family and sensitizes people to the truth. Would people watch it?
“I think they really would, as long as it is good quality,” he asserted.
Santorum treated the audience to an extended sneak peek of EchoLight’s forthcoming film, “The Christmas Candle” (see sidebar). The story revolves around a young progressive Anglican pastor who, through a personal tragedy, has lost his faith and no longer believes in miracles. He comes to a village in the English countryside and encounters a community clinging to the belief of the miracles wrought by a very special Christmas candle.
The pastor’s desire to bring electricity to the church puts him at odds with the villagers.
“It’s a movie about technology in the modern world and the end of legends and miracles,” Santorum said. “It’s about the beginning of the age of science and technology versus the people in this town who still believe in God and miracles. That is, in essence, one of the problems we are dealing with today.”
There are two major characters in the movie: one is the pastor who has lost his faith and the other is a woman who has no faith.
“’The Christmas Candle,’” Santorum said, delivers “a beautiful message to come into the Christmas season to see how God can work to affect us all.”
Santorum encouraged moviegoers to support the film early in its run (it opens Nov. 22), preferably on opening weekend, so that other theaters will see its popularity and pick it up.
For Santorum, a starting point for engineering a shift in today’s culture lies in the production of films such as those his company makes that champion families and celebrate faith.
“My feeling is that our country is on a path that cannot lead to good things. We need to engage the culture,” he said, adding that’s why he’s been traveling the country promoting EchoLight’s movies. “It’s a way to encourage people to not lose faith, to be willing to engage, fight back, and have the courage to stand up for the truth in our schools, our families and our churches.”
“The Christmas Candle”
Opening nationwide Nov. 22
From bestselling author Max Lucado comes a timeless story of faith, suitable for the whole family. The period piece is set in the late-Victorian era and filmed in the beautiful setting of the Cotswolds in England.
When a progressive young minister comes to the village of Gladbury, he embarks on a quest to modernize the town, an act that sets him at odds with the local candlemaker, who fights to preserve the legacy of the miracle-producing Christmas Candle. When the special candle goes missing, the villagers discover a new formula for miracles: good deeds and acts of kindness. The result is the most astonishing Christmas the village of Gladbury has ever known.
The exceptional cast features veteran performers Hans Matheson (“Clash of the Titans,” “Sherlock Holmes”), Samantha Barks (“Les Miserables”), Lesley Manville (Disney’s “A Christmas Carol”), Sylvester McCoy (“The Hobbit” trilogy, “Doctor Who”), and many others, including singing phenomenon Susan Boyle, who makes her feature film debut. Director of photography Michael Brewster worked on the Harry Potter films, and his cinematography is awe-inspiring.
Attention to detail (such as the fact that all the costumes were constructed out of 1890s fabrics) adds to the richness and authenticity of the film, which is a feast for the eyes and a celebration of the true meaning of Christmas.