A movie without a genre?
If it’s possible that a feature film could be made that an entire family could enjoy yet not fit neatly into any particular box, Abel’s Field may just be it.
“It’s faith-based. It’s also a drama. It’s also a family film,” producer Tore Knos said.
Perhaps that’s the beauty of Abel’s Field.
Not cut from the same mold as some earlier faith-based movies like Facing the Giants and Courageous, Abel’s Field, isset in thesmall Texas town of Siani, and takes a largely different approach to telling the faith story.
“It deals with themes of redemption and forgiveness and mentorship,” said Knos, of the movie released today on DVD. “But more than anything it’s finding hope in unlikely places. And that even in really dark times God is there and faith triumphs.”
To tell this story, Abel’s Field focused on the relationship of two men, whose paths cross at very different points in their life.
Seth, played by newcomer Samuel Davis, is a 17-year-old senior, who is essentially raising his 7-year-old twin sisters after his mother died of cancer and his father walked out.
“It’s essentially the story of a high school student who has been dealt a really bad hand in life and God has continually in his eyes let him down,” Knos said. “His faith is wavering.”
But that’s where the simplicity of the story ends. Peeling layers off, you find out piece by piece why Abel is the closed, calculated, hard-worker type. A man of few words.
You also delve into the complexity of Seth’s character, likeable yet slightly troubled; and youfind yourself empathetic, if not soul searching what you would do in his shoes.
“I think the path we took with Abel’s Field is to not shy away the message of faith, but to let the message permeate organically through the story,” Knos said.
“The goal is that an audience member who is a person of faith can watch this movie and be reaffirmed. But a non-believer can watch it and enjoy it and not have a knee-jerk reaction.”
One critical scene pits Seth and Abel in an unexpected deep conversation where Seth has nowhere else to turn.
“Do you believe in God?” Seth asks his mentor.
“Yes,” Abel replies stoically.
“Do you believe in Jesus?” Seth ups the ante.
“I do,” Abel confirms.
Abel’s Field lacks a preachy tone, but makes up for it by letting the story reveal the ultimate message that true hope and forgiveness can be found in a relationship with God.
The movie also offers just enough buffers of comedy, romance and drama to keep the storyline swift and authentic.
“This is the type of film that a family can watch on a Saturday night around the couch with a big bowl of popcorn,” Knos said. “Everyone will take something different from it.
“There’s a grit to the film that a 16-year-old teenage boy might respond to and a relatability that a middle-age mother of two can see in the film as well. It crosses a lot of family boundaries.”
But what led Abel’s Field to be picked up by Sony Pictures and Provident Films is a high-quality approach to movie making.
From the cinematographer (Ian Ellis) who worked all five seasons of “Friday Night Lights” to both the casting director (Vicky Boone) and line producer (Sandhya Shardanand) from Brad Pitt’s 2012 Emmy-nominated Tree of Life, Abel’s Field brings Hollywood level quality.
“I think the challenge for faith-based filmmakers is learning the craft and making something comparable in quality,” Knos said.
Knos, who teamed up with director Gordie Haakstad, whom he met at USC film school a decade ago, is hoping Abel’s Field helps carve out an authentic niche within the faith-based film industry, which is slowly gaining traction.
“The Erwin Brothers, who made October Baby, have tons of experience and their work speaks accordingly,” Knos said. “I think there’s some real bright spots out there.”
And Sorbo and Davis were two of the brightest in Abel’s Field. Both are Christians — Sorbo accepting Christ at a Billy Graham Crusade — who were able to “tap into their faith” to bring authenticity to their roles.
“You oftentimes meet people or see people that give you pause,” Knos said. “Then you meet people like Kevin Sorbo and Samuel Davis and you realize there are a lot of wonderful people in the film industry. It gives me a lot of hope.”