Films made by Christians generally seem to fall into two categories. The Passion notwithstanding, you've got your overtly Christian-themed "cheesy & preachy" films that are more concerned with sermonizing than good story-telling and good filmmaking. And then there are those films that don't deal directly with Christian themes but still end up being good entertainment—not altogether a bad thing (see David Taylor's In Defense of Mere Entertainment).
Rarely, though, does a film unabashedly introduce explicit Christian worldviews, themes, and characters and still manage to wow mainstream audiences. The Least of These, a short film by Rik Swartzwelder, does exactly that. Now available on video after playing at nearly 100 festivals worldwide, and winning over 27 film awards, the movie is an adaptation of true events told by Tony Campolo known as "The Agnes Story."
Don't let the term "short film" mislead you. The running time at 20 minutes is about the same as any half-hour TV show or VeggieTales episode. Plus the DVD extras add up to more than 90 minutes of material, including a fascinating interview with Campolo about his real experience that led to the story and the film.
The story is set at an old greasy diner where the regular late-night clientele hangs out: blue-collar retirees, rowdy club-hoppers, lonely drifters, and prostitutes at the end of their shift. Swartzwelder deftly takes us into the diner, giving us time to feel the mood and practically taste the sheer tedium of the characters who seem to live there. You get the feeling it's the same old, same old—and has been that way for decades. The director's eye for detail and the use of lighting, music, and camera movement immediately draw you into this place where ...1