Beyond the Farthest Star Aug22

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Beyond the Farthest Star

“Knowing is half the battle.” – G.I. Joe

BEY_OneSheetBeyond the Farthest Star
Pathlight Entertainment

I’ve been sensing a theme in storytelling lately that has crossed genres from television to books to film. That trend might best be summed up in the ancient words of the Christ; You shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall set you free.

Oh, the general market doesn’t phrase it quite that way, and even the religious entertainment market is careful to couch the message in less than religious terms, but it’s there nonetheless.

Consider, for example, a recent episode of USA’s popular drama, Burn Notice. CIA agent Michael Westen infiltrates a terrorist organization where he is interrogated to the max by the cell leader, James. In the end, Michael convinces James he has withheld nothing. “A man with no secrets can trust himself,” James declares.

In George R.R. Martin’s epic Game of Thrones fantasy series, the dwarf Tyrion Lannister advises Jon Snow, the illegitimate son of Lord Eddard Stark, to embrace who he is. “Let me give you some advice, bastard,” Tyrian says. “Never forget what you are. The rest of the world will not. Wear it like armor, and it can never be used to hurt you.”

And so it is with the upcoming indie film, Beyond the Farthest Star. The action is set in a small town in Texas. The protagonist is a preacher with a dysfunctional family. The antagonist is a politician with a former pole dancer for a wife. Sparks fly when the politician’s wife finds God, and before you know it the Nativity Scene on the public square goes up in flames. The ACLU (or whatever organization the writer used represent it in the film) gets involved, setting up a epic battle over freedom of – or freedom from – religion, depending on your point of view. But all of that is window dressing compared to what’s really going on here.

PorchThe politician, played with self-righteous indignation by veteran actor Andrew Prine (Gettysburg, The Miracle Worker), knows how to work the system. He knows there’s more to the new preacher in town that meets the eye, and he spares no expense digging up all the dirt he can to gain leverage over this supposed adversary. The preacher,  (Todd Terry – Breaking Bad) waves the politician’s dossier aside. Blackmail loses its power once the truth comes to light, and the preacher is a man with nothing to hide. Except that he does have something to hide. So does his wife. So does his daughter. So do you and I.

And that’s really the crux of this story. The Truth will set you free, but only if you know the Truth.

Beyond the Farthest Star surprised me. Most low-budget, faith-based films feel like earnest attempts to preach to the choir – props for trying, but for the most part they just don’t measure up against their general market competition in production quality, acting quality, writing quality or just about any other kind of quality you care to mention. I usually refer to them as ‘church films,’ because nobody else would pay to see them, and even the people who do see them, don’t really like them. They’re just trying to ‘send Hollywood a message.’ Sorry. Don’t mean to step on toes. I speak the truth in love and lie not.

Beyond the Farthest Star didn’t feel like a low-budget, faith-based film to me. It felt like a movie I wouldn’t mind paying to see at the local cineplex. Production values were consistently high. The quality of acting was elevated by such industry stalwarts as Prine and Terry, along with Barry Corbin (Northern Exposure, No Country for Old Men) and Renee O’Conner (Xena: Warrior Princess) along with a standout performance by Cherami Leigh as the preacher’s troubled daughter. Most importantly, at least from my perspective as a writer, the story didn’t feel contrived. It felt like real people going through real problems and having to make real decisions that had real consequences and not all of those consequences are good. Yes, there were a couple of oh, come on, Hallmark card moments, but by the time they arrived I was so invested in the characters that I was willing to give them to the writer.

Bottom line: I liked Beyond the Farthest Star. A lot. It surprised me, intrigued me, carried me along. It was truthful and honest, and in the end left me feeling… human.

Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material, some violence and smoking, Beyond the Farthest Star opens in a limited release October 18. For more information about the movie and to purchase tickets, go to Beyond the Farthest Star website