Tag Archives: ISIS

Jon Voight, Angelina Jolie, ISIS, a film called WOODLAWN, and me

14 Sep

Pursuit of happiness 2

by Patrick Novecosky

BEVERLY HILLS, CALIF. (Sept. 14, 2015) — Good movies get me pumped — especially guy movies. James Bond, Indiana Jones, Rocky Balboa, and Chris Gardner (deftly played by Will Smith in The Pursuit of Happyness). These are characters that make me want to get off the couch and save the world — or at least make it a better place.

For me, few sports films fit into that category. Exceptions: the first and last in the Rocky franchise (Creed, releasing in November looks promising), Rudy, Chariots of Fire, Miracle, and Field of Dreams. Despite the fact that most professional athletes are men of faith, there are relatively few faith-focused sports films. Recent years have given us When the Game Stands Tall (Jim Caviezel), Facing the Giants, and Soul Surfer.

woodlawn_xlgWoodlawn

Last night (Sunday), I finished a press screener for a film that should rank as the best sports faith film of all time — and perhaps challenge as one of the best sports films (secular or Christian) to ever hit the silver screen.

Woodlawn (Jon Voight, Sean Astin, Nic Bishop) tells the true story of Tony Nathan, a superbly talented running back in 1973 playing for the newly desegregated Woodlawn High School in Birmingham, Ala. The future Alabama Crimson Tide all-star went on to play for the Miami Dolphins from 1979-1987.

As cross burnings and riots erupt in the city, Tandy Gerelds, the Woodlawn Colonels’ football coach, struggles to ease racial tensions between his players. It’s only when Gerelds allows Hank, a self-styled evangelist, to speak to his team that real change begins.

Hank (Sean Astin), who had a radical conversion to Christ during a Billy Graham event a year earlier, tells the players a “better way” is possible through following Jesus. More than 40 players, nearly the entire team, black and white, give their lives to Christ. A ripple effect challenges the entire team, school, community and opposing teams.

The film culminates in high school football history. An estimated 42,000 fans turned out to watch the No. 1-ranked Banks Jets defeat the No. 4 Woodlawn Colonels 18 – 7 at Legion Field in Birmingham on Nov. 8, 1974. Woodlawn featured running back Tony Nathan and Banks had Jeff Rutledge at quarterback. Woodlawn features some real footage of the historic game.

Jon Voightvoight-woodlawn2

If you’ve read this far, you have questions. Why is Jon Voight in the headline and why is the dateline Beverly Hills? In Woodlawn, Voight plays legendary University of Alabama football coach Bear Bryant. Although his is a relatively small role, he lends his sizable talent to a film that has few big-name stars. The other being Sean Astin.

Stay with me. Last year, a conference I was assisting with had booked Gary Sinise. At the 11th hour, Sinise and two other notable celebrities bailed. Left in a lurch, our team started making calls. One of the names that surfaced was Voight’s. After making a few calls to Hollywood friends, I got an e-mail address and agency contact info. I passed it on to our organizing committee. Nothing came of it because Voight was working on a film.

Voight2015This morning, still thinking about Woodlawn (which I finished watching the night before), I spotted Voight’s e-mail address in my contacts list. I shot him a quick two-sentence email:

Jon: I just saw a preview of WOODLAWN. Thanks for lending your talent to such an impressive and important film. You remain in my prayers,

And I included my full contact information. Almost exactly 90 minutes later, my cell phone rang. It came up as a 310 area code in Beverly Hills. I’ve been getting pre-recorded calls that are apparently from my “cell phone provider,” so I almost let it go to voicemail. I’m glad I didn’t.

“Hi. This is Jon Voight. Do we know each other?” he asked.

Yeah. I almost dropped the phone to the floor … right beside my jaw. It’s not often (NEVER) that a Hollywood legend rings me up, let alone an Academy Award-winning actor (he won Best Actor Oscar for his role in Coming Home, 1978).

I regained my composure and explained who I was and how I got his e-mail (which I expected would go right to his publicist). He asked where I saw the film, and I told him. I also mentioned that I had met Woodlawn writer/producers Jon and Andrew Irwin on the set of Moms’ Night Out a few years ago. We chatted about Woodlawn and the rise of recent faith films like War Room and 90 Minutes in Heaven.

ANGELINA JOLIE testifies before the House of Lords in London on Sept. 8, 2015

ANGELINA JOLIE testifies before the House of Lords in London on Sept. 8, 2015

Almost 10 minutes into the the call, he asks, “So, how’s your life. How are you?” Jon Voight was interviewing me now! Wow. I told him a few of my greatest blessings: My wife, five children, remarkable job.

Then I interjected and told him that I was quite impressed with his daughter. Yeah, he’s Angelina Jolie‘s dad. She testified before the House of Lords in London last week, blasting ISIS for its systematic rape of women in its reign of terror.

“The most important thing is to understand what it’s not: It’s not sexual. It’s a violent, brutal, terrorizing weapon and it is used, unfortunately, everywhere,” she said.

I told her father that he should continue to encourage her to bravely stand up for important issues like this. He assured me that he would. And I assured him that I’d keep him in my prayers.

Who knows, maybe we’ll bump into each other again sometime. After all, as I just learned, the world is a really a pretty small place.

WOODLAWN OPENS NATIONWIDE ON OCTOBER 16. See it. You won’t be disappointed.

PATRICK NOVECOSKY is a speaker, Catholic journalist, editor of this blog, and the editor-in-chief of Legatus magazine.

 

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Desperate times for Iraqi Christians

21 Aug

AUG. 21, 2014 — We live in difficult times. Others live in desperate times. Despite the 24-hour news cycle, most Americans are seemingly unaware that terrorists are wiping out Christians in Iraq — Christians with roots going back to St. Thomas the Apostle.

Christians flee Mosul earlier this summer

Christians flee Mosul earlier this summer

Under Saddam Hussein, the brutal dictator driven from power in 2003, radical Islam was held at bay and anti-Christian violence was minimal. However, after Saddam’s regime fell, Christians have been under fierce attack. Millions have fled and many thousands have been killed, often brutally.

Proclaiming a caliphate (a new Islamic state) straddling Iraq and Syria, radical Islamists have swept across northern Iraq, pushing back Kurdish regional forces and driving tens of thousands of Christians and members of the Yazidi religious minority from their homes.

The sign of genocide

The sign of genocide

With the rise of the Islamic State (formerly ISIS) over the summer, anti-Christian violence has gotten worse. Christian homes have been painted with the Arabic letter ن (nūn) for Nassarah (an Arabic word for Christian) and a declaration that they are the property of the Islamic State. On 18 July, the jihadists announced that all Christians would need to leave or be killed. Many have been slaughtered, often beheaded. Today, there are no Christians left in Mosul for the first time in nearly 2,000 years.

The situation is so bad that Pope Francis told reporters on the plane back from South Korea last week that force is necessary to stop the progress of the insurgents. Reporters asked the Pope if he approved of U.S. strikes against ISIS.

Journalists asked Pope Francis about the situation in Iraq during his trip back to Rome from Korea

Journalists asked Pope Francis about the situation in Iraq during his trip back to Rome from Korea

“In these cases, where there is an unjust aggression I can only say that it is legitimate to stop the unjust aggressor,” he said, stopping short of calling for bombing or all-out war.

Being so far removed from the violence, most Americans are more concerned about the national economy, the upcoming mid-term elections and their own personal issues — whether that be health, employment, finances or family problems. In a country with a relatively stable political environment, it’s hard to wrap our heads around the situation in Iraq. But we must for two important reasons.

First, Jesus made it clear that his followers make up his Body, the Church (Rom 12:5-6). When one part of the Body of Christ is threatened, we are all threatened. We must be in solidarity with persecuted Christians around the world, praying for them and with them.

Cowardly terrorists prepare to murder journalist James Foley

Cowardly terrorists prepare to murder journalist James Foley

Second, military analysts say that the U.S. is more vulnerable to attack now than before 9/11. ISIS is armed, wealthy, and determined. Their leaders have made it clear that they have no intention of stopping with Iraq and Syria. They intended to ride the wave of violence all the way to North Africa, perhaps further. Jihadists beheaded American journalist James Foley in a video released earlier this week, and they say that America is on their hit list.

The bottom line is that it’s sackcloth and ashes time. Christians in America must repent and turn back to the Lord with all their hearts or the prospect for peace will remain out of reach.

PATRICK NOVECOSKY is the editor of this blog and the editor-in-chief of Legatus magazine.