'Overcomer' doesn't water down the Gospel, still appeals to nonbelievers, filmmakers say

Priscilla Shirer
Priscilla Shirer attends the red carpet premiere of "Overcomer" in Atlanta on August 15, 2019. |

ATLANTA — While the newly released Kendrick brothers film “Overcomer” is overtly faith-based, both Christians and non-Christians alike will enjoy the drama, humor, and production quality the movie presents, the film’s creators and stars say. 

Stephen and Alex Kendrick, the filmmakers behind the movie, told The Christian Post at the red carpet premiere of "Overcomer" in Atlanta that while their “first audience” is the Church, they, like Jesus, are using storytelling to show nonbelievers the truth of the Gospel. 

“There’s a temptation to water down the truth, and the whole time we’ve been very overt and open about what we believe,” Stephen Kendrick said. “This story doesn’t water down the Gospel, and it’s embedded with the truth. We believe, now more than ever, that the Church needs to hear overt truth.”

“But we also understand the need to go to nonbelievers and communicate biblical truth in like a parable format as Jesus did. We try to package truth in an inspirational story that anybody can relate to. Everybody's going to be touched by marriage difficulties at one point or another, or the trials that come with losing your identity. So regardless of what you believe, you'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll enjoy the movie, even if you don't know the Lord. We try to include the Gospel in all of our movies so that a nonbeliever will hear it and hopefully come to Christ as a result of it.”

Kendrick Brothers
Alex and Stephen Kendrick attend the red carpet premiere of "Overcomer" in Atlanta on August 15, 2019. |

Alex Kendrick noted, “We want to be found faithful to redeem the time while we can." 

Now in theaters, “Overcomer” follows high school basketball coach John Harrison and his team as they face an uncertain future when their town's largest manufacturing plant shuts down unexpectedly.

As his team dwindles away, John reluctantly agrees to coach cross-country, a sport he doesn't even like. However, after meeting Hannah Scott, an unlikely runner who pushes herself to the limit, his attitude begins to change. Thanks to the words and prayers of a new friend, John starts to train Hannah for the biggest race of her life. 

Priscilla Shirer, who stars in the film as Principal Olivia Brooks, told CP that the film’s compelling storytelling and cinematic excellence will attract secular viewers as well as a Christian audience.

“This is a totally different time than it was 10 or 15 years ago when all of us were embarrassed to even go to a faith-based film,” she told CP. “We saw the shift with ‘War Room’ — that film was such a success because the story was so solid and full of emotion. So even if someone isn’t a Christian, they will enjoy the quality of this movie and the heart that comes with it.”

Shirer added that after starring in “War Room,” she received numerous letters from both believers and nonbelievers who shared how the film improved their marriage. 

“These were marriages that were going to call it quits but were changed by the film,” she said. “They decided to stick with it, and that allowed their marriage to be a success. This film hits on issues every human will face at some point.”

Still, Shirer said the goal of the film is to bring viewers to Christ — “even if it’s a single soul.”

“To me, that would make this film a tremendous success,” she said. 

Based on the book of Ephesians, the film asks viewers: “Where do you place your identity?”

Shari Rigby, who plays Amy Harrison, John Harrison’s wife, told CP that everyone struggles with identity, from the elderly woman who feels forgotten by society to the teenage boy worried about his future. 

Shari Rigby
Shari Rigby |

“The question of identity impacts 100 percent of people,” she said. “This film will remind viewers of who they are and speak life into them. God has a plan for you and created you as a masterpiece. It empowers young men to be the men God created them to be. It speaks life into young women, reminding them of their worth in Christ.”

“This film speaks life into viewers. I believe it will touch the hearts and minds of believers and non-believers alike.”

Jack Sterner, who plays Ethan Harrison in the film, echoed the Kendrick brothers’ sentiment that the film is intended to "renew" Christians. “It’s a powerful reminder to place our identity in Christ,” he said. "We need to be reminded of that, now more than ever."

Still, he added that those who aren’t Christians may experience an “exciting awakening” after seeing the power of forgiveness in the film. 

“Whether it’s forgiving others or forgiving themselves, I think the theme of forgiveness is something that will speak to all audiences,” he said. “It’ll give nonbelievers encouragement, excitement, and hope in a way they’ve never experienced before. I believe it will be a breath of fresh air.”

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