I’ve been venturing headlong into Christian cinema over the last few weeks to try and prep myself even more our latest podcast. As many of you already know, I am a God fearing believer but I have a pretty diverse taste for all kinds of cinema. I try my very best to find at least something that is good in every film, but the film Faith Like Potatoes challenged me to do just that.
The film, Faith Like Potatoes is the story of a Scottish born, South African farmer who is on the verge of going bankrupt. His large plantation like farm has served him well over the years but he and his family are forced to start over again and build a farm from the ground up. Working the land is tough, and he faces a language barrier with his hired hands, the Zulu people. Under tremendous stress and mental and physical anguish, the farmer lashes out at anything and everyone blaming his problems and troubles on the world. With his relationships strained and damaged and his new farm quickly becoming another failed attempt, he turns to God and learns that through Christ all things are possible. Using his new found faith he devotes his life to teaching others and trying to show them that faith in God can transform lives.
To be honest, I quickly realized that films like Faith Like Potatoes are the reason that films with Christian themes have such a bad reputation. The film is way too heavy handed, and tries to ram the Christian themes down your throat without any trace of subtlety. I’m not against a Christian theme in a film, but Faith Like Potatoes is trying way too hard to get their point across. There’s no need to use a sledge hammer to pound in a nail when a tiny ball pen hammer will suffice, however no one ever shared this information with the makers of Faith Like Potatoes. Post conversion, they made sure that the farmer mentioned that he was giving all “glory to God” in every phrase he spoke. Again, as a Christian I know that the goal of all man is to try and give glory to God in all things but the poor writing in this film makes it seem like the farmer is giving a poorly contrived play by play of his life.
On the subject of writing, this film just lacked any hints of quality. We jumped too quickly from scene to scene, seemingly resolving every foreseeable problem with a quick summation of “He gave glory to God and now all is well.” Even the farmer’s conversion was very abrupt. This is a man who lashes out to everyone he knows, and refused to go to church and yet upon hearing even 2 minutes of the preacher’s “Come to Jesus” speech miraculously converts his life and is building orphanages for children in the town. The sudden 180 degree turn that occurs is almost so perfect that it is unbelievable. He seems to lack any further struggles or slips just simply because he has accepted Christ.
The storyline weaves its way through a two hour run time only to find that a lack luster story mixed with poor lighting, poor acting and even worse dialogue between characters. While I kept feeling like I should really like the characters I felt there was no on screen chemistry between the farmer and his wife and the farmer’s interaction with people. I’m not sure if I can attribute that to the actor’s performance or the lines written for him, but the whole film rested upon his shoulders and just fell flat.
The film builds to a point where a great drought is upon the land, and despite all the other farmers just saying crops won’t grow this year and closing up shop, our “hero” plants potatoes to honor God, knowing that they will provide a bountiful harvest. While everyone laughs, the farmer tends to his potatoes and calls the entire town to help him harvest them, having not even checked to see if they grew. Low and behold, shock of all shocks, they grew a plenty and everyone rejoices and gives thanks to God. I feel like I know what the film was attempting with this plot point, but like all things in Faith Like Potatoes, it was done so heavy handed and poorly that it makes it almost humorous.
Perhaps what bothers me most about this film is the fact that it felt like the makers of this film set out to make a moving film that was supposed to bring people to Christ. Instead they created a preachy, self serving, low budget film that makes it very easy for people to mock Christianity and Christian film makers. Some of the best films with “Christian” values can reach others with out cramming it down your throat. By the end of Faith Like Potatoes I realized I stand a better chance of trying to proselytize to a person after watching Iron Man than I do watching a film like Faith Like Potatoes with them. I for one find that to be disheartening; A film that is aimed at trying to bring people to Christ can be done so poorly that it actually has the complete opposite effect on the people it’s trying to reach. Somewhere there is a Christian themed film that actually achieves this purpose, but Faith Like Potatoes is simply not it.