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Local church hosts movie on teen suicide

Local church hosts movie on teen suicide

Teens from around the region gather at Crossroads Church to view a sneak peek of the unreleased film "To Save A Life" on Monday night.


POSTED October 21, 2009 12:26 a.m.
At age 17, Roger Dawson committed suicide. He walked into his school, pulled out a gun, placed it against his chin, and pulled the trigger — right in front of his former best friend Jake Taylor.
A crowd of more than 200 saw it happen last night, audible gasps bursting out from the viewing audience as the gunshot rang out.
Fortunately, the suicide took place on the silver screen. But the implications and the feelings surrounding Dawson’s untimely death and Taylor’s search for redemption rang true with the mostly teenage audience gathered to watch “To Save A Life” at Turlock’s Crossroads Church Monday night.
The new Christian film from first-time writer and producer Jim Britts explores the themes of isolation, loneliness, and searching for meaning through life’s challenges. Teens from over a dozen local churches — some as far away as Oakdale — as well as business owners, school board trustees, and City Councilman Kurt Spycher all made the drive to Crossroads Church for the preview screening of the film, which will not be publicly released until January 2010.
But the film won’t be released in Turlock’s theatre. At least not as of right now, but that might all change if Crossroads Church Youth Pastor Denny Drake has something to do with it.
Drake’s a bit of an unlikely advocate for the film.
“I do not like Christian films,” he said.
He blames the acting; he blames the writing. More importantly he blames the fact that Christian movies generally succeed at being Christian but fail at being good movies.
It’s hard to make a point when you lose the audience’s interest halfway through, of course.
Drake happened to catch an earlier preview screening of “To Save A Life” at the Youth Specialties National Youth Workers Convention. He went to see the film on a whim. He expected it to be no different than any of the other Christian films he often maligns.
But this Christian movie was something different, chock full of appropriate humor and well drawn characters that ring true to anyone who’s been an American teen. Drake was transported, reminded clearly of people he knew through his congregation. He realized that students wake up every day facing the sort of challenges enumerated in the film. And Drake realized that watching the film might, just maybe, help someone through life.
He contacted the producers and worked out a deal to show the film at Crossroads Church.
“If by showing this movie it saves one person’s life, then our purpose has been served,” Drake said.
Drake, who has now seen “To Save A Life” three times, says it’s still just as good as the first time he saw it.
After the showing, Drake called all the high school students in the audience up to the front of the church and asked them to stand together. He asked them to work together to urge their campuses to change for the better, to avoid future tragedies like the suicide of a Pitman High sophomore earlier this year.
Turnout for the film was better than expected, Drake said, but he hopes that “To Save A Life” will have the chance to reach more Turlockers. After the showing, all in attendance were asked to fill out opinion cards, the responses to which might help bring the movie to the Regal Cinemas Turlock Stadium 14 theatre.
Based on early audience feedback, the film was a hit.
“It was really sad, but it’s the truth, it really is,” said Pitman High freshman Hannah Fontes.
“It’s all going on around you, but you’re oblivious to it,” said fellow Pitman High freshman Marcelle Winkler.
The two said that the film had inspired them. That they both were planning on going up to a lonely looking stranger the next day and asking him or her to eat lunch with them.
They admitted that actually going through with their plan would be more difficult, come lunchtime. They weren’t sure if they would be able to really do it. But at least, they said, they would try.
For more information on “To Save A Life,” visit www.tosavealifemovie.com
To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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