by Sam Robinson
Rated PG-13. Starring Alex Russell, Zachary Knighton, Johanna Braddy. Directed by Will Bakke.
Finally – a ‘faith-based’ film that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and is a joy to watch.
Believe Me is a film with smarts. It’s an independent release (the first feature for Texas-based Riot Studios) and boasts a clever script, punchy indie soundtrack, and in many ways holds a massive mirror up for Christians to see themselves in, for better or worse.
Believe Me is about college senior Sam (Russell), who discovers he is in thousands of dollars in debt with no way to pay it off. So he enlists three buddies to help him on a quest to get-rich-quick, and his solution is to dupe Christians all over America into giving to a fake charity – Project Get Wells Soon (geddit?). The plan works, and the four find themselves on a tour of America, posing as believers to massive crowds night after night, and they indeed rake in the donations.
The tension is strung along with precision, Bakke has done a marvellous job with this film. The cast are all wonderful, and there is excellent character development. The humour is very tongue-in-cheek, and scenes such as the “study of Christians” montage are hilarious. If you don’t know what ‘The Gecko’ or ‘The Shawshank’ are, you need to watch Believe Me.
“Give in a way that reflects the faith that you claim.”
What I loved about this film is its boldness to show things as they are. Some might take offense to the satire, but I found a helpful yet saddening amount of truth to it. When the gents start their manipulation, they don’t do their research into what to say, but somehow they get the authority to take to the stage and nobody asks questions of their incredibly loose message. How come nobody spoke up?
The movie also highlights the danger of emotional manipulation. All Sam needs to do is speak slowly over some sustained chords, under some colourful lights, and people believe his words. In fact, he gains authority by simply holding a Bible in his hand, and it doesn’t matter if he ever refers to it or not. People are sucked in.
For me, this was the most impacting thing of Believe Me. It’s a story of deceit, and the Christians are the ones who allow it to take place. 2 Timothy 3:5b-7 says this about false teachers –
Have nothing to do with such people. They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth.
These guys are always learning (there’s lots of Bible flipping backstage) but they haven’t got the truth in them. They might know the gospel, but they don’t know the gospel. They don’t trust it. But they work out how to appeal to the desires of those they speak to.
As light and funny as Believe Me is, I think we should consider it a warning. While this is satire, this is very real. Manipulation like this is happening at churches everywhere, right under our noses. Why not arrange to watch it with your church, and discuss what safeguards and accountability you have in place against corruption. But don’t just look outwards, look inwards, at your own heart. It’s not just the deceivers in this film that have bad motives, but many high-profile Christians do too and this is quite telling.
Believe Me is clever, funny, and gives us something very deep to chew on. I’m giving it three-and-a-half stars.
Believe Me is available now on demand, details can be found at believemefilm.com.