Imagine a content provider (cable or online) where America's 20th century film heritage is respectfully programmed and freely exhibited 24 hours a day.
The key is a retooling of the Bijou collaboration of classic film industry enthusiasts and content owners into a non-profit organization dedicated to vintage film acquisition, preservation and exhibition.
We at Bijou are in the process of doing just that with a growing archive of religious-themed films associated with a project called Gospel Films Archive. GFA is a parallel project to Matinee at the Bijou that Ron Hall (Festival Films), Derek Myers (Myers Memories) and Team Bijou have been working on the past two years that is suddenly taking off on a grand scale.
The concept for GFA is to find, restore and reissue in historical context the films and TV shows that spread the Gospel to 20th century audiences, essentially giving the same treatment to religious films as we gave to secular films for the Matinee at the Bijou PBS series. What is surprising about these Bible-based films and TV shows is that many were crafted by some of Hollywood's top creative talent.
In This My Son (1954), former child star Dickie Jones, TV's Buffalo Bill, Jr. and the voice of Pinocchio, has an adult role in a modern day interpretation of the parable of the prodigal son.
The same year James Mason made A Star is Born (1954) he wrote, produced, directed and appeared in a personal vision of the Nativity called The Star of Bethlehem. After reading from the Bible about the birth of Jesus, the manger scene is reenacted by a cast of children with Mason's daughter Portland Mason featured as Mary and a pre-Beaver Jerry Mathers as Joseph.
In 1957 Father James Keller, founder of The Christophers, persuaded James Cagney to appear in a TV film called A Link in the Chain. Cagney portrays a retiring professor who learns (in flashbacks) just how relevant he was to his students. In this Capra-esque tale Cagney portrays his character at three different ages in life, including a poignant death scene finale.
Immense progress has been made since we formally organized Gospel Films Archive early this year. Here is a report on our progress:
Our first 5 Gospel Films Archive DVD film collections were released in April and are available from Christian product retailers, including Vision Video, Christian Cinema.com and at CFDb; the Christian Film Database. We are currently wrapping production of the Gospel Films Archive Christmas Collection available soon for pre-orders.
You can read about our first 5 DVD collections at our Gospel films Archive website where we feature an Adopt-A-Film program that invites the public to help financially support the restoration of a particular film of their choice or purchase one of our DVD collections.
ChristianCinema.com just published a feature article about Gospel Films Archive by Melinda Ledman that includes an interview with Bob Campbell and Ron Hall.
The GFA Team is currently developing a Pilot episode for a television showcase for our films called Gospel Films Archive Presents.
Here is the Gospel Films Archive Trailer: