A few weeks ago, the Franklin Theatre hosted the red carpet premier of the feature film Because of Gracia, an endearing, faith-friendly teen romance of two couples enlightening for adults and teens.
The nominated and multi-award winning movie features two local actors – Maxfield Camp plays Jorge Harder the class clown and Louisa Wendorff is Josie; pretty, popular and mean along with seasoned stage and film performers Chris Massoglia, Ben Davies, Brett Simes and Masey McLain and newcomers Moriah Peters and Rachael Hayward.
“This is a unique among faith friendly films geared to young people,” said Massoglia. “It deals with sex, relationships and dating. I think it offers a different perspective; an alternative message.”
Around the nation, social mores of the day and the inability to discuss issues regarding relationships, chastity and abortion force many young Christians underground, according to Because of Gracia’s writer and director, Tim Simes. They are painted into corners and forced to walk in the shadows, he added.
“Today’s culture tells you what to stand for and when to keep quiet,” contemporary Christian singer Moriah Peters, who plays Gracia Davis in her first film, said during an interview at the Franklin Theatre. “Convictions and standards can be hard to maintain. There’s always someone telling you not to do what you know is right.”
As a group of high school seniors at Eastglen High get ready for the imminent changes in their lives, they also face immediate changes when a confident, outspoken but likeable newcomer joins their ranks - Gracia Davis.
When Gracia walks into his debate class on the first day of school, Chase Morgan (Chris Massoglia) is immediately smitten. He finds himself grappling with overcoming an escape habit of “zoning out” into a dream world, summoning the courage to approach her in the real world and discerning quirky dating advice from his best friend O.B. (Brett Simes), a football player with an easy-going attitude toward life.
Meanwhile Bobbi Ryan (Rachael Hayward) struggles with her preoccupied pastor/father, her Christian faith and her desire to please her boyfriend, Jesse Valentine (Jessie Froese).
In debate class, a “hot seat” debate subject of marriage evolved into a dialog about evolution after an off-handed remark Gracia made. Encouraged by the students, debate teacher John C. Livingston (Owen Presland-White) gave Cisco Diaz (Matthew Schuler) the go-ahead to go toe-to toe with Gracia. To Livingston’s surprise Gracia presented her thoughts methodically and referenced, and provoked some deep thinking by the class and soul-searching by the teacher.
“One of my favorite two quotes in the movie are, ‘What about open-minded dialog? and ‘What about the pursuit of the truth?’” Gracia said.
They were questions she asked Livingston in the movie at the conclusion of the evolution debate.
One night, after a football game Bobbi gives in to Jesse. Two months later she’s pregnant. Her pastor father’s reaction is to dismiss her fears over his own fears about her situation’s affect on his job as pastor. Abortion enters her mind.
In a low-key manner, Because of Gracia brings to light issues high school students face and encourages them to consistently live a life of high ideals and standards, no matter the situation. In doing so, they will experience a transformative power of the peace, Simes said.
Because of Gracia opened in theaters across the country including AMC Thoroughbred 20 in Franklin.
For information about a nine-week curriculum regarding topics touched on in the movie including Dating and God’s design for relationships; Teen pregnancy and the sanctity of life and Sharing and defending Christianity in public or the book based on the movie, go to www.becauseofgracia.com.