Faith, Hope, and 39 Pounds of Love
Film is, arguably, one of the most accessible and powerful communication media in the world today. Fuller alumnus John Priddy (MACL '05) understands that better than most, believing that stories using the vehicle of film can raise life-changing issues in the marketplace of ideas. That is why he and his brother Ed founded Priddy Brothers Entertainment last year, a production company currently promoting the award-winning documentary 39 Pounds of Love. It is a true story, says John, that has already had an amazing impact on national and international audiences. The film, about a young man named Ami living with SMA (Spinal Muscular Atrophy), recently won "Best Documentary" for the equivalent of an Academy Award in Israel.
At 34 years old, Ami has outlived doctors' diagnoses of a six-year lifespan several times over, and makes his living as an animator in spite of having mobility in only the tip of one finger. 39 Pounds of Love charts his quest, against all odds, to find the doctor who originally diagnosed him, reunite with his brother, and live out a childhood dream to ride a Harley Davidson motorcycle. This film was chosen as Priddy Brothers Entertainment's inaugural production because it exemplifies their company's long-term goal of encouraging audiences to engage in thought-provoking, life-changing dialogue through viewing and discussing films.
John Priddy came to Fuller to "transition from a life of success to one of significance," he recalls. Already a successful entrepreneur, baseball coach, husband, and father, Priddy the film producer is turning his considerable energies to nurturing, producing, and distributing movies that foster meaningful dialogue. "Films can readily convey the essence of faith, especially when they emphasize thoughts and ideas relating to life's grand themes," he says.
Fuller encouraged his desire to promote themes that resonate on a universal level and encourage discussion with movie-going audiences. Priddy actively sought to make inroads between spirituality and the film industry even before discovering film and culture classes at Fuller. He recalls wrestling with and researching how to connect faith and culture when they seem to have been disconnected from one another. He was energized to find this discussion led in robust form by nationally recognized expert Rob Johnston at the Reel Spirituality institute of Fuller's Brehm Center for Worship, Theology, and the Arts. Enrolling in classes in the winter of 2002, he discovered the work in theology and film of adjunct professor Craig Detweiler to be particularly provocative. His Fuller experience, Priddy says, has fostered partnerships that promote a wider dialogue on the connections between faith and culture.
One way Priddy Brothers Entertainment encourages student filmmakers is by sponsoring the "Triumph Award," given annually at the Angelus Awards, for films that powerfully express the triumph of the human spirit. Priddy has also helped conceive and establish the Windrider Forum, a theology and film discussion that takes place annually at the Sundance Film Festival. There, undergraduate and graduate students are given the opportunity to screen films, engage in discussion about them with the directors and screenwriters, and attend a simultaneous class in theology and film offered in conjunction with Fuller's Colorado Springs extension campus. This three-fold approach to accessing one of the most influential film festivals in the world allows for cross-fertilization between a new generation of filmmakers and theologians, giving both a richer, more eclectic experience, claims Priddy. "Windrider has been an overwhelming success," agrees Reel Spirituality's Rob Johnston, who looks forward to continuing to work with Priddy on this and other projects.
An enriched cultural experience is just what Priddy hopes to accomplish through distributing the film 39 Pounds of Love as well as others the company is currently making, "bringing to the forefront films with themes that penetrate the hearts and minds of audiences." Toward that end, they are in postproduction on a new documentary called Daughters of Abraham, and in production on Purple State of Mind, a documentary written and directed by Fuller adjunct professor and award-winning filmmaker Craig Detweiler.
39 Pounds of Love will be shown in select theaters nationwide beginning November 23, opening at the NuArt Theatre in Los Angeles on December 2. For more information on 39 Pounds of Love, visit www.39poundsoflove.com.