Opening in theaters nationwide on Dec. 8, "The Oath" is a fact-based period drama/action film set in fifth century North America.
It was co-written, produced, directed by and stars Darin Scott who portrays Moroni [/məˈroʊnaɪ/], the man credited with creating what would become the "Book of Mormon."
I spoke with Mr. Scott last week regarding the state of Christian filmmaking and the history of his faith:
Michael Clark: Did you ever considered using just [native Nephite tongue] Hebrew in the film instead of English?
Darin Scott: Personally, I prefer it when movies are spoken in the native tongue along with English subtitles, but the reality is our society has become less and less literate. The current [low] literacy rate is staggering; people just don’t read that much anymore. We’d lose a lot of potential viewers if the entire movie was subtitled.
MC: Mel Gibson used no English in "The Passion of the Christ" and that worked out pretty well . . .
DS: That’s true but that was 20 years ago when people had less of a problem with subtitles.
MC: For those unfamiliar with the story going in, what does the title “The Oath” mean?
DS: The time is 400 A.D. In a forgotten era of ancient America, a lone Hebraic fugitive must preserve the history of his fallen nation while being hunted by a ruthless tyrant and rescuing a king’s abused mistress that could awaken a warrior’s past.
This was a time in history [pre-Columbus North America] that hasn’t been previously portrayed in cinema. "Apocalypto" shares the same time frame but with a different setting and our film far precedes "The Last of the Mohicans."
We saw a great opportunity to fill this blank palate and breathe something fresh into a time and place the movie world has never seen before.
MC: Unless I’m mistaken, yours is the first movie exploring the origins of the LDS church – is that correct?
DS: Yes. There have been other similar projects that never got made but ours is the first mainstream movie based on the origins.
MC: From my perspective, your movie somewhat bucks the trend of most Christian-themed films as the faith aspect takes a “back seat” if you will to the story and narrative.
DS: What you just said is music to my ears because that’s exactly what we to try to do here. We’re not "hiding" religion --- we’re actually quite proud of that. We didn’t want was to make something that came off as a sermon.
The goal was to get the viewer enveloped in the story with faith as an accent. We didn’t want to beat people over the head with "woke" messages --- which is what pretty much every movie in the world is doing now. Even devout Christian audiences don’t want anything too heavy.
The problem with most Christian cinema is it leads with the message and tails with the story. It has to be the other way around in order to truly influence people.
MC: What is the biggest public misconception about the LDS?
DS: I love that question. It stems from the name itself. We have been called Mormons because we are the only faith following the Book of Mormon, but the reality is the name is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The only reason "Latter Days Saints" is there is to distinguish it from the church that Christ himself founded.
Those in the LDS profess to be the "restored" church.
Some people don’t believe those in the LDS are Christian and my favorite response to that is a quote from C.S. Lewis:
"It is not for us to say who, in the deepest sense, is or is not close to the spirit of Christ. We do not see into men's hearts.
"We cannot judge and indeed are forbidden to judge. It would be wicked arrogance for us to say who is or who is not a Christian."
MC: On a lighter note, did you see the "Book of Mormon" comedy/musical?
DS: No, but I’ve seen portions of it and I don’t know if I can speak terribly intelligently about it but to me, its satire and the heroes are the missionaries, which is kind of ironic.
MC: While watching your movie, I noticed many similarities to "Gladiator," "Dances with Wolves," "The Last of the Mohicans," "The Passion of the Christ," and "Braveheart."
Do you feel those comparisons are warranted?
DS: [pause] Yeah, 100%. It’s impossible not to be influenced by great movies and filmmakers. There are very few ideas that a 1,000% original. I didn’t in any way want to re-do those films but, yeah, those are all great films; things I grew up watching.
I feel the world is ready to get back to films where people want to stay in their seats a little longer and think…
MC: Like the historical epics with a little romance on the side?
DS: Yes. That and something thought provoking with a deeper meaning that contains so much that the movie almost demands multiple viewings.
Forticket information, visit www.OathMovie.com.
Originally from Washington, D.C., Michael Clark has written for over 30 local and national film industry media outlets and is based in the Atlanta Top 10 media marketplace. He co-founded the Atlanta Film Critics Circle in 2017 and is a regular contributor to The Shannon Burke Show on floridamanradio.com. Over the last 25 years, Mr. Clark has written over 4,000 movie reviews and film-related articles. He is one of the few conservative U.S. movie critics. Read Michael Clark's Reports — More Here.
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