Freetown is receiving high fives from reporters and bloggers, including the secular, Christian, and LDS media alike. Audiences are packing theaters nation-wide to see this true story of courage and faith.
Director Garrett Batty and his entire cast and crew have hit a homerun with his latest drama “Freetown.” An heroic story of courage amid a relentless threat of extinction by rebel terrorists in pursuit of missionaries fleeing a savage war in Liberia (https://www.facebook.com/FreetownMovie).
The dramatic true story follows a group of missionaries as they travel hundreds of miles along dirt roads to escape the rebels who want to kill them. Time and time again they miraculously avoid death in their seemingly impossible journey to safety across the border into Freetown, in the neighboring nation of Sierra Leone, dodging bullets all along the way with only their faith to guide and protect them (http://threecoinproductions.com/films/freetown/).
Batty and his producer Adam Abel deserve high fives for their remarkable skill to create such a high quality film with minimal funds and resources. They certainly benefited by surrounding themselves with the skilled talents of screenwriter Melissa Leilani Larson, the superb cinematography of Jeremy Prusso, and the emotionally charged sound track of composer Robert Allen Elliott.
The realism and believability of the film come from the superb performances of the perfectly selected cast. Henry Adofo, Michael Attram, Alphonse Menyo, Phillip Adekunle Michael, Clement Amegayie, Bright Dodoo, Godwin Namboh, Nuong Faalong and the rest of the cast delivered outstanding performances that keep audiences on the edge of their seats throughout the film (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3735554/).
The quality of “Freetown” is recognized by reporters and bloggers of all backgrounds. The reports are consistently filled with praise.
“It’s an urgent escape. Like the Jewish people leaving Germany in the face of imminent death. Only, this journey to freedom takes place in Liberia and involves the personal story of six Christian missionaries. The film, based on true events, feels dramatic and thrilling at moments,” described Dwight Brown of the Huffington Post.
“One of the most intriguing aspects of ‘Freetown’ is that while it does feature LDS missionaries at its center, it is a movie about faith in general, and as was the case with ‘The Saratov Approach,’ Batty uses a tension-filled backdrop to tell a story of humanity and faith in the most dire of circumstances,” said Adam Mast of The Independent.
“The screenplay, by Batty and Melissa Leilani Larson, handles its religious themes in relatively subtle fashion, concentrating on the suspenseful story mechanics rather than delivering bluntly imparted messages,” described Frank Scheck of The Hollywood Reporter.
“It manages to generate considerable suspense even though the audience knows that all the missionaries are going to survive,” said Jana Riess of Religion News Service.
“Batty has a keen directorial eye. Sure, he’s working with some unique and beautiful jungle scenery, but with the help of cinematographer Jeremy Prusso, “Freetown” has the look and feel of a glossy Hollywood-produced film,” said Aaron Peck of HJ News. “As far as Mormon-themed cinema, you could do a lot worse. Batty’s photography, and the competent acting from the elders and Adofo, make it watchable,” Peck added.
Press compliments for the composer Robert Allen Elliott are easily found in the media reports as well. “However, most of the movie’s real feeling comes from the incessant soundtrack, which never gives up trying to make you really feel,” described Peck in his HJ News review. “The musical score by Robert Allen Elliott dramatizes the footage in ways it needs,” said Dwight Brown in the Huffington Post. The sound track is available on iTunes (https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/freetown-original-motion-picture/id986509700).
“The Mormon-themed adventure drama ‘Freetown’ cements Utah director Garrett Batty’s trademark — after his 2013 thriller ‘The Saratov Approach’ — to meld an intense narrative with a thoughtful look at faith,” complimented Sean P. Means in the Salt Lake Tribune, which was headlined: “Freetown a solid drama of LDS missionaries in peril.”
“Freetown” also has another story which did not escape the notice of Adam Smith of the Huffington Post – race. Until 1978 blacks were permitted to be baptized but not have the priesthood or serve as missionaries. Smith complimented the filmmakers for the way the issue was handled, and Mormons for the way they embraced it.
“So, how are the Mormons handling a theatrically released feature film that draws attention to the ‘cognitive dissonance’ as one of the characters in FREETOWN refers to the priesthood ban? Yes, right in plain sight, not hidden in metaphor, or slow-tossed like a softball, you have a black Mormon missionary, discussing with a black Mormon leader the feelings of confusion that he felt when he first learned of the, according to the character’s dialogue, ‘racist policy.’ The discussion is out there, for all to see and hear, in 5.1 surround sound. Heavy themes are prevalent throughout the often suspenseful and thought-provoking film. It’s something you’d think ‘the faithful’ would avoid.
“But, to their remarkable credit, they aren’t shying away from it–not at all. They’re speaking up on twitter, they’re inviting their non-Mormon friends, they’re even organizing in groups and requesting screenings in their areas. From packed theaters in Washington D.C., to Oxnard, CA, to as far away as Accra, Ghana, FREETOWN seems to have become more than a simple ‘Meet the Mormons – Africa Edition.’ It’s providing an opportunity for Mormons of all types to speak loud and clear about acknowledging their past, being responsible for their present, and moving ahead as a multi-racial, world-wide church, embracing the future,” commented Smith in his Huffington Post review.
Blogger Adam Smith summed up his impression of the film nicely in his review when he said: “Like the missionaries in the film, many of us are trying to follow God and move forward on the path to the ‘ultimate Freetown.’ But however good our intentions, the obstacles in our lives often challenge us to fall back and give up. I consider myself a spiritual person but I often struggle to move forward with faith. Faith is—especially in today’s world—incredibly exhausting. But I think that’s one of the most amazing things about faith: exercising it makes us stronger.”
In a time when many parents are concerned about the lack of quality films for their children to see, “Freetown” is a film the entire family can enjoy together, regardless of religious beliefs. It is a film that will educate, inform, uplift, inspire, and entertain. It is a film that will also inspire discussion of courage and has the power that can strengthen the faith of every viewer, regardless of which church (if any) you attend. Go see it, you will be glad you did.