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Christian Task Force Develops New Rating System for Films

by Angela Walker

A task force made up of representatives from Christian retailers (including ChristianCinema.com) and The Dove Foundation, developed a new rating system for DVDs and theatrical films to equip customers with information about content.

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Ratings   Industry Response

“No one wants to be surprised with unexpected language or uncomfortable situations depicted on the screen when the family settles down to view entertainment,” said Ron Forster, owner of The Open Door in Terre Haute, IN, and a member of the task force. He said the ratings help give consumers information they need to confirm a purchasing decision and assist retailers by providing definitive information about the content.

“Films and DVDs can be very powerful in reaching the lost,” Forster said, “and they can be very effective for various ministry outreach programs and helping the general culture understand what Jesus Christ is all about. But people need to know what they are getting when they buy a DVD or a movie ticket.”

Ratings
The rating system, which should be finalized this summer, rates films as Faith Based, Faith Friendly, or Family Friendly.

Faith based films must be consistent with strong biblical principles and clearly demonstrate the impact and consequences of any inappropriate behavior. They may include films with MPAA ratings of G, PG, PG-13, or R. Films such as The Passion of the Christ or To Save a Life are very powerful faith based films but have some objectionable content.

Faith friendly films present the gospel message through stories of contrition, redemption, forgiveness, and restoration. However, the film has no overt Christian or biblical emphasis or message. Gifted Hands, the autobiography of neurosurgeon Ben Carson, contains Christian themes, as does the box office hit and recent DVD release The Blind Side.

Family friendly films range from values-oriented stories that have inspiring messages to those that are pure entertainment. People of faith are not offended by these stories, and they have wide appeal to all audiences. Classics such as The Sound of Music and Miracle on 34th Street are examples of this category.

The rating system will also include a recommended range for age-appropriate content, as well as notations indicating potentially offensive content. Dick Rolfe, founder of The Dove Foundation, said the film industry’s Motion Picture Association of America ratings don’t always classify films in ways that align with the faith community’s traditional moral and family values. Mild curse words or depictions of sexuality and violence might be more accepted in MPAA ratings, but they must be clearly identified in filmed content designed for broadly diverse Christian audiences.

Industry Response
"As a film producer, I'm excited about the new ratings system that will help customers quickly identify inspirational and family-friendly films, including those that portray real life in an honest and unvarnished way," said Bobby Downes, producer of the upcoming release, Like Dandelion Dust. "These new ratings, championed by store owners and developed with The Dove Foundation, allow Christian retailers to identify movie content more effectively for their customers and to avoid any unnecessary surprises."

When the new rating system is finalized, it will be implemented at ChristianCinema.com to provide clear identification of every DVD on the website, including theatrical releases, DVDs for sale and DVDs for rental.

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