By Jacob Sahms
Donald Leow moved from Singapore to the United States seven years ago after thirty years of distributing films throughout Asia. Having split his time between making movies for the Southern Baptist Church and a non-denominational organization, he sees himself as a missionary first and film producer second. With Badge of Faith, Leow delivers the story of Bryan Lawrence, a real-life police officer from Virginia who was paralyzed after being badly beaten by criminal suspects.
When ChristianCinema.com caught up with him, I asked how he came to tell the story of Lawrence, and he revealed that a production partner was actually a longtime friend of the police officer. “After we finished Touched by Grace, a film about Down Syndrome and anti-bullying, my production partner suggested we do this,” Leow said. “After all of this happened to Bryan in real life, he was approached by all kinds of producers and news people who wanted to make it into a movie but he turned them all down. Brian told them that it has to be about God and not about Brian.”
“I told him we could make the story but it had to be a bit about him,” Leow chuckled. “I promised him that the story would glorify God.”
Leow’s humility was palpable over the phone as he shared his philosophy on film and making movies that move people. He is clearly interested in sharing the gospel but he has a strong desire not to preach to anyone. “Seventy percent of my time is spent helping missionary organizations make movies,” he said. “The other third of the time, I want to make feature films that glorify God with their message but that people can enjoy. It’s not going to have John 3:16 all over it.”
Leow continued, “There was a time when Billy Graham films were great, that people could invite their friends over to their church and show them the movies. Now, people want something that is theatrically engaging.”
“My desire is to make films that people can invite their friends to go see in the theater and their friends aren’t upset with them afterward, like, ‘Oh, you dragged me there to preach at me!’ I hope that after our movies, people can be better influences on their friends.”
Walking away from the film, Leow hopes that audiences will have a new understanding of faith after seeing Lawrence’s story. He admitted that he had a good time filming the movie with a strong cast and crew, but that the challenges ahead involve advertising and distribution.
Leow has moved from one mountain to another, trading in distribution for creative production, and the end result is powerful. No matter where you see Badge of Faith, it will move you to watch this man fight to walk again, inspired by a God who moves mountains.
For a review of the film, click here.