Australia's FOR KING & COUNTRY are communicating a vital message with their Priceless feature film reports Tony Cummings

Joel Smallbone
Joel Smallbone

The launch on 14th October of the feature film Priceless is of particular interest to followers of Christian music in that it stars Joel Smallbone (of the successful CCM duo For King & Country) and is directed by Ben Smallbone. The film shines a powerful spotlight on one of the great blights of our modern world, the scandal of human trafficking and the fact that the film is based on a true story only adds to the impact of a movie which the influential Variety magazine called "surprisingly involving" and "slickly produced". The main character in the film, James Stevens, is portrayed how, after losing his wife and daughter, he is unable to hold a steady job. He agrees to drive a box truck across the country with no questions asked, then discovers that he is actually "delivering" two girls as part of a human trafficking ring. Stevens then must decide what to do and how to fight to shut down the trafficking ring.

The film has received positive reviews. Joe Leydon of Variety magazine wrote, "Director Ben Smallbone (brother of the movie's lead player) is adept at generating suspense, particularly during a scene in which James attempts a phone conversation with his daughter while bad guys lurk outside his motel room, and manages to persuasively convey the seediness, desperation and danger that define the demimonde that Garo rules with a whim of iron. To put it another way: Priceless achieves greater impact through understatement and implication than many other similarly plotted movies do with R-rated explicitness."

In a recent interview with Jesus Freak Hideout Joel Smallbone spoke about the genesis of Priceless: "When Luke and I weren't making music, Ben and I were making short films or mini-series together. When the band began, Ben would shoot our music videos. It's always been a dream for Ben and I to be involved together in a feature film. When we looked at the landscape of the Priceless message resonating we realised there was something really important that needs to be told here. Our whole team, our family, helped us to bring this message to light."

Australian-born Joel was asked about his acting experience. He said, "A few years ago I had the opportunity to dabble in a few feature length films - a period piece called The Book Of Esther, as well as a country film called Like A Country Song playing opposite Billy Ray Cyrus. For my role of James in this film I had a dialect coach to make sure my American accent was done well!"

For King & Country
For King & Country

The For King & Country song "Priceless", which is on the film's soundtrack, is already a Christian radio hit reaching number four on America's Hot Christian Songs chart while the film has now been adapted into a novel, Priceless: She's Worth Fighting For. But it is the film itself which is awakening most people to the appalling evil of human trafficking and the brothers passionately believe that they have been inspired by God to make the movie.

Said Joel, "We believe that if we are in touch with the Creator, who is the creator of art and all creativity, then [we have the opportunity] to tell stories that are culturally relevant and creatively inspiring. You naturally want people to be inspired by the art you portray, but there are two great themes happening. For about 30 minutes of the movie, it dives into the world of slavery, prostitution and trafficking. I hope as an external outlook the viewer is able to be challenged to do something about this issue, to learn and seek more information. But if you look at the wider scope of the film, I hope men are challenged to really fight for those that they love, to step up and step out to love well. For women, I hope they see that their definition is not found in their sexuality or appearance, or in their connection with a man. That they are in fact, image bearers of God."

Joel continued, "One of the things that we have felt very moved to share about as a group is celebrating a woman's worth, and also charging us as men to love extraordinarily and that chivalry is alive and well. On occasion we are asked what does that really mean, when you put flesh to that statement in a modern context? Chivalry to us, in a romantic way to really respect, honour and love a woman well, but even beyond that with family, with our mums, our sisters to really celebrate the beauty, the strength and the dignity of a woman." CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.