Director Brett Varvel ‘Lifts High the Word of God’ in Faith-Based Thriller

Photo from Brett Varvel’s Instagram

Director Brett Varvel ‘Lifts High the Word of God’ in Faith-Based Thriller

By Movieguide® Contributor

Director and actor Brett Varvel hopes that viewers turn to Jesus after watching faith-based thriller DISCIPLES IN THE MOONLIGHT.

“So the movie DISCIPLES IN THE MOONLIGHT is a what-if scenario — what would it be like if the Bible was illegal? And it focuses on these seven characters who are tasked with this dangerous mission to smuggle Bibles to underground churches in the Midwest, and…it’s got a lot of thrills,” Varvel told Movieguide® last week. “It’s got a lot of action, suspense, and a lot of entertaining values…but at the core of the story, this is a movie that seeks to lift high the word of God.”

Movieguide® reported about the movie in May:

“In the not-too-distant future the Bible has been outlawed in the United States of America and replaced with a government approved bible,” a synopsis reads. “A group of seven Christians from Indiana, are asked to smuggle the true Word of God to underground churches in Kentucky, Illinois, and Ohio. With Homeland Security hot on their trail, the smugglers must be willing to risk it all for the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.” 

Varvel, who won a Movieguide® Teddy Bear Award® for his faith-based movie RUNNING THE BASES, believes DISCIPLES will “lift high” Jesus’ name. It will challenge those who watch it, but it will also bring them hope.

“We can’t wait for people to experience it,” Varvel said. “I’ve kind of called this movie my love letter to the church. I’ve been a follower of Jesus for most of my life, and I’ve been blessed to be able to go across the country and speak at different venues and churches and interact with a whole bunch of different people, and I have a great concern for the Church of Jesus Christ in America.”

“We have so much freedom here in this country that I believe it’s made us apathetic and not zealous, but when I look at the persecuted church across the world, all I see is this vibrant zeal for the Lord and his word,” Varvel continued. “And so when this idea was pitched to me almost 10 years ago, that convicting question of ‘If the Bible was illegal, how would I respond?’ that convicted me so deeply.”

One night, Varvel and his family retrieved all the Bibles in their house — 17 copies. He felt convicted about their importance.

“It was just this sobering question of ‘How serious do I take my faith? How much do I treasure the word of God? And so my desire is that people would fall in love with the God of scripture, and he’s only found in the Bible, and it’s not a version that we are going to taint,” he explained.

“It’s what he has given to us, and so my desire is that it would awaken people to bold faith, that it would also cause people who are not a follower of Jesus to become curious, “Who is this God that they speak of?’ and my hope is that they would find the loving, compassionate, gracious God that we serve, and…so that’s why I kind of call it my love letter to the church.”

Varvel’s brother, Drew, plays Varvel’s character’s brother in the movie. The brothers’ mom helped behind the scenes with craft services, and their dad served as a production designer. Their parents also make a cameo in the movie.

“My family is a filmmaking family for sure, and… they’ve been on this journey with me for a long time, and this goes all the way back to when my brother and I were young, and we were, you know, we’d make movies in the garage, and my mom and dad let us kind of just take the home video camera and do whatever we wanted to do,” Varvel told Movieguide®. “But ever since the beginning, they have rolled up their sleeves with me and tried to help in any way that they can.”

The decision to cast his brother was an “easy” one.

“Not only is he incredibly wickedly talented as an actor, but I knew that we would have such real onscreen chemistry as brothers because it’s not too far from reality, and so he just did an unbelievable job pulling off a character that is so nuanced, and I don’t want to give any spoilers away, but very difficult to play, and he did an incredible job, and…it was like old times being back on set together,” Varvel said.

When it came time to write the screenplay, Varvel and writer Josh Strychalski struggled to create relatable characters. But eventually, they developed some that worked.

“I wanted people to sit in the theater and be able to look at the screen and think, ‘Wow, that’s how I think, or that’s something that I wrestle with,’ and it’s not a cheesy, plasticky version of the Christian faith, but it’s something that if this was our reality, that people would honestly wrestle with, and they would have these real-life struggles, and we don’t pull any punches,” he said. “I mean, we show what, you know, marriage is like if you’re united in Christ. We show what marriage is like if you have no unity in Jesus.”

“And all that there is is discord and fighting. We show the struggle of wanting to control and protect things that are outside of your control and all of that centers around this mechanism of the Bible being illegal, and it forces these characters to make tough choices that could result in life or death. Choices that could result in, you know, in alienating your family, your friendship, or whatever the case would be,” Varvel said.

Varvel hopes the characters’ behavior triggers some self-introspection within the viewers — that it causes them to think, “I want to be like that,” or “I don’t want to be like that.”

Last month, Varvel shared red-carpet photos with his family and the movie’s cast on Instagram.

He said, “Celebrating the completion of a 10 year journey is one thing. Celebrating it with the people you love and the people who helped you bring a dream to life… simply overwhelming. These folks and so many others gave me their time, talent, and treasure to see @disciplesinthemoonlight become a reality. I praise the Lord for all of you and can’t wait for the world to see your work on the big screen July 24! I love you Disciples fam!”

DISCIPLES IN THE MOONLIGHT comes to U.S. theaters July 17–24.

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