INFIDEL’s Powerful Depiction of Faith in the Face of Persecution
By Cooper Dowd, Staff Writer
Director Cyrus Nowrasteh, known for his faith-based movies such as THE STONING OF SORAYA M. and the family-friendly movie THE YOUNG MESSIAH, is tackling another story about incredible faith based on actual events in his new movie INFIDEL.
INFIDEL also stars award-winning actor Jim Caviezel, known for his role as Jesus in THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST. Nowrasteh and Caviezel sat down with Movieguide® to discuss their powerful new story about standing firm in your faith in the face of persecution.
“I started with Cyrus a few years back on THE STONING OF SORAYA M,” Caviezel recalled. “We got to know each other really well and became friends. He brings up this script, INFIDEL…I became very close to this character because I thought, I don’t see people taking a stand for their faith and that happens in the film.”
Caviezel praised the director’s work but said that Nowrasteh initially presented the actor with a smaller part in the movie.
“I’m a big admirer of his work [and] how he writes—very, very truthful. I was actually one of the smaller parts and I said, ‘Why did you come to me for the small part? I want the big one,'” Caviezel laughed.
Nowrasteh said that Caviezel brought a lot to the story and pushed the other actors on set to be as invested in each character as possible.
“When people know you’ve got Jim Caviezel—and Jim is committed because Jim takes his roles and what he chooses to do very seriously and very thoughtfully—other people step up and, you know, want to be part of that,” Nowrasteh said.
A pivotal scene in the INFIDEL shows Caviezel’s character, a Christian blogger named Doug, stand up for his faith while on a Middle Eastern talk show. Nowrasteh said that although the scene’s initial iterations were ‘softer,’ Caviezel added his flare to make the scene one of the most significant examples of faith in the movie.
“His scene where he’s on television in the Middle East [and] he’s being broadcast to 45 countries out of Cairo… where he speaks up, that’s all Jim,” Nowrasteh said. “Because in the script it was much softer than that and Jim said to me, ‘Wait a second, this guy’s going to go through all of this stuff; he’s got to stand up and he’s just got to say it.”
“I thought to myself, Oh this is the perfect guy to play this part because he gets the part,” Nowrasteh added.
Based on an amalgamation of true stories, INFIDEL addresses the Iranian regime’s persecution through the eyes of a Christian blogger (Jim Caviezel) named Doug, who is kidnapped after public comments regarding the Christian faith.
“INFIDEL is inspired by a number of different true stories … Bob Levinson, that’s one of them. There’s Michael White, there was a Chinese American graduate student Zhu Wang, a guy named Robin Shahini,” Nowrasteh said. “All of them are held in prison in Iran for various charges and, you know, proselytizing, trying to spread Christianity is a standard charge for which they’ll round up people, including Iranian Christians. Persecution is rampant there.”
Although most western movies may shy away from material regarding extremists in the Middle East, Caviezel said that it is important to him to help share the stories of people with courageous faith. It is what drew him to the movie industry in the first place.
“I looked at a guy named Bob Levinson, who was a man who was there and got taken by them and [there] was pictures of him in Tehran and, eventually, he died in prison captivity through U.S. intel. Why isn’t that in the news?” Caviezel questioned.
“I watched 21 Christians in Libya, on the beach, slaughtered by Isis,” Caviezel continued. “These people knew they were going to die and they absolutely would not reject Jesus Christ. They knew and they put their faith in Jesus above their own lives… I know that’s what brought me to come to this industry.”
Nowrasteh said that it is imperative for the audience to feel attached to the characters and setting, which meant that filming took place in the Middle East.
“I like to go to those countries, into those parts of the world where the story is set,” Nowrasteh said. “When he [Doug] is looking out his window because he’s looking for an avenue out, you realize ‘Oh he’s deep in it.’ You have to see it, you have to experience it, you have to feel it with him and through his character.”
Caviezel said that the story of faith is pertinent within our culture today and encouraged fellow Christians to ‘speak truth’ into a world that desperately needs it.
“I look at the culture and what it needs, what’s the remedy? And then I look for the right type of redemption that is going to get people to change,” Caviezel said.
“We cannot ride to victory on the back of fake moral platitudes. We have to be bold as Christians and speak the truth now,” Caviezel encouraged.
Be sure to read Movieguide ®’s full review of INFIDEL, as there are some cautions.