You know you’re in for something unusual when the credits roll for Anchored and this is what you see:
Executive Producer, Roger Strackbein; Screenwriter, Shanna Strackbein; Producers, Wesley Strackbein and Shanna Strackbein; Co-producers, Jenny Strackbein and Jenna Strackbein; Costume Designers, Emily Strackbein and Jenna Strackbein; Editors, Shanna Strackbein and Jenna Strackbein; Composers, Emily Strackbein and Elisabeth Strackbein.
So much for Hollywood. This is a film by Unbroken Faith Productions, and very much a family affair. In fact, it’s about the life of Dewey Holden, the grandfather of the men and women mentioned in the credits above, and Dorothy Smith, his wife, their grandmother. It’s a film about a family, by a family.
Anchored has been nominated for an award, and will be an Official Selection at the 2016 Christian Worldview Film Festival at San Antonio, Texas, March 14–19.
A Very Sweet Movie
Do we even need the Hollywood film industry anymore? This is an independently made movie, a family project—and we can be pretty sure it didn’t cost $100 million to produce. And yet there’s no hint of amateurishness about it.
This is a very sweet movie with deep roots in family, in place, and in a devoutly Christian faith. Maybe these are things that some Americans need to be reminded about. “Papaw” Holden lived a quiet, stable life, punctuated by periods of flood, drought, war and other disruptions, acquiring skills, doing different jobs, building a house, and raising a family—all of it within a context of personal belief and trust in God: and none of it outside that context.
What struck me as remarkable, unusual—because in my part of the country, I see this so seldom, maybe never—is that Mr. Holden’s children, grandchildren and now great-grandchildren all live virtually within walking distance of his house. What a blessing that must be! My own family was like that, once upon a time. If someone wasn’t visiting us, we were visiting another household in the family. Really, we were doing it all the time—weekend cookouts and horseshoes in the summer, Sunday dinners together, all the holidays, or just hangin’ out at Grandma’s. But by now we’re scattered all over the continent, a lot of us are dead—and I measure what the family in this movie has by what I’ve lost. They live as my own family used to live, and were exceedingly wise to keep it that way. I wish we had been so wise.
Anchored follows the grandfather’s life from his early childhood. Papaw grew up amid the challenges of the Depression, and his family met those challenges by sticking together, trusting in God, working hard, and creating new ways to make a little money. I doubt there are many families that resourceful anymore.
When war came, World War II, Dewey Holder joined the U.S. Coast Guard. He met Dorothy Smith at a USO dance. They fell in love, married, and stayed married and in love for as long as Dorothy lived. It was a marriage of the kind prescribed in God’s Word; it was a blessing.
I don’t know if I can get across how moving I found all this. I would find it hard to read it aloud. Is this what happens when you live the way God meant for us to live? There is a rich reward! That, at least, is the message I get from this film. What I wouldn’t give to sit again with Grandpa and “help” him with his stamp collection! How wise Dewey and Dorothy were to love one another, settle down on their own land, in their own house, and lovingly raise Christian children who went on to raise a next generation! And they’re all still together.
Living a godly, peaceable, industrious life makes no one immune from adversity or hardships. Like his own father before him, Dewey had his share of those. But God makes His people strong, able to outlast hardships, able to learn from adversity. These quiet, peaceful people are strong. They will endure.
How Did They Do That?
Naturally, the Strackbeins had to find actors to portray Dewey and Dorothy in their younger days. You probably won’t have heard of any of the actors in the cast of Anchored.
It must be said that this movie is amazingly convincing. They don’t do it with big-name actors or snazzy special effects. Emotion and conviction are the main ingredients; but they also do something really cool with the cinematography. This, by the way, was by Philip and Chris Leclerc.
What they did was to make most of the “historical” part of the film look like home movies—even with the peculiar, subtle tint that most home movies used to have. You could tell they weren’t real home movies because the actors were in them, playing scenes from the 1940s, and when the action shifted to earlier times than that—well, who in the rural South made home movies in the 1920s and 30s? Also, these scenes are without that hand-held camera wobble which makes it hard for persons with motion sickness to watch home movies.
So we know that these scenes are not home movies, not actual glimpses back into a distant past—but they appear to be! It’s a very skillfully created illusion. I have no idea how they did it, and I don’t want to know; I’d rather just sit back and enjoy it.
A New Direction
Yes, of course I recommend this film. I found it, and continue to find it, very moving. It stays with you for quite a while after you watch it. Doesn’t just evaporate, like so much of what we see for entertainment. There is real substance to Anchored, and I have a feeling it’ll stick to my ribs for a long time.
It also makes me wonder—have we found a new direction in film-making? The Strackbeins cite “some key outside help” in completing the film, along with a little help from “friends and supporters in the broader community,” but for the most part they did it all themselves and successfully created something that stacks up pretty well against a Hollywood movie of the same general description. In fact, it’s hard to see how the pros could do any better—and some industry-made “family movies” come off as schmaltzy and contrived.
The movie-making skills learned by assorted members of the Strackbein family can be learned by others. How staggering an idea is that—anyone who’s willing to learn how, can make a movie? It might not be Jurassic Park or Star Wars, but if the theme of the movie is the human heart, suddenly we seem to have a level playing field.
Love of family, love of God. Trust in God, and living according to His Word.
These things matter. They matter very much; and this is a movie about them.
- Lee Duigon
Lee is the author of the Bell Mountain Series of novels and a contributing editor for our Faith for All of Life magazine. Lee provides commentary on cultural trends and relevant issues to Christians, along with providing cogent book and media reviews.
Lee has his own blog at www.leeduigon.com.