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-The River Within

by Dr. D ~

*Now on DVD: August 2009 by Cloud Ten pictures; Directed by: Zac Heath; Cast: Josh Odor, Craig Luttrell, Craig Morris, Jaclyn Friedlander, Maurice Mejia.


Review by Dana Chaffin:

This is a touching Christian movie that asks tough questions and confronts difficult issues.   At one time or another most of us have asked, what am I doing here?  It explores the idea that each of us has a God given purpose, whether we know it or not. God has given each of us certain skills, desires, and talents to be used for Him.  The story of the movie and the behind the camera facts make this a must see film.

The Story

The River Within is a modern story of issues that teens cope with and concerns in the Church.  The story starts with Jason (Josh Lauri) a law student who returns to his hometown to study for his upcoming bar exam.  He quickly runs into old friends and old problems.  Due to pressure by Layla, (Jaclyn Friedlander) an old friend, Jason begins a summer job as a youth minister.  Jason encounters disturbing issues that face these youth and tries to find answers.  As time goes on, the mixed up priorities of the church comes to light.  The church can fall asleep and overlook the people right in front of them.  They get their eyes off God and put them on people, sometimes pastors or even big contributors to the church fund.  The fact is that no one, not even pastors, are perfect.  This film shows that caring for ourselves, others, and God can help us find our purpose.

Behind the camera

The River Within was shot in three Arkansas cities and along the scenic Spring River in Arkansas.  It was written and directed by Arkansas native, Zac Heath.  This is the debut feature film for Heath. In February 2008 Heath would start making this film and it would take less than 6 months to complete.  One reason it was done so quickly, it was shot on a shoestring budget of less than $40,000 so he would have to limit rental time on equipment.  Although this film is a debut film and completed with limited funds, it is a very high quality and professionally done film.  The road to Heath’s filmmaking was not typical.  After graduating college Heath performed in many shows and appeared in two films.   Wanting to become a film director he did not take the normal road through film school, but took the hands on approach.  He moved to Hollywood and began working on as many films as he could as a crew member.  He learned all the aspects of filmmaking by working as a crew member.

     Another Arkansas native involved in the film was Craig Morris.  He wrote and performed the film’s theme song as well as played Pastor David in the film.  This was his debut as an actor, but he has a long resume of writing and performing music.  Morris has written songs recorded by many famous singers like Reba McEntire, Ray Charles, The Oak Ridge Boys and many others.  He has also toured as a pianist and harmony singer with Pam Tillis, Donny and Marie Osmond, and currently tours with Loretta Lynn. 

   Others involved in the film are just as talented and have unique backgrounds. Craig Luttrell plays Paul in the film.  He met Zac Heath while they both attended Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky.  Josh Lauri plays Jason in the film.  He is an actor in theatrical productions, commercials, and films in Chicago.  He was invited to audition for this film by longtime friend, Craig Luttrell.  They met in first grade at Johnson Elementary in Iowa. Maurice Mejia plays Marcus, in the past he had worked in a short film shot by Heath.  Mejia was a 23 year old senior Pre-Med student at Texas A&M.  His character was to be a 17 year old, but dedicated to his character Mejia grew out his hair, waxed his upper body, and lost 20 pounds to look younger. 

The River Within is a stimulating Christian film.  It brings awareness to some hard issues facing our youth and the Body of Christ.  Even when we think we are stuck, God knows exactly where He wants us to be.  Go to www.theriverwithinmovie.com to get more information about the movie or to purchase the DVD. 

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