New Samson Movie More Than Just Feats of Strength
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Based on the powerful Old Testament story of how God used one man’s supernatural strength to deliver Israel, Samson (opening February 16th) is poised to kick off a promising year for Christian movies.
Filmed on location in South Africa, the movie stars Taylor James (Mamma Mia) as Samson in an action-packed re-telling of the behemoth strongman’s raw power, impulsive decision-making, and his battle against the oppressive Philistine empire. Ultimately, Samson calls upon God who delivers him from apparent tragedy to triumph.
I recently spoke with Samson producer Brittany Yost about what people can learn from Samson that is still applicable today and whether anything from this Biblical epic caught her off guard.
As far as biblical topics go, there are so many topics and directions you could choose or take. Most people know that Samson was very strong, had long hair, and Delilah cut it off to sap his strength. Why the decision to make a movie about Samson?
It is so timely. We live in a day and age where there’s so many films about superheroes out there so we thought, you know what, it’s time to make one about the original superhero from the Bible which is Samson. And instead of tapping into some kind of weird accident where they get bit by a spider or they get some kind of toxic waste dumped on them, this is a guy that’s tapping into God for his supernatural strength. Also, when we were filming God’s Not Dead 2 in Little Rock (Arkansas), my second assistant director came to me and said, “you know what? I have a script that I think you guys should read.” We get that all the time. We get scripts all of the time from people pitching to Pure Flix to make into films. So, I thought, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, okay, sure, I’ll read it,” and we read it, and it was great. It was a great adaptation of the Biblical story and so we decided to make this one next.
What can viewers expect from Samson? What is your expectation for the film?
You can absolutely expect a lot of action, a lot of fight scenes. There’s a 1,000 man fight scene where Samson has nothing but a jawbone to defend himself. In another, the temple is literally falling down. This movie has got a lot of action. And yet in the midst of the action, there’s a lot of relatable storytelling. I think for us lies a major factor of making a film to dive heavily into the Biblical accuracies of that time period. As we all know, there’s not a lot about Samson in the Bible, there’s just a couple of chapters. So for us, the challenge is to really dive deep into Scripture, work with scholars, work with theologians and learn about what was happening during that time period. What we found was a lot of relatable elements … people struggling with their faith, struggling with just living in that society, oppression and starvation. These are things that are still happening today, maybe not to the Western world but are absolutely happening today. So we wanted to explore all of those elements and tell a compelling story that is relatable to our audience, and exciting and cinematic to show on the big screen as well.
Speaking of being relatable, what lessons can people learn from Samson that is still applicable today?
Samson was very disobedient and very broken, and we really wanted to explore that in his character arc. He was a guy that really wasn’t utilizing God’s gifts in the right way; and yet in the midst of his disobedience, God was all-forgiving, all-loving, and still used him for the calling that He ultimately did have on his life. So, we wanted to show that and also show that Samson was struggling to hear God. I think we can all relate to that at times, that we really can struggle at times to hear the still, small voice of God, especially in today’s busy life that we live, and the busyness of social media and just life in general.
You went overseas to film Samson – not that typical for a Christian movie. Why the decision to film in South Africa? What were some of the advantages? Disadvantages?
We chose South Africa, because we heard that they had a bunch of Biblical sets. I went down there and scouted it with a local production company, found that they had invested millions of dollars into massive sets that were built specifically to that time period. It was a great template for us to just jump right in and utilize what was already there. I would film every Pure Flix film there. The crew there is unbelievably phenomenal. It’s gorgeous, the people are so friendly, and they’re just top notch. But the disadvantage is how far away it is. It was very challenging to fly 36 hours for our crew that we had to fly in and, of course, the cast; so that does limit who you can bring in as that is a costly thing in itself.
What surprised you the most about this story as you were bringing it to the big screen? As I mentioned earlier, most people know about the strength, the long hair, and Delilah cutting it off. Did anything about this time-tested story catch you off guard?
Delilah. From what we researched and heard from Theologians, Delilah wasn’t just a harlot. She was a very complex character. So as a female, especially, I was drawn to that character and really was excited to explore what was going on in her, like, what made her so willing to deceive Samson and what was happening to motivate her in those decisions. To me, that was definitely the most surprising and the most exciting, to kind of redefine the character and to bring her to life onto the big screen.
Samson is not your typical “hero with a happy ending” story. Moviegoers have come to expect “happy endings” when they go to the theater. Was that a concern as you were making this film?
Samson is nothing but a tragedy, so what we tried to do is really show the redemption in the midst of the tragedy, and to show that a man who was so disobedient against God still found God, and still was forgiven by God, and God still used him ultimately for the calling that He had over his life. God is faithful, and that’s what we really wanted to show through the midst of the chaos, that He was faithful the entire time, and has a greater calling and has greater purpose for all of us, and that we just need to tap into Him; but even if we don’t, God still uses us. That’s just how faithful He is.
Final question … after people see the movie “Samson” what is the one thing you would like them to take away from the viewing experience? What is your greatest hope for the movie?
That in the midst of our disobedience and our sins, that God is still all-loving and all-forgiving, and that He cares deeply about us, even in the midst of our brokenness. I need that reminder every single day. I feel this film is just one of those things where it’s just a heavy reminder that God is greater than our messages and our disobedience, and He’s a redeeming and loving God that desires a deep relationship with us at the end of the day. He has a greater calling. I think that’s a huge one, that there’s a lot of things that we don’t understand and see in our everyday life, but we just need to tap into the Lord and just ask Him to show us, show us the bigger picture here because there is one, and we’re all a part of it.
Watch a trailer for Samson:
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