Friday, January 10, 2014

Ragamuffin, The True Story of Rich Mullins
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There is little doubt, three artists, each deceased, Keith Green, Larry Norman and Rich Mullins left more of an impact on the Christian music scene than likely any could ever imagine. These three, all unique, all different, all with their own unique style had something different about them, for Rich Mullins it was his simplicity and willingness to go against the grain of what Nashville wanted in their sound. For Rich Mullins, as presented in this film, it was his honest search and struggle to experience Jesus. He ultimately decided to reside in Wichita Kansas. Wichita is the town I currently reside in, the town where I have developed relationships and friendships with many of those who knew Rich. Yet the story of Rich Mullins, much like the story of many like Lonnie Frisbee is one of brokenness. It is a story that resonates with biblical themes of how God uses brokenness to reach the world. 

The new film company Color Green Films in association with Kid Brothers of St. Frank Co. have come together to make their first film, Ragamuffin The True Story of Rich Mullins. Directed by David Schultz, and starring Mike Koch, David Schultz, Wolfgang Bodison, James Kyson, Mitch Mcvicker among others is quite an accomplishment, especially considering it is a first effort by largely unknowns. The film in short weaves much of the story of Rich Mullins quite nicely in dramatic form. Koch who plays Mullins does an admirable job.  Schultz, the director and others did quite nicely when deciding to use a musician to play the part as opposed to an actor. Schultz, while not looking much like Mullins, transforms his persona quite well, Schultz also does a very nice job in performing all of the Mullins songs. There is much more to like about Ragamuffin, it is a first rate movie and far better than most independent efforts. To be short and blunt to this point, Ragamuffin is deserving of a theatrical release where it would have maximum impact on transcending and telling the story of a true troubadour, not so much because of his music but his honesty, love and search for God, despite his obvious weaknesses. 

Ragamuffin starts off with Mick Mcvicker (who plays himself) and Mullins stopping off at an old abandoned church to record what Mullins thought would be an important contribution to his music, The Jesus Record. The story moves to Mullins telling his story to a radio announcer, a story that included everything from at times, apparent neglect and the desire to feel love from his father to lost love in college and more. The DJ Rich is telling his story to is played by Mullins real life brother, Randy Mullins who asks questions that has Rich Mullins character flashing back to various points in his life.  While flashbacks can be disrupting, Schultz does a nice job using this technique. The story flows and we see Rich Mullins in a way many didn't know about, a broken man, with faults that included depression, a temper, alcohol issues if not alcoholism, and an apparent chain smoking habit. I mention this because we see a side of a Christian Music 'icon' that many didn't know existed. Even on the way out of the sold-out world premiere at the Orpheum Theater in Wichita the first comment I heard from another spectator was, "I never knew he was as messed up as he was." Herein lies a big problem, how will the church and Christians who placed him up on a pedestal respond to the real man. Rich Mullins isn't the first in this predicament, it is likely he won't be the last. Often times it seems as if Christians and the church put people up on pedestals without realizing they are simply, broken people having the same hurts and struggles as everyone else.

Despite having a cast virtually unknown, including band mates of Mullins, relatives, and friends, this movie plays out very nicely. The cinematography, story, everything plays out very well. It was one of several areas I was surprised. I have to give credit where credit is due, Schultz does a more than admirable job at directing his first feature. If he hasn't considered this as a career, he should.

One of the things I loved about Ragamuffin was its willingness to be honest. It is likely the area that will cause some problems. It is sad, that many within the established church will have serious issue with this film. Even on the current advance screening tour, the film is scheduled to play in many churches I suspect where some attendees will have problems in the end.  It has been my experience, that many within Christian circles don't want to accept the reality of what is really going on in the "Christian" industry. Ragamuffin shows is quite honestly and while holding back on some issues related to Rich, it does a very good job at showing his brokenness and struggles. For those that relate and are searching for truth, this movie does as good a job at presenting the real life, honest to God struggle of walking in faith better than anything I have ever seen put on screen. I suspect that even after reading the warnings, giving the information in advance, there will be many who will doubt these stories and issues related to Rich Mullins, until seeing the film. They will then have one of three reactions, 1) doubt, 2) serious displeasure in supporting him, or 3) feel the grace of God, knowing that God loves us while we are yet sinners. It is here must remember, just as Mullins would state, it is important to remember that God not only loves us, he likes us. For some it seems as if the search for honesty, one with real questions and a sincere heart, has to be glossed over, or for some reason, conclude with the spiritual answers that many of us know aren't anything more than clich├ęs. Yet for many of us, who are in fact, Ragamuffins, we know the answers are in some ways more complicated than that, and in others, more simple than that. 

While there was a great deal I liked about this film, there was also some things I disliked.  Unfortunately many key players, their stories and more were left out, entirely. Gay Quisenberry was the long time manager for Mullins. Despite numerous efforts to find out why she was left out of the story, including attempts at speaking to the Director the night of and after my questions regarding several issues went unanswered. Gay was a vital  part of Rich's life, from his ministry to many other areas, including even his involvement in the Navajo ministry.  I have known Gay for some time, appreciate and value her, I have learned multitudes about Rich from her, that said, I know of her love for him and apparently, to have not been contacted in regards to this story, to have shared her memories, experiences of Rich recorded is somewhat troubling. There may be reasonable explanations as to this but I have no idea as I have yet to get a response from the filmmakers on this issue. The last response after asking via a pm at FB, leaving a phone message last night, from the director this afternoon was, "Hey man sorry we didn't connect. crazier last night that I could have imagined. I unfortunately just don't have any open time today. So do what you need to do my friend. Thanks for coming!"

I could go into more detail here, but will simply say, it would be nice to work together to try and support a film of this nature which is so deserving. If I was one that was from the typical "press" that would be one issue, being the Ragamuffin I am, (those that know me know the absolute truth to this) I have a hard time accepting the reasoning for not making some time despite the months of effort in this. It is the hardest I ever had to work to get any information from the filmmakers only to only get nothing.  BTW my efforts to try and obtain information started in August of 2013, so it wasn't like this was a first attempt. It is especially sad here as this is a very promising, good film, one deserving of people seeing but one also deserving of truth a truth that many will want to know about.

As to the film, for the content, and the praise I will give the director and cast, in fact all involved with this movie a huge two thumbs up.  I am confused though with such a good, quality, much better than expected film, doesn't it deserves all of the effort it can to reach people? There was some discussion prior to the film in a constructed Q&A, about the film not being that big of a deal, to that I say, Hogwash! This movie has the potential to help people understand their own walk, I know because I am one who can relate to the struggles, the difficulties of life as exemplified in Ragamuffin whether it be never living up to the expectations of others, feeling rejection for feeling what you feel, the aspect of having a broken heart to the ultimate need of feeling and experiencing Christ love and grace. So many within this institution we call church hurt, they in a way become Rich Mullins all over again because they are lonely and are starving for the answers. Some question the search, even condemn those who are searching, this movie though, it speaks truth. The message of Ragamuffin is that Jesus loves you, he cares for you, he likes you, no matter your circumstance, no matter your sin. That God would choose to use the broken to illustrate his love for others and communicate His truths; that is a message we all need to hear, even the church who seems to at times have forgotten that message.  This movie is powerful. It can and will reach many in their own lost and hurting world.  Why not take advantage as a film company and make that happen? There are many studio films which have clearly failed at the effort of telling a good story with a message that can change the world, this one has the potential to change a life, a life God cares for, loves, and likes. Why not do everything possible to make that happen.  Seldom have I ever done this, but this is a movie that is worthy of the cry from the fans who see it, it is worthy because for many of us, we are Ragamuffins walking on this path called life, hand in hand with a savior named Jesus.

On a scale of 1 - 10, for the incredible nearly perfect recognition that those of us who hurt can still be loved and liked, minus the one individual who is in body now gone, for the powerful life of Rich Mullins, minus that life, I give this a very surprising and insightful 9

Photos from the film:

Rich Mullins:

 The following is the trailer for the movie, just click on the video, if there is trouble, click on the following link:  

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