To Live and Write in LA

Family Film Festival: ‘Centurion AD’ and ‘Leaving Limbo’

(Originally published on Blogcritics.org)

Two films at the International Family Film Festival, Centurion AD and Leaving Limbo took two radically different paths to get you in touch with things spiritual, although they both involved a character out of their normal place in time.

centurion ad posterCenturion AD is billed as a sci-fi action adventure, set in current day Los Angeles. As I watched it, I became increasingly confused. Not at the story, but at what the filmmaker had in mind in designing the production.

The film is about a nurse played by Katherine Randolph (Jarhead, American Joyride). She is hit by a car and almost dies, but is saved by the intervention of a mysterious stranger. This incident leads her into a journey of personal discovery, involving a preacher on a mission, played by Martin Horsey, the FBI, and the legend of the Spear of Destiny. The nurse begins as an agnostic, but as she and the preacher track down the stranger, and try to avoid the FBI, who are also looking for him, she begins to believe in things spiritual.

The mysterious stranger with healing power, an out-of-time Roman centurion named Archer, is played by filmmaker-composer Brian Reed Garvin (House of Sand and Fog).

Believe it or not, none of that confused me, but as the film progressed, I became confused about the tone. Thematically the film dealt with serious spiritual topics, but Archer had a certain Marvel Comic Book feel to him. I almost expected to see comic book style “BANGS” and “KAPOWS” appear on the screen as he battled demons. Yes, there are demons, too.

After the film I was able to talk to Garvin and asked him about the intended tone. He explained that the demographic they were aiming for was the 8-14 year range. “We avoided any bad language and wanted to make a film that the entire family could see and bring the religious message to a younger audience,” he said.

Fun dialog and good structure make this an enjoyable film. It could use a little tighter editing to pick up the pace slightly. Some of the lighting is edgy but the special effects are good. According to Garvin, the film was a labor of love, with much of the behind the scenes work provided on an “if you make any money pay me” basis.

I asked him what his plans for the film were now. “No distribution yet,” he said. He may look to distribute it through church and youth groups.

leaving limbo posterThat is the route taken by Leaving Limbo, the IFFF’s audience choice award. It can be licensed for showing to groups or you can buy a DVD for personal use.

Leaving Limbo asks the question, “What if you woke up one day to find you’d been in a coma for 19 years?” The story’s protagonist, Monica, must deal with a series of problems and adjustments that all of us face – they’re just a lot more complicated when you’ve been out that long.

It deals with topics such as forgiveness, acceptance of things you cannot change, and living your life with a purpose. It manages to deal with these topics with humor and in a non-preachy way, showing, not telling.

Monica is played by Mandy Brown (Jet Set, Ripped!), who originated the role on the stage in its theatrical incarnation: My Wonderful Coma. During the Q&A after the showing, another audience member observed that whenever she was on the screen she made it come alive. “You make the screen sparkle,” he told her. I agree. Without her performance, the film would have been much less engaging than it is.

My only problem technically with the film is that there is not enough difference in appearance between the characters at 39 years old and in the flashbacks to high school. I wish I had still looked that good when I was staring at 40.

More information on the film can be found at its website or Facebook page. If you can find a way to see Leaving Limbo, you should. We all go into limbo at times and this film can help.

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