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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Film: "CAMP"

DIRECTOR: Jacob Roebuck
PUBLISHER: Nashville, TN: Word Entertainment, 2013.

[Release Date: August 27, 2013] [Movie website link]

What can one week away at camp do for foster kids or for children who suffer from parental neglect or abuse? How can anyone help kids who have been hurt to embark on a path of recovery and healing? Send the kids to a week long Summer camp! Based on the filmmaker's personal camp experience at a Royal Family Kids Camp years ago, this film brings together various stories and shows how relationships formed at camp can change lives. For the better.

The film begins with shocking scenes of child abuse, neglect, and violence. Eli grows up in a family devoid of love and care. The mother lives in a world of her own, often choosing to drown herself in narcotics and take out her frustrations on young Eli. The father is not any better. One scene shows how he angrily hits Eli upon suspecting that Eli had not told him the truth about the money in a tin can. Eventually, the mother overdosed on heroin, and the dad got arrested and put behind bars. Hurt, confused, and angry, Eli was at a loss at what to do. At a tender age of 10, Eli gets fostered out to a children's home in Locustwood. The film moves quickly to smooth out Eli's entry to a camp experience. The story then sets the stage for various confrontations between reluctant participant, Eli, and an inexperienced new counselor, Ken. Just when the relationship reaches a breaking point, thankfully, things start to turn for the better. When Ken learns of Eli's broken past, he begins to appreciate Eli and the reasons for his behaviour. Samuel shares his expertise in handling rebellious teens, skillfully infusing enthusiasm into those who appear lethargic and uninterested. Tammie plays her role brilliantly as an encourager as well as an inspiring leader.

Gradually, the different characters of the film are added, each with a personal story to tell. There is Tammie the camp director, and also related to a rich lady tycoon. There are several encouraging camp counselors like Samuel, the ex-military man whose own life was changed as a result of a camp he had attended as a kid. Then there is Ken, a cell-phone hogging investment professional who became camp counselor in order to impress one of his rich clients.

So What?

The movie has many points of hope and grace. It tells of how God works out right through people, in spite of wrong motives.  There is Ken, the shrewd financial guy who drives a Porsche and lives a successful career, forcing his way into the camp just to look good before a rich client of his. This wrong motive turns out for the better, as he becomes not just a close friend of Eli, but a trusted man that Eli's father eventually asked to be custodian of Eli. Ken then breaks one of the camp's rules by bringing and using a cell phone in the camp premises. Eli manages to make a call to his dad who then intruded and created a nuisance at the campsite. All things turned out for the good as Ken becomes more aware of Eli's terrible family past. Viewers understand the importance of camp rules and the need to strictly enforce the rules. Toward the end of the movie, as the credit rolls on, there is a not to be missed, touching series of interviews of real life camp counselors, workers, and camp organizers making the point that camp is a powerful opportunity to change lives.

The film also reminds me how important the core family is to children. While we can build the best foster homes, the most conducive campsites, the best professional children's workers, or the most comprehensive facilities to house troubled kids, there is no substitute for a family that is loving and caring. There is no justification for child abuse or neglect. Much attention has been given for foster care and the care of children. What about the parents and the supporting network in the first place?

The film itself has a powerful story of how hurts can be turned to hopes, and how the most troubled kids can turn out for good. Unfortunately, there are parts of the movie that seem to be either out of place or under-developed. For example, the opportunities for romantic encounters between Ken and Tammie are many, but the love plots appear under-developed. Attention could also have been given to bring out the lives of the other camp counselors and their motivations to serve at camp. That said, the overall quality of film is above average. More importantly, if there is one message the film is sending that viewers need to take home with, it is this: There is always hope. If God can help the lowest of the low, and the poorest of the poor, surely he can do the same for the rest of us?

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This DVD is provided to me free by Word Films without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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