“Miracles can happen with a little love, family and faith” is the message of a Christmas movie filmed locally that will be shown Friday, Nov. 20, at the Walker County Civic Center.
“The Farmer and the Belle: Saving Santaland” follows a romance that sparks between a famous model and a farmer when she visits her childhood home, the model’s search to find a lost bracelet with special meaning to her, and the efforts to save the community’s beloved Santaland festival. The film’s message — truth of beauty is founded in relationship to God — make the film stand out from other holiday fare.
“With so much content in the marketplace sending the wrong message to young girls, we wanted to offer a different perspective,” said Jenn Gotzon, who stars in and produced the film with her husband, Jim E. Chandler.
Too many women incorrectly learn as children that if they are beautiful, they are worthy of love, said Gotzon, who is known as the “Queen of Faith Film.”
The film teaches “God’s view on beauty clearly seen in the Bible — we are fearfully and wonderfully made,” she explained. “We are a treasured inheritance. It (the movie) puts the focus of beauty on the heart and how we serve and love others.”
In addition to Gotzon (“My Daddy is in Heaven”) and Chandler (“Stranger Things” and AMC’S “Lodge 49”), the film also stars Corbin Bernsen (“Major League”), John Schneider (“The Dukes of Hazzard”) and Natasha Bure (“Home Sweet Home” and “Fuller House”).
Chandler said many elements of the film were based on the history of his dating relationship with his wife, Gotzon. Much of the movie was filmed on McLemore Cove property his family has owned since 1918.
“I really was a fish out of water” when she visited Chandler’s family farm, said Gotzon, who lived in Pennsylvania at the time.
Her awkwardness on the farm and her personal journey with her self-image as a professional model in China got her creative juices flowing. These ideas gelled when she thought of the tune “The Farmer in the Dell” and substituted the word “belle,” another word for beauty.
While the duo hope watching their movie will become an annual holiday tradition for families, the film’s theme about self-worth is one they hope helps model a positive self-image of inner beauty for girls and women.
“This really is a movie with a message,” Chandler said.
Hallmark Channel and Lifetime both passed on the flick because its message did not strictly fit their molds for holiday movies, the couple explained. Netflix also declined to pick up the film.
The sincerity of the message resonates the positive support it received during its production and real touches incorporated in the movie. For example, the wedding scenes as the credits roll are the couple’s actual wedding.
The couple heaped praise on the Walker County Commissioner’s Office for its support and encouraged other filmmakers to consider the county when scouting locations.
“It’s night and day different” to film in Walker County than the 30 plus other locations she has worked in previously, Gotzon said. Individuals and businesses opened buildings for them to use for filming and loaned decorations, churches and restaurants donated food for the film crew, and residents showed up to be extras.
The couple are excited to have two showings in the community that welcomed them so graciously, but encourage those who cannot attend the showing at the civic center to find the movie on a video on demand or cable or to purchase it at a retailer. Gotzon also stated writing a review on Amazon will help publicize the movie to boost viewership around the globe.
Distributed by Vision Films, Inc., Mill Creek Entertainment and produced by Idealist-Gotzon Films in association with 2 Actors Productions, the film also takes its message beyond the screen with three products that support the message, which will also be available on QVC on Nov. 17: a bracelet with charms containing statements about the true nature of beauty, a 30-day devotional and study “Divine Beauty: Becoming Beautiful Based on God’s Truth” by Gotzon and Michelle Cox with online video Bible studies available, one for women, one for teens; and the children’s book “Beautiful Mable” by Mike Nawrocki, a co-creator of VeggieTales and illustrated by Sara Jo Floyd.