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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Here, Benji!

The film industry — or rather the movie-going public — seems to be gravitating more toward family friendly films, a fact that pleases Joe Camp. The creator of the Benji films, which follow the exploits of a small, but mighty dog, Camp is hopeful that his latest effort, Benji Returns, which opens nationwide in August, will find a large audience.

But it will be an uphill battle, just as it was 30 years ago, because once again he has eschewed the Hollywood studios that were willing to back the film if it contained the kind of adult-themed humor in many of today's youth-oriented films. "I'm just not going to compromise," he said. "And it's difficult to go up against the media blitz that Hollywood directs at children for its films."

Camp and his team test-marketed Benji Returns this spring in Jackson, Miss. He discovered that while parents urged their children to see Benji, the children pushed to see the Scooby Doo movie that was heavily advertised on children's TV shows.

"The good news is that of the people who saw [my] film, 97 percent said they would recommend it," Camp says. "I feel confident in urging parents to take their children to see this movie and in asking [religious organizations] to let people know about it."

Despite Hollywood's reluctance to accept Camp's work, recent polls show that the public wants films with less graphic sex and violence.

A Christian Film and Television Commission survey showed that 63 percent of the top 10 films for each of the last three years had what it described as a "Christian or moral worldview."

A Gallup Poll determined that 75 percent of Americans think the entertainment industry needs to reduce the amount of sex and violence in movies, TV and music. And research by the National Study of Youth and Religion showed that only 25 percent of teens who said religion is "very important" watch mostly R-rated movies.


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