DVD Reviews

Over the past weeks I’ve had quite a few DVDs added to my collection and today I thought I’d offer brief reviews of some of the more notable selections. Every one of them is available from Vision Video.

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The Gladys Aylward Story

he Torchlighters video series is a series of animated DVD’s dedicated to “Highlighting the honor, integrity and life-changing experiences of those well-known and little-known Christian men, women and children who in response to God’s call, dedicated their lives to a life of whole-hearted commitment and passionate service to Jesus.” It is a production of Christian History Institute along with International Films and Voice of the Martyrs. The first in this series was The Jim Elliot Story and this was followed by The William Tyndale Story, The John Bunyan Story and The Eric Liddell Story. The fifth entry in the series is The Gladys Aylward Story. Much like its predecessors, this video gives a half-hour animated look at the life of a Christian hero. It is targeted at children from ages 8-12. It focuses on Aylward’s perilous 100-mile trek to rescue orphaned children from the ravages of the Japanese Army. It challenges children to understand what God can do through a Christian devoted to following him at any cost.

I’ll admit that, though the animated video was enjoyable, I preferred the hour-long documentary included in the DVD’s extras. Prepared, I believe, specifically for this project, it provided a very enjoyable and informative overview of Aylward’s life. Her story is one that is well worth telling. This is a great addition to the DVD and one that extends its value.

Steve Saint: The Jungle Missionary

I think it is safe to assume that most people who read this site know the name “Steve Saint.” He is, of course, the son of Nate Saint, one of five missionaries serving in the jungles of Ecuador who was martyred there in 1956. Nate Saint, along with Jim Elliot and three others, were in the midst of making contact with the Aucas, now known as the Waodani, when the tribe turned on them, spearing them all to death. After this tragedy, Steve’s Aunt Rachel and Elisabeth Elliot, Jim Elliot’s wife, carried on the work among that primitive tribe, even living among them for many years. Upon the death of Rachel, the tribe asked Steve to come and minister to them. He brought his wife and children to Ecuador and settled in among the people there, befriending and serving the very tribe who had slaughtered his father. This video, a documentary of nearly one hour, tells Steve’s story and shares his testimony. It is a great story of tragedy, forgiveness, commitment and answering the call of God.

Journey into the Amazon

Journey into the Amazon also features Steve Saint. In this video, which clocks in at one hour, shows Saint leading a group of Americans into the jungles of Ecuador to spend several days among the Waodani. Many of the people in the group are related to the five missionaries who were killed near the village some fifty years earlier. As the Americans live among the Waodani, they learn the Wao way of life, living in a stone age society so far removed from any of the conveniences of modern life. They also see the remarkable transformation among the people and hear of the faith that was brought to them through such sacrifice. This is an interesting video that aptly portrays the night-and-day difference between modern North America and stone age South America. Yet we see that even in these far-off corners of the world is a family, knit together by a common Savior.

Eric Liddell: Champion of Conviction

Though most people know the name Eric Liddell, few know the details of his life beyond what was portrayed in the film Chariots of Fire. While this documentary covers Liddell’s early days with his improbable and inspiring Olympic victory, it focuses more on his career as a missionary in China. The story is told by Liddell’s biographer David McCasland, his daughter Patricia and Rev. John Keddie who served as a consultant on Chariots of Fire. There are also appearances by people who were with him during his long internment in a Japanese camp. The viewer learns about his service in that camp–as a friend, mentor, teacher and pastor. This is as good an overview of Liddell’s life as I’ve seen (and, believe it or not, I’ve seen several).

A Heart Set Free

This DVD is a biography of Charles Wesley, focusing on the life, ministry, lyrics and legacy of the great hymnwriter. Professionally made and without a hint of amateur production, this film simply tells the life of Wesley. It is shot in a variety of historical locations in England and the United States and features discussions with Wesley scholars. It is feature length, clocking in at just over 100 minutes. Nicely detailed and well-researched, this is an excellent look at a much-loved poet and hymnwriter whose legacy lives on in the thousands of hymns he left as a gift to Christ’s church. I very much enjoyed this one.

Reasonable Doubt

Reasonable Doubt pits evolution versus modern microbiology. The cover says, “Discover the fascinating modern science, unknown to Charles Darwin, that is shaking the scientific and academic establishment’s ‘holy grail’ of biologic evolution theory.” Using video clips and plenty of computer-generated graphics, a narrator explains how Darwin’s theory of evolution has been largely disproven by subsequent scientific discoveries. “As scientific knowledge grows exponentially, Darwin’s theory of evolution becomes more debatable and hotly contested by researchers on both sides of the growing scientific controversy.” I’ll admit to being unable to validate the facts presented here, as they are far above my rudimentary knowledge of science. The quality of this presentation is solid enough, though perhaps slightly amateurish, and the narrator has a voice that threatens to lull the viewer to sleep.

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