And Now from Pioneer Missionary Radio Station in Ecuador: A Christian Movie

November 1, 2017

A movie you can bring your family to, and with a message that God does not abandon us.  

(Nov. 1, 2017 - by Ralph Kurtenbach)  The point at which numerous Christian movies conclude—a scene in which the main character who reaches the end of himself, surrenders to God and prays for forgiveness—is where a new Spanish-language Christian movie takes up the story. Walking to the altar is one thing; walking in faith day by day is another.

Jacobo Muñoz (Marco De la Torre) and Jade Muñoz (Ana María Vera), two of the key characters in 'Tal Vez Mañana.'Shot entirely in Ecuador, “Tal Vez Mañana” (Maybe Tomorrow) begins with the end of a church service as the character, Jade Muñoz, leaves alone. In a nearby street she encounters her husband who has been away for some time. With the release of Jacobo “Jac” Muñoz from prison, he re-enters society as a different man. During his lock-up for car theft, he has experienced a jailhouse conversion.

Jacobo attempts to walk a narrow path. He exercises a newfound faith in God but still keeps occasional company with a former crime buddy. The plot turns on a key question of whether or not his decision for Christ will stick. The theme is pressed relentlessly by Director Dwight Gregorich, who with his wife and co-producer, Tamara Torres, operates Tamto Producciones.

“I loved it,” a woman said after viewing the movie. She called it “moving—a movie you can bring your family to and with a message that God does not abandon us.” Interviewed at a Quito theater, a man commented favorably on interspersed scenes showing fast-paced drama and shots showing earnest prayer for Jacobo. Another woman said she appreciated a scene in which the Muñozes’ young son, Felipe, assures his father that “you’re a good person.”

Dwight Gregorich, director of the film. He also did post-production work and was one of the actors.The viewer follows Jacobo Muñoz’s disheartening search for work as he reintegrates into society. Support from Jade is steady, even amid her own anxieties over the couple’s tight finances. Other scenes have young Felipe responding to schoolyard taunts from classmates who know of his father’s past.

“It should be noted that we made every effort to ensure that the film has the highest quality standards,” said Gregorich, who wrote the screenplay and plays a supporting character. “It is high-definition digital cinema with surround sound. This will allow the public to enjoy a project with a great message, a clear image and an impeccable sound.”

He also pointed out that the movie’s musical score originated in Ecuador, including “Un Segundo Sin Ti” (One Second Without You) by Vaes, an Ambato musical group whose acronym announces three messages: vida, amor and esperanza (life, love and hope).

Siblings Janine and Paul Childs, whose parents serve with Reach Beyond in Quito, helped with special effects and photography in the movie.When Radio HCJB contacted Gregorich in late 2016, he put together in a matter of weeks an acceptable script for the 92-minute movie. “Dwight writes movies all the time,” observed Paul Childs, the movie’s photography director and a collaborator on other projects—primarily public relations work—with Gregorich and Torres. “It’s really quite incredible how quickly he can put them out.”

Childs’ sister, Janine, said the movie is “about waiting for God’s timing [and] not taking things into your own hands.” Patience is required in life and “it has a social message as well about how we treat people who come out of prison, and not judging them.”

Reimprisonment (called recidivism) rates in Latin America vary widely, ranging from about 60 percent in Brazil to as low as 2.6 percent in the Dominican Republic where prisoners are taught to read and write if they are illiterate, according to The Economist magazine. (The recidivism rate in parts of the U.S. is reported to be 70 percent.)

HCJB has been a stalwart on Ecuador’s media landscape since 1931, but the Oct. 20 debut of “Tal Vez Mañana” marked the broadcaster’s first foray into big-screen cinema. “I want to thank HCJB for opening its doors, its heart,” said Torres at a special screening earlier in this month.

An action scene from the film.Torres gave additional thanks to the media outlet for “boosting cinematography through the work years ago of John Gowan.” She said Gowan’s production “was for me an impetus, as was also, the Christian Center of Communications (CCC).” Gowan’s “Canción de Navidad” was a Latin American adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic book, A Christmas Carol. The movie “did not go to the big screen, but it was on the small [television] screen,” Torres commented.

Daylight at the equator lasts for 12 hours year-round, so “we’d shoot during the day starting as early as we could,” according to Paul Childs, whose parents, Jim and Elaine Childs, have served with Reach Beyond since 1983. Then with night scenes to film afterwards, it made for 43 long, hard days to get all the footage shot.

“For the most part we didn’t have too much trouble with weather; we had a few days when we got rained out when we were shooting outside,” he said.

The crew filmed the scenes in Ecuador’s capital, Quito, and a neighboring suburb. Gregorich and Torres worked within a $55,000 production budget, which for Paul Childs meant “you can’t have all the toys you’d like to work with, but I think we worked around that quite well.” Janine Childs singlehandedly oversaw all of the post-production visual effects and animation in “Tal Vez Mañana.”

Jacobo Muñoz (Marco De la Torre) reflects on his life while reading the Scriptures.The production involved several former students and graduates of the CCC, including Gavriell Arcos, David Changoluisa, Marco De la Torre (as Jacobo Muñoz), Ofelia Díaz, Edith Freire, Dwight Gregorich, Lilian Malán, Jaime Ramos, Jorge Luis Rodríguez, Mauricio Terán, Cristian Torres, Tamara Torres and Mónica Posligua.

Also appearing in the film are Margarita Cuichan (staff member at Corrientes, Reach Beyond’s Latin American missionary mentoring program), Evangeline and Keren Gregorich (Dwight and Tamara’s daughters), Geoff Kooistra, Katherine Perez (HCJB), Alex Díaz, Rodolfo España (formerly HCJB) and Sara Kooistra (daughter of Geoff and Tammy Kooistra).

Not altogether a favored cinematography site, Quito nonetheless lent its Andean beauty in 2000 to a hostage rescue movie, “Proof of Life,” with Russell Crowe and Meg Ryan. (Members of the Childs family worked as extras as did Gowan, his wife, Sharon, and other Reach Beyond missionaries.) Several years later, filmmaker Jose Zambrano Brito wrote that, “in our country, a nascent cinematography industry is forming with its own personality within a context of independent and diverse film that only this region can offer.”

More recently, lengthy segments of the National Geographic documentary series, “Banged Up Abroad: Mexico Black Palace of Horrors,” revealed to viewers the Ex-Penal García Moreno, a former penitentiary in central Quito. Once overcrowded and violent, the prison was abandoned just a few years ago and prisoners were moved elsewhere. Scenes from within the high, thick walls of the 138-year-old Ex-Penal also appear in “Tal Vez Mañana.”

A scene from the movie.The movie carries a Christian message of hope to the big screen. It is not the nation’s first Christian movie as “Adolescentes” (Adolescents) and “Con Alas pa’ Volar” (With Wings to Fly) hit theaters in 2015 and 2016 respectively, garnering 50,000 to 70,000 viewers.

Even as HCJB continues radio programming on 89.3 and other FM outlets throughout Ecuador in its 86th year in Ecuador, the media outlet’s director, Anabella Cabezas, is forging ahead in social media endeavors, including an online radio station, Control Z.

Gregorich, a Cuban national, has lived in Ecuador for some 20 years. He came to study communications at the CCC where he and Torres met. They married and started their own production company.

Reach Beyond began operating the CCC in 1984 with 19 communications students. Throughout the years, enrollments averaged around 30. (First known as CCC, the institution added NWC to its title in 2001 when it became an accredited degree site for University of Northwestern-St. Paul (UNW, formerly Northwestern College) in Minnesota.

Jashua Fiallos played the role of Felipe Muñoz (young son of Jacobo Muñoz) in the movie.More than 200 people, primarily from Latin America, graduated from the school’s three-year program with more than a dozen completing an additional 27 credits through Northwestern to earn their bachelor’s degrees. At the school’s last graduation ceremony in January 2014 after 29 years, 10 students received their diplomas for completing the three-year course.

Northwestern President Alan Cureton told the graduates, “to know that we had a part in the strengthening and enlarging of God’s kingdom in South America is incredibly rewarding to us. It’s our hope and prayer that the Lord would continue to use the CCC graduates wherever they may be as they work to advance the gospel.”

Applauding “Tal Vez Mañana,” Zambrano Brito wrote that “beyond the content and Christian message, the filmmaker tells us an interesting story as clearly as possible and aimed at a specific audience. These are fundamental elements that anyone who considers himself a filmmaker must take into account when making a film. Dwight handles them in a remarkable way, showing his discipline and talent in the cinematographic art.”

Source: Reach Beyond (Matt Parker contributed to this story)

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