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Christian Living

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for KING & COUNTRY’s Joel Smallbone on His Priceless Movie

Hannah Goodwyn - Senior Producer

Joel Smallbone's heart has always been tied to the arts. Music is the art he's known for – having already won two Grammy Awards with his band, for KING & COUNTRY. But, filmmaking was always a dream of his. Now, that's fully realized with the release of his new Roadside Attractions film, Priceless.

In it, he plays the role of James Stevens, a disheartened widower unable to keep a job or custody of his precious daughter. Desperate for money, he agrees to drive a moving truck cross-country. What he discovers in the cargo hold changes everything.

During a recent phone interview with CBN.com, Joel opened up about producing a movie about human trafficking, what made him cry, what would make the film a success in his eyes, and if his Priceless movement has turned him into a bit of a feminist.

Hannah Goodwyn: Do you remember the first time you were confronted with human trafficking?

Joel Smallbone: Actually, [it was] really on this film, because I was a bit naïve to it….

We wanted to drop the audience into this world of trafficking for a moment, as Taken did in some ways and some other films have endeavored to do.

Because the question begs to be asked when you title something Priceless. You go, 'well, what's the antithesis of that?' And simply said, by definition, the antithesis of priceless is that someone can be bought, or that love can be bought, or pleasure can be bought.

It was only when we started refining and defining the story and we started getting on these phone calls, and having these conversations with these experts that it was, I mean…I remember just crying. I remember we'd be on a call for three or four hours and just overwhelmed with the realities of [human trafficking].

Goodwyn: What would make Priceless a successful film?

Smallbone: As [Priceless] closes, there are three slides that come up that are really in some way, shape, or form a call to action to the audience, whether it's that internal compass of checking yourself and where you are, where are you in culture and how are you perceiving yourself, or whether it's kind of a more global citizen perspective of doing something about these sorts of issues.

The greatest way to gauge success would be that if people respond to that call to action.... If people say, 'hey, I never knew' or 'this really challenged me to step up in the way I love my wife' or 'this challenged me as a woman to really come to grips with who I am under God and that I'm not going to be defined what any man says or doesn't say about me'. In that conversation, that will be the greatest success.

Goodwyn: Are you a feminist?

Smallbone: No, but I've not looked up the word "feminist" so to speak. So, I probably can't answer that with incredible authority. I do believe in the wonderful beauty, and the strength, and the courage of a woman, and that often women particularly in this time specifically have been objectified and are objectified.

We bring different things to the table, but a woman is of equal value and importance and talent as I think any man is. So I don't know if any of that makes me a feminist. But yeah, that's my sort of stance on the beauty, and wonder, and grace of a woman.

Goodwyn: You've said that the stories of human trafficking survivors have moved you to tears. In the face of such pain and evil, what gives you hope?

Smallbone: To be really sort of on the nose with it…Jesus Christ gives me hope. People throw out the word "chivalry." Your mind often immediately goes to behavior modification....

What I love about Jesus Christ as a historical figurine and being a follower of Jesus is that it changes the landscape. From the inside out, you're sort of shifted. Your mindset is shifted. It's not just behavior modification. It's a complete shift.

That's part of the reason why we've been so focused on leaning into the Church [with this movie]. This is the Church's mission…to step up and to fight for those who can't fight for themselves, to fight for the marginalized, to fight for the poor.

If we can be a part of rallying the Body of Christ to really lead the charge on this, I'm very hopeful that we can transition women out of slavery and trafficking, that we can rebuild their psyche of themselves and of the world. We can rebuild families as a result and change our children's and our children's children's future. 

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