Imagery of Regent people and campus

Heaven is For Real Pre-Releases

By Brett Wilson | March 31, 2014

Bishop T.D. Jakes.
Photo courtesy of Tyler Johnson.

On Thursday, March 20, more than 1,000 members of the Hampton Roads community viewed a prerelease showing of Heaven is For Real. Based on the New York Times best-seller, the film follows the lives of the Burpos, a typical American family of four from a small town in Nebraska.

The Burpos lived together in an Eden of their very own—depicted by vibrant scenery and a blissful sing-song dynamic—until tragedy struck, and five-year-old Colton was rushed to the hospital.

During the months following his surgery to repair the damage from his nearly-fatal appendix burst, Colton begins to share stories with his father, Todd, who served as a local pastor, about being taken to Heaven while the doctors were operating on him.

In the film, Todd speaks to Colton about his near-death experience on a teeter-totter, as the story begins to rock back and forth on the tense line of child-like faith and learned-adult cynicism.

Todd is baffled by his son's account, and turns to his friends, his congregants and even psychological counsel as he grapples with the possibility that Heaven might, indeed, be real.

"We ask our kids to believe this stuff," Todd said during the film. "And I don't even know if I believe it myself."

Though he is met with resistance by his family and many members of his community, Colton stands by his story, revealing his experience bit-by-bit.

Keeping the integrity of Colton's story intact was a major focus for Bishop T.D. Jakes and DeVon Franklin, producers of the film adaptation for the popular book who visited Regent during the prescreening.

Jakes, founder and pastor of The Potter's House in Dallas, expressed that while audience-members may have reservations about the film, he hope critics will keep in mind that the realism of the plot is not up for debate.

"This is Colton's testimony, and he is the only person who can say whether or not it is true—you can't say it's not real because it's his story," said Jakes. "I think Colton has something to say to all of the country."

Jakes said that another aspect of the script that most touched him were the questions Todd asked, as a pastor, as a father, and as a man who has experience the grief of losing someone close to him. He believes that the question "Will I see my loved one again?" is a theme that will resonate with audiences, because it is a struggle that no one will escape.

"Rich people die, poor people die, pretty people die, ugly people die," said Jakes with a laugh. "It's our common denominator."

Jakes was also touched by the portrayal of the Burpos. He hopes that by showing an American family who argue, cry and stick together through a crisis will encourage others to stay together when the waters of family-life rise.

"Whatever you model on the screen, you will multiply in the pews," said Jakes.

Franklin, senior vice president of production for Columbia Tristar Pictures, a division of Sony Pictures Entertainment, was quick to acknowledge that, for him, the release of Heaven is For Real was more of a success for the Kingdom, rather than a finished product to add to his filmography.

"God wanted to make sure that people would come to Him," said Franklin. "This is not my story, it's His story."

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Mindy Hughes, Public Relations

Phone: 757.352.4095 Fax: 757.352.4888

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