Hollywood’s “A List” headlines a feature film version of Bethany Hamilton’s life-changing story of faith and courage in SOUL SURFER, a major motion picture hitting theaters nationwide April 8. SOUL SURFER brings to the screen Bethany’s thrilling, true story of losing an arm to a tiger shark attack and, with her faith, determination, and family support, returning to champion-level surfing.
SOUL SURFER, rated PG, offers something for every audience member: stunning shots of competitive surfing, touching moments of faith from a family facing tragedy, and inspiring scenes of Bethany learning that God can use her circumstances to help others.
Hollywood’s Top Talent
Excitement for the project drew Hollywood’s top talent. SOUL SURFER features an all-star cast, including AnnaSophia Robb and Helen Hunt, with Carrie Underwood in her film debut, and Dennis Quaid. Quaid, who had recently faced his own near tragedy with his infant twins, joined the project after hearing Bethany tell her story on a national morning television show.
Behind-the-camera, veteran director Sean McNamara has 15 feature films to his credit, including extensive experience working with young actors including Shia LaBeouf and Hilary Duff. SOUL SURFER is based on the book by Bethany Hamilton, Sheryl Berk and Rick Bundschuh. The screen story is by Sean McNamara, Deborah Schwartz, Douglas Schwartz, Michael Berk, Matt R. Allen, Caleb Wilson and Brad Gann. The screenplay is by Sean McNamara, Deborah Schwartz, Douglas Schwartz and Michael Berk.
SOUL SURFER is the first film to be released under a deal between FilmDistrict and Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions, and it will have a wide release via TriStar Pictures and an integrated marketing campaign managed by FilmDistrict. FilmDistrict is a newly formed studio headed by CEO Peter Schlessel and Bob Berney, president of theatrical distribution. Berney is credited with the marketing success of THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST. Rich Peluso, vice president of AFFIRM Films, a division of Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions, worked with the writers, producers, and the Hamilton family to integrate the family’s real story and faith into the film. AFFIRM Films will oversee marketing to the faith audience.
“It’s been an absolute honor and thrill to get to know and work with Bethany, the Hamilton family, and our amazing group of producers,” said Rich Peluso, vice president of AFFIRM Films. “Everyone’s worked hard to faithfully tell this story in a way that is both completely accessible and entertaining to a wide mainstream audience, and also conveys in a natural way the love for God that pours out of the family.”
Reaching Out With SOUL SURFER
As with all major motion picture releases, print and broadcast advertising will promote the film leading up to the April 8 premiere date. A series of special previews began in January for pastors, youth leaders, and family ministry advocates. For more information on these screenings visit SoulSurferWave.com.
“Through conversations with pastors and other leaders in the faith community, we know our audience today wants quality films with high production values, well-known talent, and a biblical worldview,” Peluso said. “SOUL SURFER delivers on all points. It is the story of a Christian family facing sudden tragedy . . . and triumphing through faith. The Hamiltons rely on God in forming their response to Bethany’s new circumstance.”
SOUL SURFER’s Impact
It was in 2003, only weeks after Bethany and her mom, Cheri (portrayed by Helen Hunt in the film), prayed for God to reveal His purpose for Bethany’s life, that the young surfing champion lost her arm in the shark attack. Prayer sustained her against the odds, and she found strength in her Christian faith, her family, and her church. In less than a month, she was back in the water and on the path to return to championship form.
“It was hard at first; I think that was a natural feeling,” said Noah Hamilton, Bethany’s oldest brother. “And there was definitely some questioning: ‘God, why Bethany, she had such an amazing future, why?’ But in the hospital, when we saw that joy of the Lord in Bethany, with no self pity and grateful to be alive, that really pulled me out of despair.”
And it affected others the same way. Mail began to pour into the Hamilton’s house, letters of encouragement and prayer from thousands of people worldwide. Without knowing it at first, Bethany had also become their encourager. Many of those who wrote began by telling of a seemingly insurmountable circumstance, but after hearing Bethany’s story, they found renewed hope and courage to face it head on.
“We never know what life brings,” Bethany recently said. “Maybe there are some rough times for you now or in the future. I think that if you seek God first and focus on Him, you’ll be able to endure those struggles and hardships.”
Bethany’s story has touched literally millions of people worldwide. In addition to reaching out through letters and personal appearances, Bethany has told her story to national and international audiences in numerous television interviews.
SOUL SURFER the movie will take this story of faith and of finding God’s purpose through even the most challenging circumstances to a wider audience still.
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