Maybe hell isn't a place of eternal torment.
That is what an Alabama preacher's research led him to believe in the 1970s. Edward Fudge began rejecting what his rural church, his preacher father and the Christian doctrine believed hell was like.
The film "Hell and Mr. Fudge," based on Fudge's life, will be showing at Park Plaza Cinema on Sunday and Thursday. Told through the eyes of Fudge (played by Mackenzie Astin), the film chronicles his extensive study on the doctrine of hell and his controversial conclusions.
The film's co-producer, Jim Wood, who will be present at the three showings on Hilton Head Island, discusses the movie's message.
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Question. What can people expect from "Hell and Mr. Fudge"?
Answer. Above all, it is a film about a very unique man and his character. I think people will appreciate the character of Edward Fudge as a man who, once he had been convinced of a certain doctrine, even though it was far out of step with all the rest of the world, was willing to stand up for it, to write about it, to defend it, in the face of a lot of opposition.
His character is the thing that really comes through most of all in the movie.
Q. How did you get involved in the film?
A. As the co-producer, my role really is specifically the content, the theological content. It's my brother, Jeff (Wood), who's the more technical person as the director and producer.
(Fudge) came to our attention in the mid-'80s when his book was published ("The Fire That Consumes"), and he's been in the back of our minds since because of the influence that his book has had. We continued to think about Edward Fudge, and the more we thought about him, the more interested we became, not just in his belief, but the story of how he came to arrive at those beliefs and what he went through on the way.
Eventually, that interest grew into almost an obsession. We felt, this is a story that needs to be told.
Q. As a researcher for the film, what was that process like?
A. It was not difficult because Edward Fudge has put the results of his research in writing so beautifully and so carefully. We had his book as a guide in terms of the theological content of the movie.
When we were ready to start in earnest on this project, we went and spent hours and hours of time with Edward Fudge and hours of time with his friends and developed a story out of those lengthy interviews with them. It was the book and what he'd written in his book that initially attracted us to him. But as we learned more about him as a man, we were fascinated by him as a character.
Those who see the movie will see exactly what we mean, just a very unusual man.
Q. The film is based on a true story. What is Edward Fudge like as a person and how does that come out in the movie?
A. He is extremely bright. He has a very, very quick mind. He is very articulate and just an excellent writer. But those are his skills. In terms of the less tangible things, he is philosophically a true scholar. In the case of the story of the movie, the research he did took him where he did not expect to go -- to a place where he actually had to reject what he, his father, who was a well-known preacher, and his church, all believed in. He was a progressive within his own church. And that idea of being progressive, that typifies Edward Fudge.
Q. What do you hope people take away from the film?
A. Our hope is that people will at least be inspired to question things that they've always believed. We'd like people to leave saying, maybe that there is validity in an alternative view to what God is really like.