Donald Miller’s ‘Blue Like Jazz’ film set to open
Actor Marshall Allman, who plays Don Miller in “Blue Like Jazz” film, with actress, Claire Holt, who plays “Penny.”
March 9th, 2012
05:00 AM ET

Donald Miller’s ‘Blue Like Jazz’ film set to open

By John Blake, CNN

Raw, gritty, with some foul language - not the typical description of a Christian film. Yet that’s how some are describing the upcoming movie  “Blue Like Jazz.”

The film, based on a bestselling coming-of-age Christian memoir of the same name, is scheduled to premiere Saturday at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas.

“Blue Like Jazz” follows a pious, 19-year-old sophomore at a Texas college who decides to flee his conservative religious upbringing by transferring to one of the most liberal college campuses in America.

The movie is rated PG-13 because of mature themes, and some references to sexuality, drugs and alcohol.

“It’s a little more gritty than a lot of films, and certainly any Christian film,” says Donald Miller, the author of “Blue Like Jazz.” “It’s more raw and real life.”

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The film, which almost didn’t get made due to lack of funding, opens April 13 in theaters nationwide. The movie’s financing fell through at one point but was saved after Miller posted an online appeal.

Miller says the “Blue Like Jazz” film is a hybrid in that it will appeal to a Christian and a secular audience.

“We hope that there’s an enormous demographic of people of faith, and people who have walked away from their faith, who will find themselves somewhere in this story,” he says.

Miller has already reached such an audience with his 2003 memoir. The book is a collection of introspective and irreverent essays where Miller writes about everything from questioning his faith to growing up without a father.

Read about the man who inspired Donald Miller

The memoir appealed to multiple audiences: evangelicals, progressives and “spiritual but not religious” folks who don’t easily fit into any category. It spent 43 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list, tallying at least 1.5 million copies sold.

Miller still sounds stunned at his book’s success.

“I don’t know. I really don’t know,” he says when asked why his memoir has proved so popular. “It’s just one of those rare things. I didn’t expect it to take off. I wasn’t trying to make it take off. I was just really honest about telling this aspect of my life, and other people were able to find themselves in it.”

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Steve Taylor, the director of “Blue Like Jazz,” says he tweaked Miller’s book for the movie. The movie’s main character is younger, lives on campus, and comes from a fundamentalist church.

Taylor says he didn’t want to make a preachy film. Some of his favorite Christian films are “Tender Mercies,” “Of Gods and Men” and “The Exorcism of Emily Rose.”

He sighed when describing watching some Christian films.

“It’s a genre that can preach to the choir,” Taylor says. “If you didn’t know that world, it would feel like you’ve gone into one of those foreign movies where you not only need subtitles, but CliffsNotes.”

Miller says that he’s embarking on a 35-city bus tour starting March 1 to promote the film. Though his book has gone Hollywood, Miller says his life is far from glamorous.

When he was called to talk about his film, he was in the process of moving furniture out of his house, which he sold to help finance the filming of “Blue Like Jazz.”

“I’m in a sweat shirt and tennis shoes, and I didn’t hire movers,” he says. “I’m moving in the opposite direction of Hollywood.”

- CNN Writer

Filed under: Belief • Bible • Books • Christianity • Culture wars • Entertainment • Faith • Schools • Uncategorized

soundoff (178 Responses)
  1. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things !

    March 10, 2012 at 6:56 am |
  2. Ken Oberman

    A movie about someone leaving church and then going to college. Sounds... boring. To me, this is equal to "the Social Network. I have a facebook account. Why the hell would I want to watch a movie about a website I go to? It's a website. I don't care who made it, I don't care how much money was made or the drama behind it. It's a website. Not movie worthy.

    Who really wants to read a book or watch a movie about something that millions of people have done? Hey, let's make a movie about that time I drove through the McDonald's drive-thru. That's some really original shit right there.

    March 10, 2012 at 5:11 am |
  3. Bruce

    On reading just the article above, the book sounds strikingly similar to Gardner's, The Flight of Peter Fromm (1973).
    Anyone read both and able to comment?

    March 9, 2012 at 11:28 pm |
  4. Kim

    go see this movie and then comment. many of these comments are not relevant to the article, so please, read the book, go see the movie, check out a screening in your area, and then go again on April 13


    March 9, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
  5. Martin

    if there is a God, it is a sadistic monster who loves pain, killing, and suffering...the idea of blood sacrifice of a son for "sin" is just plain stupid

    March 9, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
    • Rich

      But the Bible says that Son offered himself to die on the cross. He heads to Jerusalem knowing he is going to be crucified.

      March 9, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
  6. waitasec

    faith doesn't validate an opinion, especially when it requires no evidence

    March 9, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
    • reason

      Faith is the rejection of reason, the one thing we have to pursuit truth.

      March 9, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
    • Rich

      Its a tired opinion that people of faith don't use reason to back up their arguments.

      March 9, 2012 at 7:52 pm |
    • reason

      A conclusion reached after rational analysis is a belief. For example, I believe the sun will rise in the east tomorrow. That is based on a rational analysis of previous experiences. To take a leap of faith is to believe in something even though it is irrational or nonrational to do so. This is why faith is often called blind.

      March 9, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
  7. WDinDallas

    Must have gone to t.u.

    March 9, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
  8. reason

    The gods of all organized religions, if true, would all be horribly unjust and evil deities to send billions of people to eternal suffering for choosing the wrong one or being born in the wrong place. Looking at organized religion objectively, they are myths from stone age societies that were trying to explain the world, and there is virtually no chance any one is truth.

    Rationally speaking if there is a just god and an afterlife, you will be judged on how you lived your life. Rejecting reason and deluding yourself in blind faith does not help your case.

    March 9, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
    • WDinDallas

      Spoken like a true follower of Voltaire...who by the way had a chapel in his home and took the sacraments on his death bed.

      March 9, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
    • reason

      That is the myth Christians would like to believe, yes.

      March 9, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
    • Rich

      How can anyone call themselves objective? Are you somehow free from having a worldview?

      March 9, 2012 at 7:43 pm |
    • Liz

      hmmm.. and isn't that why the Mormons do baptisms for the dead because he is a just God and gives everyone a chance?

      March 9, 2012 at 8:02 pm |
    • reason

      @Rich, If you look at the world's organized religions and analyze them without a bias of hoping any one is true or false, it is extremely hard to come to the conclusion they are more than the product of primitive societies trying to explain the world.

      It is not hard to sell people on eternal life in bliss. That is why religions are so popular. People believe because they want to, not because they are being objective.

      I would love to believe that if you do this 1 thing, or those 10 things, then you go to heaven and have the ultimate party for eternity. The problem is that objectively speaking organized religions are BS. That is not to say there is not a god, or an afterlife, it would be ridiculous to claim to know something like that. However there is virtually no doubt that organized religions and all their gods are man made.

      March 9, 2012 at 8:03 pm |
  9. Nicholas McGuire

    God is real. I can also say that I have no reason to judge anyone, for I am a sinner also. I will say, If you want my personal idea, I can I express that human life is non-accidental. The basic idea of thinking that humans have "no purpose" seems morally and scientifically absurd. If human beings were accidents...if life was an accident, then how are human beings really dominating over the animals of the world? How are we so complex as we see we are today? I'm not saying I disagree completely with the big bang theory, unless the big bang theory is a secular idea...I'll give you an idea: "1.) If either energy or matter were needed materials (...a single speck existing of 'either' energy or matter), and if energy could have formed or sparked matter or vice-versa, how might someone argue that an 'existing speck' just accidentally 'happened' to be there...without it's own creation?

    You see, if energy or matter is believed to just have existed without prior creation taking place, how might someone explain how a believed "speck" was ever in existence? – No matter how the earth came into existence, no matter how I'm here...I need God.

    March 9, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
    • Dave, CA

      "I need God."

      Yes and so do lots of others who use "god" or their "faith" as an excuse for their hate and biases. You don't have to look any further than how so called "christians" throw around cherry picked bible versus at gays and lesbians while hypocritically ignoring ones that might apply to their own lives. They seem to think that being a believer gives them the excuse to act like a supreme as shole towards others and other faiths. I've never met more un-christian like people than so called "born again" christians of America. Jesus probably hasn't stopped vomiting at all the evil they do in his name.

      March 9, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
    • reason

      You are essentially calling god whatever created the big bang. The problem is it does not answer any questions. How did your god come into existance? What created it? What you are describing is the ultimate end of the god of gaps, meaning the god used to fill in gaps of human knowledge.

      The one big question we will never know is "why?"

      March 9, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
    • colonelingus

      So, when the time comes when we eventually find life on other planets, I suppose all you religious nut jobs will say God had a hand it it?

      March 9, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
    • a person of the Name

      There is nothing in the Bible that says there isn't life else where. It does say we are his favorite.

      March 9, 2012 at 9:45 pm |
  10. Ray

    Wow, you all are going to LOVE this film. Especially the character who plays the Pope of Reed College. He offers more sacrilege than anyone here. Just shut up until you see it...you might just like it.

    March 9, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
  11. waitasec

    if heaven were a real place...
    what does the believer have to go through in order to deal with the reality that their loved one is burning in hell...
    wouldn't that just ruin their day, i mean eternity?

    what absolute ridiculous tripe this christian religion is...


    March 9, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
    • TheTruth72

      Well, right off the bat you are putting God in a box. Who's to say you won't have so much joy you will not think of those things? Oh, and it's about having a relationship with Jesus. It's not about religion. Check out this video: http://youtu.be/1IAhDGYlpqY

      March 9, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
    • waitasec

      it is an arrogant notion to think one can have a relationship with the creator...
      and it is an arrogant notion that one was brought up in a society that correctly reflects gods will...how convenient for you

      March 9, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
    • a person of the Name

      Why is it arrogant to have a relationship with God? Each one of us is different shouldn't our walk with God be the same? My trial is different from yours. God's will is to make a walk with us a personal one.

      March 9, 2012 at 11:42 pm |
    • waitasec

      why is it arrogant...?
      who can go wrong wit god on their side...

      a very convenient position... actually a very immoral one.. as one opts for trading in their culpability for their logic.

      March 9, 2012 at 11:46 pm |
    • a person of the Name

      Whoa man! Chill. For one I didn't trade my logic for anything. Just because YOU believe its stupid doesn't make it so. Now I can agree to the fact that ppl being what they are can use things for evil. That includes the church and the Bible but that certainly does not make all of us greedy, lustful, murders as most try to make us look and I, sir, certainly not stupid or being miss led.

      March 10, 2012 at 12:03 am |
  12. Don Wann

    You can call a pig an eagle, but that doesn't mean it can fly.

    March 9, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
  13. Don Wann

    Whatever is good think on these things. "Christian" film? Like the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire extols the virtues of democracy.

    March 9, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
    • Ohplease

      Exactly. Love your Orwell reference...

      March 9, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
    • GauisCaesar

      Orwell? I thought he was talking about Edward Gibbons book, "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire."

      March 10, 2012 at 10:30 am |
  14. Ohplease

    Since when is the "Exorcism of Emily Rose a Christian film? Ridiculous. This comparison lends some idea of where this "Christian screen writer" is coming from... You can call me a pine tree, but it does not make me a pine tree...

    March 9, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
    • David

      "Exorcism of Emily Rose" is based on a true story of an actual exorcism. Exorcism is still a part of many Christian cultures, Catholicism is the first to come to mind.

      EoER is a Christian movie the same way Moneyball is a baseball movie. They both cover a small portion of their topics.

      I do agree it was a bad example, though.

      March 9, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
  15. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    March 9, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
    • waitasec

      that is a flat out lie. i refuse to stand idle as the offensive idea that somehow ones desire for good things to happen is somehow more meaningful under the banner of religious faith.

      March 9, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
    • Ohplease

      Just keep in mind waitasec, prayer does not require one to "idly stand by".

      March 9, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
    • a person of the Name

      The good Lord hears the prayers of the rightous!
      Here is something to think about though, if He can't tell you no then you really can't call Him Lord.

      March 9, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
    • DarkBronzePlant

      You're right. The moment my houseplant stopped believing in god, it keeled over dead!

      March 9, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
    • Ohplease

      @A person of the name Matthew 5:44 – 45 – 44 However, I say to YOU: Continue to love YOUR enemies and to pray for those persecuting YOU; 45 that YOU may prove yourselves sons of YOUR Father who is in the heavens, since he makes his sun rise upon wicked people and good and makes it rain upon righteous people and unrighteous.

      March 9, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
    • Dave, CA

      I remember the parents who tried to pray away their son's burst appendix. Yes prayer did change things; it made them childless murderers.

      March 9, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
    • a person of the Name

      @ ohplease, I try to do the will of God and yes, I and many others pray for the lost. We had two ppl filled with the Holy Spirit this week. I still remember my first experience with Him.

      March 9, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer changes things
      A good man prays
      A great man acts on prayer
      Prayer changes things

      March 10, 2012 at 9:18 am |
  16. Ray

    I've seen the movie. An early showing at the Justice Conference a few weeks back in Portland, OR. All this Christian bashing is really senseless here. If anything, Donald Miller and BLJ offers a pretty harsh critique of Christianity. The beauty of it is that he doesn't walk away despite all its faults. There's a bit of something for everyone in the movie from hash brownies, to cuddling with a lesbian, to putting a condom on a catholic church steeple. Haters should relax...you'll probably be the biggest fan. Jeez, you expose yourself to be more intolerant than Christians. Chill...

    March 9, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
  17. YBP

    I find it strange that people who claim to be religious know very little about the culture and history of the ancient Roman Empire and Holy Land. They tend to talk the "Jesus is Lord" talk without really understanding who he was (a patriot), what he stood for (his Promised Land), or why he was killed (sedition, that's what crucifixion was for specifically). At the same time, they tend to have no desire to walk the walk to "do unto others" or "love thy neighbor." It seems that religion guarantees them an eternal afterlife (that we really don't know about for sure) and that that's all they're focused on. Selfish really. With the amazing depth of science and knowledge that we have in 2012, chances are that there is no afterlife, just as we have proven that very little else in the bible is literally or historically true, or scientifically possible. I think that when religious people assert that they are whatever they are, they really mean to say that they believe in an afterlife (and very little else apparently). And don't mess with that, or they'll kill you. The only belief that matters is that they are going to live forever. Pathetic.

    March 9, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
    • GauisCaesar

      Wow, very well put! So, you can tell exactly why someone knows what they know and even what they don't know. That's awesome. Well, gues what, I know ALL about ancient history, and I think you are full of it....completely.

      March 9, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
    • a person of the Name

      Jesus is so much more then just what you think he was. Not all ppl are like that and the true Christains dig deeper into the Bible reading it many time and always finding something new.

      March 9, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
    • Don Wann

      Another secular revisionist historians. Keep the blinders on, Bub.

      March 9, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
    • marilynn

      "chances are that there is no afterlife".. ha ha, wow.. so you know something nobody else in the history of the world knows.. laughable.. and on top of it, you base this on science? in on the floor dude.. ha ha

      March 9, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
  18. Ashrakay

    Reading some of these posts, I'm reminded of something Jan Cox said about Adam and Eve and the garden of eden story. He said, that after they ate from the tree of knowledge of "good and evil" and god came looking for them, the sin (i.e., falling short of the mark) was not that they ate of the fruit. Rather, when god called for them, the sin was that they answered.

    March 9, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
  19. erin andrews perky breasts

    have any of you morons ever known a christian? they cuss just as much as everyone else theyfck just as much as everyone else they do everything that the bible says NOT to do. good thing is? Sunday is coming up and all is forgiven! what a great religion!!

    March 9, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
    • GauisCaesar

      You mean Catholics? Protestant Christians try very hard not to do those things listed in the Bible. Remember, that's why you liberals hate them? Now, you are saying they do all of this?

      March 9, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest


      Blanket statements with politically charged words like that only lower the expectation of you saying anything that would contribute to a conversation.

      March 9, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
    • GauisCaesar

      WOW! You seem to haev the uncanny ability to put blinders on! Here, in this example, the original apost completely stereotypes Christianity and is extremely inflammatory...but you IGNORE that and go directly to my response. Honestly, I don't think (in your world) the conversation can be advanced unless it is completely tilted to your side. That isn't a conversation!

      March 9, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      The original post was just as bad, however in my own experience the most recent person to post in a thread is much more likely to be there looking at the post. I don't tend to adress any posts more than 15 minutes past simply because the chance of the person still looking at it is greatly diminished.

      March 9, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      I also noticed you in previous threads, and didn't see the original poster, so I concluded you would most likely still be around.

      March 9, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
    • GauisCaesar

      Yep hawaii, I'm still here. I also replied to your comment about stalin being influenced by Lenin. The point is you would say Stalin had a wrong view of atheism (or in establishing it), but yet the atheist community is quick to consider anything ANY Christian does as being a representative of the [cruel] Christianity. My point, that makes one a hypocrite.

      March 9, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest


      I think you're taking the words "atheist community" in the wrong light. We do not have a central organization, and the views of the individual only reflect that individual. Personally I do not see the worst of Christianity as the norm, and my earlier post was putting Stalin and Hitler in the same place. That being that they were not indicative of the world views they proclaimed to espouse.

      March 9, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
    • GauisCaesar

      Hawii: I can agree with that, and I understand there is no central atheism organization. It just makes atheism seem more like rebellion when they use trite and ridiculous excuses for the evil of Christianity with lines like most wars are fought over religion (that is the funniest, because you can look up wars and see that this line is uneducated). And there usually isn't any conversation with these people either, because they dont debate you, they try to instead insult you.

      March 9, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      The whole "most wars are done in the name of religion" is a very big stretch there's no doubt about that. Look at Greek, Roman, and Persian wars. These wars were fought for power mostly. Some wars in history have been done in the name of religion though, there is no getting around that. To say that it is a majority would be a bit of a stretch I think.

      March 9, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
    • Nicholas McGuire

      A true Christian strives to do good, strives to help others and strives to live a life of love. Please don't make fun of my belief b/c of what you might have seen others do. Sunday is not the ONLY day when one should do good...obviously. I know I'm not perfect, understanding that I'v done so much wrong in my life...I'v even wondered about whether or not I would be forgiven b/c of what I'v done, and I guess I could say that I realize what sin is. "Sin" is seen to be an action that brings us away from love...away from grace and away purity. I have felt the effect of falling into sin, and I assure you that truly following Christ is beautiful! If you see people who use Christ's name while judging and being mean to others, please realize that "being a committed follower" actually involves loving one another, treating people kindly and forgiving those who have hurt us. I hope your realize the point I'm trying to make. Peace to you.

      March 9, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
    • Ashrakay

      @GauisCaesar, If I can jump in here, and I've posted this previously, non-atheists tend to see atheism as a rejection of something. Therefore to them it seems "rebellious" or an act of faith. In reality, term atheist refers to those that accept reality as IS and do not wish to add to it with something that has no evidence to be supported or may make us feel better in some way. It simply is the acceptance of the ISness of something outside of the imagination. Clearly people who believe in some other reality, see this as a rejection of their reality. But that is only personalizing a non-personal expression of acceptance of fact over fiction.

      March 9, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest


      I think that using "fact or fiction" may be the wrong choic of words. It is more the observable over the unobservable.

      March 9, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
    • Ashrakay

      @HawaiiGuest, Agree. My perspective was more from the collective consensus of an end result, but yeah, your point is well taken.

      March 9, 2012 at 7:22 pm |
    • Ken Oberman


      WRONG. You're in an idiot.

      March 10, 2012 at 5:13 am |
  20. Richard Aberdeen

    If they wanted to make a good film, Christians would forget about Christianity and instead, start telling people the truth about Jesus, who is obviously the founder of human rights and the most liberal person, by far, in all of human history. We sinners get tired of this same old song and dance about updating Christianity, as if it remotely represents Jesus or anything about Jesus. According to the Bible, the "sinners and common people" loved being around Jesus. How many people who watch Saturday Night Live, Leno and Letterman embrace Christianity today? Well, that ought to tell you something.

    March 9, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
    • Dan

      Sounds like you should see this film, Richard. If it's anything like the book, it sounds like it's right up your alley.

      March 9, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.