December 31, 2018  (Web Review)

Billy Graham: An Extraordinary Journey

(2018) 72 min. DVD: $19.99. Virgil Films (avail. from most distributors). Closed captioned.

Reviewer rating: 2.5/4

Produced by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and introduced by Graham’s son Franklin, this is obviously an authorized—even quasi-hagiographic—portrait of the preacher who, due to the reach of his ministry and his outsized public persona (serving, for example, as counselor to a long line of presidents), came to be called the “nation’s pastor.” Combining archival materials, interviews (with family, friends, and staff members), and extensive excerpts from conversations with Graham himself, directors Vonda Harrell and Daniel Camenisch have constructed a highly laudatory portrait of Graham’s life, from his youth in North Carolina—during which he showed only marginal interest in religious matters—through his conversion experience at a revival meeting, followed by his education and long ministry up to his death at the age of 99 in 2018. The filmmakers place special emphasis on Graham’s courage in condemning racial bigotry when some of his listeners still embraced segregation, his traveling to the Soviet Union during the Cold War despite criticism, and his visits to disaster areas across the globe to provide consolation to victims (as well as his address at the Washington National Cathedral following 9/11). They also note the innovations that Graham introduced in using the media to expand the reach of his crusades. An Extraordinary Journey excludes any mention of criticisms leveled against Graham over the years, but it will appeal to those looking for an unreservedly positive portrait of a man who had an enormous impact on modern American religious history. Extras include footage from Graham’s funeral, his sermon “God Loves You,” and bonus featurettes. A strong optional purchase. Aud: C, P. (F. Swietek)