Walter Wangerin Jr. wrote a heart felt short story in 1984 that took the world by storm. It moved youth to understand what Christ did for their generation. The essence of the story helped thousands to comprehend, for the first time, the sacrifice that Christ made to bring healing into their lives, if they were willing.
Great literary works of this kind seldom translate well to the screen, yet Director Dale Ward took on the challenge with his 2009 film version. While the film doesn’t stir the emotions as powerfully as Wangerin’s written work, it’s a close rendition of what was written. For those not having ever seen one of the Ragman films, I recommend you share Ward’s work with your family and take advantage of his study guide. Or at least get a copy of the book.
Ward is an Emmy award winner in his own right, so it wasn’t surprising to learn that the film was a finalist in several film festivals. It won Best Faith-Based Film at the Cape Fear Film Festival and was a Taffy Award Winner at the Reno Film Festival. I attribute most of this success to the production team starting with a great story from a National Book Award recipient.
The greatest problems facing the translation work of taking a great piece of literature to the screen, is deciding if it’s important to move the audience emotionally in the same way as the story, or keep the story intact. No, it’s not possible to do both – They are two different types of media.
Wangerin’s literary work is based on the journey of the reader’s heart. Film’s are based on the journey of the protagonist. Books allow the reader to envision the characters from their own perspective, based on personal experiences, making the story far richer than anyone could expect. A film is limited to the director’s perspective, which might be extremely rich or not, depending on the level of risk he takes in making it for the screen.
A good example of this can be found in Ragman. The director chose to work with a lot of long shots, while my heart desired to move in close and get to know each character’s plight and what was behind it. I needed to feel and understand each person’s pain, but I was limited to gain just enough insights for the climax of the film to work. The original short story, thanks to Wangerin’s craftsmanship and my creativity, gave me far more to work with – Creating an incredible heart changing experience in my own life.
However, Ward did a good job in his depiction of the story and it’s worth watching, especially if you haven’t ever been touched by the story in any of its forms. The film is 18 minutes in length and can be found on Amazon.