By Tab Olsen
Most people have heard of King Arthur, but how many know who he really was? According to medieval histories and romances, Arthur was a legendary British leader who led the defense of Britain against Saxon invaders. Farms and villages on the coast of Britain were indeed raided and destroyed by merciless Saxon marauders. However, the details of Arthur’s life are mainly comprised of folklore and literary invention; the themes, events, and characters vary widely from text to text. Some modern historians even dispute Arthur’s actual existence. The origin of the Welsh name Arthur remains a matter of debate also. But it’s very likely that Arthur was a Christian, and his victories against the heathen barbarians succeeded in spreading the cause of Christianity in Britain.
Pendragon: Sword of His Father is an action film set in Britain’s Dark Ages and based on the Arthurian legend. It was written and produced by Burns Family Studios, which is comprised of two Christian homeschool families – nine cousins and their parents. The Burns Family spent three years making this movie. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first saw it, but I was amazed at the quality and detail. It looked like The Lord of the Rings!
I think it’s awesome that homeschoolers took it upon themselves to make a historically accurate Arthurian film. Interestingly, besides portraying Arthur as a Christian, in this movie Merlin is a lone monk instead of a wizard. Pendragon must be the first independent Christian film of its kind ever attempted. It’s complete with detailed period sets, historic costumes, sword fights, battles, flames, interesting storyline, excellent cinematography, professional-sounding music score, and great special effects. Quite impressive, especially considering that these are amateur film makers and not a professional Hollywood production! Pendragon raised the bar of Christian filmmaking and set a fine example for others to follow.
Pendragon begins in the year A.D. 411 as Roman Legions depart the Isle of Britain. The people are left to defend themselves against Saxon barbarians who were coming in pillaging and plundering the British towns. Artos Pendragon lives in a coastal village with his parents and sister. Artos’ father teaches him that God has a purpose for his life – but all seems lost when Saxon raiders burn the village, murder his father, and take Artos prisoner. When Artos escapes to join the army of King Ambrosius, who is also fighting the Saxons, Artos wins favor in the sight of the king… and his daughter. Soon Artos discovers that following God’s calling to drive the Saxons out of Britain will require him to choose between the girl he loves and the people he is called to defend.
The Burns family’s adventure into filmmaking started when their youngest son, Peter, then eight, decided to make a film about the history of manned flight. Filmmaking has since become a major part of the Burns family’s life, and literally the whole family contributes to the making of a Burns Family film. Pendragon was produced by Andrew and Raymond Burns, directed by Chad Burns, and edited by Nick Burns. All of the costumes were meticulously designed by Shannon and Marilyn Burns. The original music score was created by Aaron and Marilyn Burns. The movie stars Aaron Burns, Marilyn Burns, and Nick Burns. While they all did a good job, Nick Burns as the villain Caderyn gave the best acting performance in my opinion. He perfectly fit the part of the classic bad guy!
Being a small company, Burns Family Studios rely heavily on volunteers. They were blessed with hundreds of people from all over the country offering their time as crew members, camera operators, set builders, choreographers, stunt men, horsemen, and extras. In addition, they had a large team of artists working on the sound, music, and visual effects. The Burns Family themselves put in hundreds of man-hours editing the film – at a rate of 8 hours of work for each minute of film! The production quality, considering they spent only around $50,000 on the film, is awesome for a low budget picture.
Pendragon was filmed in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, and two other nearby states. It obviously required an incredible amount of coordinating, logistics, and planning. They constructed a town populated with peasants, soldiers, and livestock. The invasion scene included authentic-looking weapons, catapults, flaming arrows, battering rams, and a burning village. They transformed a hundred acre property into a battle field with horses and troops. A basement was turned into a stone jail cell. They filmed indoors, outdoors, in the snow, in the woods, and in the mud. They worked really hard to get everything just right, often shooting all night until dawn!
Besides being a great action film featuring virtuous men and women, the Burns family thoughtfully put wholesome Christian values into the movie. The words Lord, God, Jesus, and Christ are all used in reverence. Although there is historical violence, the scenes are not graphic. The movie is filled with positive messages and true Christian beliefs. Pendragon is an epic story of courage, vision, and sacrifice that will inspire viewers to stand tall and shoulder the tasks God has given them as they follow God’s vision for their lives.
The Pendragon DVD came out in December 2008. Recommended for ages 12 and over, it’s sure to become a family favorite. If you enjoy Christian movies, adventure stories, or medieval themes, you will want to get this movie. The soundtrack is awesome too, I loved their original score.
P.S. Watch for the upcoming feature film from Burns Family Studios! Directed by Chad Burns and starring John Rhys-Davies, Beyond the Mask is a Christian action-adventure romance film set during the international turmoil of the Revolutionary War. This one is coming to theaters on April 6th! Visit BeyondTheMaskMovie.com for info.