What’s a director to do when the very subjects of the story being told refuse the spotlight? In Gregg Champion’s case, you proceed very carefully. When the television network Lifetime approached Champion to visualize the famed news story of the fatal shooting of five Amish schoolgirls in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania, the director said he knew it was a difficult assignment. He also knew how powerful the story of forgiveness could be. Instead of taking advantage of the media hype and creating a sensationalized event, Champion and his staff turned in Amish Grace, a story sensitive to the Amish population while staying true to the events after the tragedy. “What drew me to this project was the story itself,” says Champion. “When I got the script, I was amazed at how they had been able to take this horrific event and really focus mostly on the aftermath rather than the event itself. Having small children, a 12- and 13-year-old, it really affected me as a parent how someone could transcend the tragedy through forgiveness. When I read it, I responded to it because the material was so powerful.” The limited time frame and a cast of 40 that included several children and animals on set provided several challenges. Still, Champion says the main task was to honor the Amish and not take advantage of the curiosity or mystery surrounding their lifestyle. “I really wanted to respect the Amish,” he says. “They’re an interesting people because they live so separately from modern society. They don’t drive cars. They don’t have the Internet. They go without electricity. It’s the way that they worship and the way they work together. They don’t believe in war. So I felt this huge responsibility to them. I’m not able to interview them since they shy away from publicity. They’re a simple people, so they don’t want to be exploited in any way. So I wanted to really honor the spirit of what they are able to do and the philosophy they’re able to live by.” By focusing on the events that transpired after the shooting and displaying the gracious response of the victim’s families, Champion said that the record-setting viewing audience on Lifetime’s original showing flooded him with responses—many of which told their own moving stories of forgiveness. “One of the stories that really affected me even after being flooded by emails and letters from all over the place was from a woman who lost a child at 42 weeks,” explains Champion. “It had happened a couple of years ago and she’d been living with this anger and she’d blamed her doctor. After seeing the movie, she called the doctor and made an appointment. She went in and forgave her and she said it lifted a burden and changed her life. I just found myself so moved by that letter and the forgiveness there.” — Matt Conner For more information on Amish Grace, check out www.mylifetime.com/movies/amish- grace.com. Matt Conner is a music writer for the Indianapolis Star, HM, Relevant and Metromix and the founding editor of StereoSubversion.com. CCM 55