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David Cunningham: Filmmaker with a Mission

By Belinda Elliott Daily Life Producer - Film director David Cunningham loves to tell stories. And he has a wealth of experiences to draw from.

The son of Loren Cunningham, the founder of Youth with a Mission (YWAM), the young Cunningham grew up traveling around the world with his father visiting orphanages and refugee camps. The trips made quite an impression on him.

“I saw a lot of hardworking people, a lot of heroes out there doing some amazing things,” Cunningham said. “And what that did for me was really inspired me to try to use filmmaking in such a way that will also make a difference in some way.”

He began his career by making documentaries and then moved into the arena of independent films. His film To End All Wars caught the attention of Hollywood and provided a boost for his career.

The movie features Kiefer Sutherland and Robert Carlyle and tells the story of a group of POWs during WWII who began a secret university and Bible study while imprisoned. It explores the concept of forgiveness in the midst of suffering.

Last year Cunningham continued to tackle difficult subjects with his controversial television movie The Path to 9/11.

His latest project, The Seeker: The Dark Rising, is much lighter fare. It is based on a series of books by author Susan Cooper. The story features a young hero battling the forces of darkness.

The director said one of the reasons he was attracted to the project was because of the film’s positive message about the power of choices. The movie demonstrates that one’s choices “affect so many people way beyond the person who has made the choice,” Cunningham said.

He also appreciated how the film emphasized the importance of families.

“In a day where the family is constantly being torn apart, it’s a daily struggle to stay together as a family,” he said.

He knows a lot about the importance of quality family time. The father of three often takes his children with him when he is on the road filming. His one boy and two girls, ages 1, 4, and 7, spent several months with him in Calgary, and then several months in Toronto, before spending the winter with him in Romania to film The Seeker.

The director not only enjoys making a difference through his films, he also likes to get involved with the people he meets through his projects. While filming in Romania, Cunningham and his crew came across a group of people who were working with a local orphanage for disabled kids. They decided to throw a Christmas party for the children while they were there.

“Before we knew it we had three studios financing this, and there was a huge Christmas party put on at a sound stage there in Romania,” Cunningham said. “It was really great seeing the resources of Hollywood going to make a difference.”

Cunningham has also founded The Film Institute, an organization that provides scholarships and internship opportunities for filmmakers from developing countries who want to return to their countries to make a difference through film.

Does he find it difficult working in the film industry as a Christian? No more than in any other industry, he said.

“Whether you are working in Hollywood, or at a grocery store, or wherever you’re working,” Cunningham said, “I think there is certainly a challenge about being here and living out a life of faith.”

Read a review of the film.

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