Joe Camp, the successful independent film producer-director and screenwriter who brought the lovable dog-hero Benji to the big screen, is concerned about the decline of values in the movie industry. That's why he's urging Christians to boycott Sunday's broadcast of the Academy Awards.
More than 30 years ago, Camp released the movie "Benji," the tale of a stray dog whose plucky canine ingenuity helps rescue two kidnapped children and bring them safely home. The film starred an expressive little mutt (who was rescued himself from an animal shelter) with the personality to portray the positive values embodied by the character Camp had created. "Benji" was the first in a sort of dog movie dynasty, which saw several popular film and television sequels.

As a Christian, Joe Camp believes in bringing his faith and values into his films. While his "Benji" movies are not explicitly about Jesus Christ, the filmmaker notes that "He has been in it from the beginning, and the film embodies Christ's teachings – love, hope, perseverance, and putting others before yourself."

Another movie that depicts those values even more directly is one "Benji"'s creator regards with great admiration:  "The Passion of the Christ." He feels producer-director Mel Gibson's movie about the crucifixion of Jesus has proven the power of the individual, with uncompromising vision and beauty, as few other films before it have done -- and, lest anyone forget, it was a box office blockbuster to boot.

Shame on Oscar for Shunning Mel

That is why Camp is irate over the way the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has snubbed "The Passion." He says he is upset that this major film achievement was not nominated for the year's "Best Picture" Oscar, and he also thinks Jim Caviezel, who played the part of Jesus in Gibson's film, should have been nominated for "Best Actor."

Camp feels believers should stage a protest over the Academy's slight of "The Passion of the Christ." "I would like to see all the Christian people who went out and spent money and made it one of the top-grossing pictures of all time not watch the Academy Awards, just because of that," he says.

"This is the way you make a difference in this country," the pro-family filmmaker explains. He points out that many American corporations have learned from experience that it is not good business to ignore something that millions of people believe in and are willing to support. For that reason, he says, Christians should contact ABC and let the network know why they will not be tuning in on Sunday night.

Camp is convinced that that those who appreciate Gibson's and Caviezel's work -- and who share the values exemplified in "The Passion" – could send the Academy, the ABC network, and the entire entertainment industry an important message, if they would simply vote with their remote controls and boycott the Oscars. "It's hard. It's difficult to practice what you preach," he acknowledges, "but this is what you've got to do. If you believe it, you've got to do it."

Joe Camp's Benji - Off the Leash and Now on DVD

Camp, too, has had to make some hard choices to attain the popularity and success he has as an independent filmmaker without lowering the bar of the standards he set with the first "Benji" motion picture more than three decades ago. But when he hears from admiring fans of all ages and from grateful parents who appreciate the high caliber of entertainment he has provided, the pro-family producer is assured that those tough choices were the right ones.