A Conservative Thriller? 'Persecuted' Director Aims For Mainstream

ABC News
A Conservative Thriller? 'Persecuted' Director Aims For Mainstream
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A Conservative Thriller? 'Persecuted' Director Aims For Mainstream (ABC News)

The next D.C. political suspense movie isn't what you'd expect.

The forthcoming "Persecuted" is a lowbudget affair with some heavy political themes that appeal to conservatives and that its creator hopes will find a broader audience.

The thriller explores themes of government censorship, conspiracy theories, free speech, and religious faith in the face of government suppression. It features former Republican presidential candidate, senator, and "Law and Order" star Fred Thompson and Fox News host Gretchen Carlson - -which may give it, at first glance, a conservative flavor.

The film follows a fictional evangelical preacher framed for murder for refusing to support a bill concerning religion. It was screened in March at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in the D.C. area, where it appealed to the conservative audience.

But its creator and director, 30-year-old Daniel Lusko, says the themes of "Persecuted" are universal.

"Absolutely the film describes what's at stake when religious freedoms are compromised, and these are values that we hold, I think, no matter what side of the political aisle you're on," Lusko told ABC News in a recent phone interview. "I'm an independent. I don't stand on either aisle, but I certainly want this film to play for all people."

The son of an evangelical pastor, Lusko hails from Colorado Springs and said he has primarily made documentaries to this point. Previously, Lusko made a 2007 documentary entitled "Epicenter," about Middle East geopolitics, based on the 2006 book of the same name by Joel C. Rosenberg.

Lusko said he developed "Persecuted" from a dream he had five years ago about a "man running through the woods. He had been framed for murder and he was trying to prove the truth … he was an evangelist, standing up for what he believed was the truth-he was like a Billy Graham-and he had been framed by a Senate majority leader who was at the time a close colleague of his who was trying to pass this fictional legislation called the Faith and Fairness Act."

"Persecuted" was reportedly funded by Kansas venture capitalist Jerry Simmons, but that is a detail Lusko would not confirm, declining to discuss the film's backers. Simmons is listed, however, as an executive producer and Simmons told the Deseret News for a story in Feburary that he "loved the script - it's an avenue to reach a lot of people … I think this movie is going to be hugely successful."

While Thompson and Carlson may have identifiable politics, and while some of the film's producers may hold conservative ideologies, Luskowas wary that "Persecuted" would be seen as a partisan movie.

"I want it to be more mainstream than it actually is," Lusko said. He noted that the film "addresses the vulnerabilities both of the political world, but also of the religious world," as the plot involves corruption and betrayal within the protagonist's evangelical organization.

Lusko acknowledged that conservatives' concern about censorship and government overreach may help his ticket sales.

"It helps sell the movie more that there are conservatives that are really worried about their freedoms, but once you actually watch the content of the movie … you'll see that it deals with the potential institutional corruption in religious institutions as well, so it is really a more balanced experience," Lusko said.

In addition to other premieres across the country, "Persecuted" will premiere in New York on Friday at the Academy Theater at Lighthouse International.

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