FRANKLIN, Tenn. (Christian Examiner) – The husband-and-wife music duo Joey+Rory gained millions of fans during their fast climb up the country charts, and then millions more followers when Rory Feek launched a blog to document his wife's battle with cervical cancer.
She died in March of this year at the age of 40, but on Tuesday, Sept. 20, country music fans and moviegoers will get a chance to relive her life and follow the couple's final months together when To Joey, With Love hits theaters in a special one-night event. An encore will take place Oct. 6.
The documentary/film spotlights the incredible journey of Rory and Joey Feek, from their winning the 2010 Academy of Country Music Top New Vocal Duo, to their decision to take one year off to homestead and live off the land, to the birth of their daughter, to Joey's final months when she was frail but still found strength to record an album of their favorite hymns – while sitting in a hospital room. Throughout it all, their Christian faith gave them the strength to endure.
Although some observers might call the film a tragic story, Rory prefers to call it an "incredible gift." It includes a significant amount of footage that was recorded by Rory himself – before and after the cancer diagnosis.
"It is sort-of a cross between a 'found footage' film and a home movie," Rory Feek told the Christian Examiner during a recent e-mail interview. "... My hope is that it's a blessing to others the way that it's a blessing to me and my children."
CE asked Rory Feek about his wife, the film and their daughter. Following is the transcript:
Christian Examiner: You and Joey filmed lots of private moments before and after the birth of Indiana. [Indiana was born prior to the cancer diagnosis.] Were you planning on releasing a documentary about your one year off? In other words, why film so much?
Rory Feek: We had no plans of what we would do with the footage. We just felt called to capture it on film as life was happening. As time went on and the story we were living began unfolding differently than what we had expected, Joey and I began to believe that what we were filming may turn into something more important than just a documentary or film about simplifying our lives and living off the land here at our farm. It had always been my nature to capture important moments as they were happening in our family, but during that two-and-a-half years, I felt God's nudge to film a lot of the everyday, average moments, too.
CE: At what point in the past year did you decide to release a film about Joey? Was it a tough decision, knowing it would mean re-living many difficult moments?
Feek: I started really looking at the footage a few weeks after Joey's funeral service here at the farm. The past five months had been such a difficult and beautiful experience for Joey that it had become all I could remember of her. Once I started going through and watching what we had filmed, I once again saw my wife come back to life and it changed everything for me. About a month after that, in a conversation with our manager, Aaron, and our friend Ben Howard from Provident Films, we decided that it might make an incredible film, and even more so for me ... an incredible gift for my wife and children and all the friends and fans who loved her, and still love her.
CE: How many days did it take you to make this? I am curious because it is it is incredibly well-done.
Feek: We made a decision to turn it into a film in probably early April and we finished it just a few weeks ago ... mid-August. So it took about four months to edit and bring the story to life.
CE: Some people would call this a tragic story/film. Of course, it also is filled with hope. How would you label it?
Feek: I would call it an incredible gift. It is sort-of a cross between a "found footage" film and a home movie. It cost almost nothing to make, dollar wise ... but the story that is told cost everything that one woman could give. My hope is that it's a blessing to others the way that it's a blessing to me and my children.
CE: How do you want people to remember Joey?
Feek: As the extraordinary, ordinary woman that she was.
CE: What spiritual lessons or even life lessons do you want audiences carrying away?
Feek: I can't say what I hope others take away from the film. I can only tell you what I take from it. That even when things aren't okay, they're still going to be okay. That as long as faith is alive, hope never dies. That the little things matter. That every single day we have with the people we love is a gift. And that love lives on. At least Joey's love does...
CE: Many have received inspiration learning about you and Indiana [who is now 2]. What do you want people to learn about families who have a child with Down syndrome, or even about children with Down syndrome?
Feek: Again, I can only speak about our child. I can tell you that Indiana's a beautiful, incredible gift from God ... and not a mistake. That she is the child that God chose for us, and that makes her perfect. And that I go to bed thanking Him and wake up thanking Him for her, for Joey, for today, and for right now.