LITTLE HOPE WAS ARSON—which reportedly drew standing-room-only crowds at film festivals—has now unveiled its trailer. “Little Hope Was Arson” weaves thought-provoking questions throughout a gripping true-crime drama, in which communities are challenged, families brought to crisis and, ultimately, redemption sought. Distribution company, The Orchard, and production companies theCollaborate and Goodnight Smoke, will debut the film—part detective story, part faith film—on November 21 in New York, and November 23, in the heart of East Texas where the story unfolded.
On November 28, the film’s release will spread to Los Angeles, and a number of other cities, including several in Texas. LITTLE HOPE WAS ARSON tells the 2010 story of ten East Texas churches set ablaze in one month, sparking the largest manhunt in regional history. But once the crime was solved, the real mystery began. What drove two young men to do it? What effect did it have on their families and the churches? And when a church loses its building… can it still stand?
“Little Hope Was Arson” is a feature-length documentary that tells the amazing true story of two boys with dark secrets, and the community struggling to forgive them. The film paints a fascinating portrait of the American Bible Belt set against the backdrop of a thrilling crime investigation. No stone is left unturned and even Satan himself is considered a suspect in this gripping investigation of a community terrorized from the inside out.
“From the moment I read about these fires, I knew there was a redemptive story that could rise from these violent and tragic acts,” said Theo Love, the film’s director. “When churches and families face such loss—of property and relationships—it can turn attention to what really matters.”
Produced by Trenton Waterson of theCollaborate and Love of Goodnight Smoke, LITTLE HOPE WAS ARSON was executive produced by Bryan Storkel.
PBS’ Independent Lens, with U.S. broadcast rights, will air the feature-length documentary during its 2014-15 season. Film and music distributor, The Orchard, acquired U.S. and Canadian rights other than broadcast and will release the film in theaters in multiple markets and through digital outlets.
Love—the child of foreign missionaries—was particularly attracted to the story as he was raised worshipping overseas most often without the benefit of a church building. Returned to the states, he worked in building maintenance for a California mega-church.
“It was a huge sanctuary, and I often worked in it alone at night,” Love recalls. “It really made me consider the values of Western Christianity. Was that the church? Or is it the people? It was these experiences and questions that helped me to dig deeper into this heartbreaking story.”
East Texas, affectionately referred to by locals as “the Buckle of the Bible Belt,” is home to over 1,400 churches. Every aspect of life is centered on these houses of worship.
On January 1, 2010, Little Hope Baptist Church burned to the ground. Fire officials concluded the fire was caused by an electrical problem in the century-old church’s wiring. But when nine more churches went up in flames, the rural communities of East Texas feared for the worst. With the clues beginning to point towards arson, hundreds of local law enforcement, Texas Rangers, and ATF investigators scoured the area in what unraveled to be the largest criminal investigation in East Texas history. The high profile case soon took a more personal turn when Texas Rangers followed a young man named Jason Bourque to a local store. Moments later, a janitor found scratched in the store’s bathroom the words, “Little Hope Was Arson.” Jason Bourque (19) and his best friend, Daniel McAllister (21), who were both members of a local Baptist church, were now the primary suspects.
Lead investigators Sgt. Brent Davis and Special Agent Larry Smith contacted the dispatch center to run a basic background check on the new suspects. With several hundred officers investigating the crimes that spread into three counties, the dispatch center played a pivotal role in the processing and organizing of information. Christy McAllister was the DPS Dispatcher who answered this particular call from the investigators. Her world was shattered as she heard the names of the suspects: her brother and his best friend.
Jason and Daniel first met in Sunday school as children. Children’s pastor, James Ellis, watched as these two young men went from a deep faith in God in his church classroom every Sunday, to one day seeing their mug shots on the news, arrested for the heinous crimes of burning churches. His forgiveness for them came easily; his forgiveness of himself would become an ongoing process.
Once the arrests had been made, the entire community now wrestled with practicing the forgiveness that they preached. While many were vocal in their forgiveness, others were filled with hatred toward the boys. The trial and subsequent multiple-life sentences dolled out on Jason and Daniel painted a true picture of how the community felt about these boys. Not one person was killed or seriously injured during the fires, and yet both were handed extreme sentences normally reserved for violent crimes.