An astonishing new DVD documentary features the stories of several Americans whose lives were miraculously changed through seeing Mel Gibson’s blockbuster “The Passion of the Christ.”

“Changed Lives: Miracles of the Passion” chronicles extraordinary events in the lives of ordinary Americans – “true stories of people who have been radically and miraculously altered by God, as a result of having seen” the Gibson film, says the program’s executive producer, Jody Eldred.

Eldred, a Christian, has been involved in television and movies for over two decades, serving as a freelance director, producer and cameraman for ABC, CBS and many other networks.

Over the years, he’s worked on hundreds of documentaries, but none, Eldred says, as significant or impacting as “Miracles of the Passion.”

Eldred says he first got the idea for chronicling stories linked to Gibson’s film in January, before “The Passion of the Christ” was even released.

He first heard about miracles surrounding people who worked on the production of Gibson’s film – for instance, two cast members being struck by lightning, but walking away uninjured – as he sat in a church event for men. He was struck with an idea, took a small piece of paper from the pew and wrote, “TV doc about changed lives.” That note was the humble beginning of his inspiring film project.

After seeing “The Passion of the Christ,” Eldred was convinced there would be a multitude of stories from people touched by the movie.

“From the moment I wrote the idea down on that scrap of paper, there was never a moment I though I shouldn’t do this documentary,” Eldred told WND.

He began by using high-definition night-vision equipment to film people watching “The Passion of the Christ.”

Jody Eldred

“I knew if people saw other people’s faces watching the film they’d want to come check it out,” Eldred said. The unusual footage of moviegoers is sprinkled throughout “Miracles of the Passion.”

Eldred then made a trailer and showed it to executives from Gibson’s Icon Productions, who were enthusiastic and supportive of the project.

“Stories started pouring in” from moviegoers, the producer explained. “In a very short period of time, I was aware of 70,000 stories of people whose lives had been touched in various ways.”

Eldred then pursued many of the accounts, putting an emphasis on making sure stories were verifiable before going forward.

“This wasn’t journalism, but we were going to act that same way,” he said. “We had to fact-check everything and multiple-source everything to make sure it was real.”

He says there were “Passion” stories reported in the media that were not verifiable, so they were rejected by his production team.

‘Miracles’ behind bars

Besides having been aired on Pax TV and TBN, “Miracles of the Passion” has been shown in federal prisons, Eldred told WND. Because the film includes some stories of criminals who were changed by Gibson’s movie, inmates, he says, are responding positively to his work, wanting to talk about God.

“That gives me great joy,” he said. “I send e-mails [about prison showings] to people I worked with on the project and say, ‘Guys, this is why we did this.'” Nearly all his team members are Christians, he said.

“This film was one of those rare things in my life that God said, ‘Go do this and don’t worry about the results,'” Eldred explained. “And it was really, really hard and scary and tiresome and financially depleting. … But to know that it’s doing something in people’s lives makes it all worthwhile. … It’s moving people toward the truth of Jesus.”

Eldred told WND the story of a woman who had tried to get her 16-year-old daughter to see “The Passion of the Christ” without success. The girl did, however, watch “Miracles of the Passion” on television and afterward wanted to go see the Gibson film. Subsequent to watching “The Passion,” the teenager “committed her life to the Lord,” Eldred explained, and began talking to her friends about Christ.

Jim Caviezel portrays Jesus in ‘The Passion of The Christ’ (courtesy Icon Distribution)

He says a main purpose of his project is to get people who haven’t seen Gibson’s movie to go experience it for themselves. For those who have seen it, he says, “I want the DVD to be used as a tool to show to other people.”

Reconciliation – with God and man

The stories included in the documentary range from the tale of violent coworkers who were reconciled to a baby who came back to life after drowning in a bathtub.

Also featured are two stories of men who came to faith in Christ after viewing “The Passion of the Christ.”

Dan Goldberg had no use for God before seeing Gibson’s film.

“The move affected me beyond comprehension,” Goldberg relates in the film. “Here I was, this guy who came from being an atheist, being a drug addict, being unstructured, not being able to say the word ‘Jesus Christ’ two years ago, being somebody who was so incredibly lost, sitting in a movie theater and finding Jesus Christ. … I cried like a baby.”

In another story, the violent relationship between coworkers in the panhandle of Texas changed dramatically after seeing “The Passion.” A younger man had assaulted a supervisor, sending him to the hospital with a broken jaw.

After the victim, James, and the assailant’s brother, Alex, watched the Gibson movie – at the same showing but sitting apart – Alex sought out James in the parking lot.

On the DVD, James describes the adversaries’ confrontation after having seen “The Passion”: “Alex came up from behind me; I was apprehensive. Then, as he held out his hand, I saw that he was crying. He said how sorry he was again and again.”

Responds Alex: “I said, ‘I just want to make peace with you.’ I shook his hand and hugged him. About that time I started crying real bad. I just told him, ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry’ several times.”

The assailant, Anthony, also was touched by the film and later reconciled with James, saying, “I don’t fight no more. … The movie touched me in so many ways.”

Eldred’s film has received positive response in the secular media, including a piece on ABC’s “Good Morning America” with Diane Sawyer.

After the ABC appearance, Eldred appeared on MSNBC’s “Scarborough Country” and other programs.

Eldred compares “Miracles of the Passion” to “Saving Private Ryan,” saying each film shows exactly the kind of extreme suffering that had to occur to bring victory – in one case victory in war, and in the other victory over death.

Says Eldred: “Whoever you are, wherever you are, God can reach into your circumstances and make everything new. All it takes is giving Him a chance to do it.

“Just be prepared to be surprised at what he does.”

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