Faith and Film

8 11 2010

I’ve been meaning to link to a few articles on faith and film… I was spurred to action this morning by seeing the first post from a fellow Newfrontiers blogger.

Read, digest, feed back.

  • Why are Christian movies so bad? (via The Simple Pastor)
  • The Independent asked the question a few weeks ago: Can the Movies Do God? I was particularly provoked by the final paragraph. If Muslims start producing faith-based films that recommend good values, would I be willing to endorse them?
  • The Telegraph beat them to it with an article a few weeks earlier on the way films are tailored to a Christian audience, and the increasing use of film clips in churches
  • The Guardian ran an article earlier this year on the return of religious themed films, saying “Biblical themes have only ever been one global crisis away”
  • I found this interview with Michael Flaherty from Walden Media fascinating! A great discussion on the Narnia films and the forthcoming Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Very insightful and interesting. (Though I must admit I didn’t enjoy the films one bit, I appreciate very much their aims and ideals. These guys are doing it far better than most!)
  • And there was the recent saga of the demise and revival of the Blue Like Jazz film project through crowd-sourced funding. Whilst in general I have infinitesimally low hopes for Christian film, I have high hopes for this one. The book was outstanding and fresh, and I think this could be an interesting, real, positive, but not-saccharin big screen portrayal of evangelical Christianity

So, a few questions:

  • Have you ever seen a good Christian film?
  • Should we even be making ‘Christian films’?
  • (Maybe you want to step back one stage and ask what differentiates a Christian film from a film made by Christians? Sure, be my guest.)
  • Why do Christians flock to see sub-par films irrespective of personal taste just because they were made by a believer?
  • Is there danger that the Christian sub-culture of low quality, cringe-worthy movies discredits those believers who are trying to make it in the secular world?

Oh… and while we’re on the subject of Christian subculture, I received this email the other day. Somehow it avoided my spam filter!! Take a look, see what you think.  Then check out this article from the BBC Website in 2006. I shall resist commenting further for fear of saying something for which I will later need to repent…

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6 responses

8 11 2010
Liz B

I’m so glad you pointed out the elephant in the room of Christian film/subculture. Painful.

I took a class called Practical Theology a while back and we had a lot of discussions around faith and film. (It didn’t hurt that the professors co-wrote a book on the topic.) Basically we talked a lot around the idea of who God is. To oversimplify, we concluded that while fallen, man is made in God’s image so we can learn something about God or man’s relationship with God from any quality film. (Quality being the caveat, we weren’t necessarily looking for meaning from Harold and Kumar.) Therefor, it isn’t necessary for a film to be based on an exact scripture if it tells a great story. Besides, let’s be honest, there are parts of the Bible that I would definitely not want to see if they were made into films.

We were also approaching this from the angle of Christian censorship and how much, if at all, a Christian should censor popular culture. This is a different can of worms but I would say that I have personally chosen to censor bad Christian films because I find I become frustrated, annoyed, judgmental, and a few other things I’d rather not be. However, I find that I get excited, introspective, thoughtful, and more interested in finding God in films that tell a great story of either redemption, good relationships, heartache, joy, or honesty. (Is it obvious I’m a Don Miller/Blue Like Jazz fan?)

8 11 2010
timsimmonds

I am not even sure I know what a Christian Film is? Is it Christian because of how it’s funded or because those involved have faith OR because of the message?

I am sure that many films with a Christian message are produced, directed and acted in by Non Christians. That isn’t a bad thing, I am just wondering at what point it all gets defined as Christian?

9 11 2010
Joey

So I’ve read a few of the articles listed above… I quite enjoyed the one written by the Simple Pastor, the newspaper ones less, because of their style and because they focus on the financial aspect of it.

I must say, I have actually watched a couple of Christian movies these past two years and have thoroughly enjoyed them. The cringe-worthiness of the idea of watching a movie made by Christians, with only Christians in them and made for Christians really kept me back, but while I was staying at my bro’s a couple years back, I watched Facing the Giants. It is SOOOOO cheesy! The scripting is very basic from the beginning, and it doesn’t help that it’s set in Georgia (US, not USSR), with everyone having ridiculously strong accents and on top of that, in a Christian school. However, as the movie unfolded, I started really getting into it, and ever cried because of the realism of one scene. I was really impressed. It turned out to be better scripted than I had first judged it to be.
More recently, I watched To Save a Life. That one is really good. It is NOT, as the newspaper article says, about a guy who “finds comfort in religion when his best friend dies”, but actually, it is an intelligent look at teenager relationships and the issues of self-harm and suicide. The guy becomes a Christian because he starts asking questions about life and death and he is clearly drawn to a life of meaning, even though he’s the most popular guy in school. The movie was intended to sensitise teens to the issues in the movie.

So I guess there must be a place for Christian movies, as there can also be a place for Christian music, though quite often, both are really bad.

Nonetheless, I am far more interested in the idea of making movies that are soaked in biblical truth and that are gospel dramas done well, but which are mainstream, just as I’m far more excited about Christians playing in mainstream bands. The expectations are higher the mainstream entertainment and therefore, scripts, acting, storylines and photography can only be better. The focus is more on the story than on its underlying message.

I have recently read Lewis’ The abolition of man. It’s phenomenal. It’s inspired Keller in his rebuttal to Nietzsche and inspired several of Dustin Kensrue’s songs (Thrice, best metal band out there today).

The point The Simple Pastor makes about sacramental streams being more sense-conscious is a good one. However, I think it is not good enough. The sacramental traditions have left us with too much crap, for them to get to redeem themselves with artistic excellence. That was what led to so many distortions. What we need is to go not back, but beyond the level of evangelical precision and white-stuck-upness, to a place where, knowing the Scriptures inside out, we can delve into the imagination God has given us, the culture that surrounds us, and our true emotions, unabated by self-submission yet undefiled by the flesh, and come out the other side with glorious melodies, beautiful fairytales, defiant messages which do more than inform of our beliefs: they touch the hearts of believer and unbeliever alike and cause them to seek truth, meaning, redemption, forgiveness and beauty, far more than if they watched a film or listened to a song inspired by political tendencies, sinful agendas and distorted views of reality…

Err, but that’s just my two cents thrown in there, I don’t know if it even all makes sense…

10 11 2010
Stevie D

To add to the mix, Scott Derrickson ( http://twitter.com/scottderrickson ) is a Christian on the “inside” of Hollywood – somewhat controversially for some folk (he made Hellraiser 5 which is a better-made character study than the others in the series, and I can see what he was doing), but has also made The Day The Earth Stood Still with Keanu Reeves, which was Hollywood with high-end qualities and a valid message. Not perfect, but not cheesy either!

And of course, Stu Hazeldine (Exam) – http://twitter.com/stuarthazeldine – is working from the “inside out” too.

I’d suggest that “Christian” films should generally be avoided – by the makers AND the punters. But as for affecting media/culture from the inside out? Ooh, sounds like an idea for a conference ( http://everything.newfrontiersuk.org )

26 11 2010
Anna Seabrook

My personal issue with Christian films is that many of them are neatly wrapped up, with no hint that there could be on going struggles or issues for those who have faith and I think that is something that people cannot relate to.
I’ve had some really good conversations about faith post-film but only after a well made film that has really incited someone to question, agree with or debate… and rarely after a ‘Christian film’. Two particular films that I remember talking long into the night after are ‘Fight Club’ and Scynedoche, New York’, both films I can’t imagine seeing on a ‘church recommended screening’ list but both films that dealt with questioning the point of life and what motivates someones actions.
The protagonist in both fims is searching for meaning in his own circumstances and in ‘Scynecdoche..’ especially, the bleakness of getting to the end of his life without having really found any answers is so upsetting. However it also opened up some interesting conversations about the answers found in Christianity and other faiths, whether those with faith ever feel like they’re still looking for answers and (just a casual banter) what we felt the point of life was ourselves!

I’m also reminded of something Steve Chalke writes in ‘The Lost Message Of Jesus’ about John Diamond who wrote the book ‘C’ about his cancer struggle. Chalke writes that Diamond recieved tens of letters from Christians about scriptures, guides on how he could save his soul and saying they were praying for him but the only one he responded to was one asking him how he was and what he thought about these issues first. We can get so caught up in having the right answers and wanting to share to Gospel that we can forget to listen to the thoughts and already exisiting opinions of those who are on the edge of belief in something, are agnosotic or athiest or just not sure. If a film touches someone enough to ask questions of their own I think it can be of value so that may be from watching a ‘Christian film’ or not but perhaps those who are wary of subversive influences in film and so stay away from the ‘mainstream’ need to just consider where and how we can reach those who are thinking through life’s issues and questions through the media and use them for God’s glory.

21 02 2011

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