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Christian Filmmaking

The folks at the A-Team blog have posted this on the subtleties and pitfalls of creating beauty. Particularly standing out to me was this quote by Simone Weil:

The truth is, for whatever reason, it is very, very difficult to portray goodness as it really is and quite easy to portray evil as we wish it to be. Christian filmmakers, you need real skill to achieve the former. Don’t give in to laziness! Strive as artists throughout history have striven to uplift our souls with real beauty and truth. Our prayers are with you.

This expresses a frustration of mine in watching and toying at writing films – the good is either the overemotional Hallmark variety or else it’s the evil – the villain priest or closed-minded Christian character.

Seriously – when is the last time you saw a movie with a priest who wasn’t an antagonist?

Of course this is all fueled by the cultural secular perception of Christianity – Christians as closed-minded hypocrites fueled by either their political agendas or their fierce defensiveness toward their system of morals and religious organizations. The Catholic priest scandals don’t help much either.

So my question is this: is it possible to portray Christianity in film – no, to portray Christians, real people trying to follow Jesus as best they can – with the allure and mystery of lives transformed by an unearthly holy influence? And to do so without bending into over-sentimentality on the one hand, or a preachy caricaturization on the other hand that would essentially amount to religious propagandizing.

I’ve certainly seen films where good is authentically and compellingly portrayed – Schindler’s List or Mike Nichols’ Wit. But I have yet to see the lifestyle of following Jesus portrayed like this on the big screen.

What do you think? Can this be done?

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  1. December 14, 2007 at 6:00 pm

    Love the new look! And I totally agree with you: It’s time to retire the “crazy Christian” stereotype.

  2. a Dad
    December 16, 2007 at 8:30 pm

    There must be a way to do so. If I can live a life of belief in the midst of my foibles and blatant sin and still be called a believer, then there must be a way. I think it must be a creative twist of CS Lewis’ or JRR Tolkien’s fantasy series and something like, “Catch Me If You Can.” Edmund and Lucy certainly fit the bill. And L. DiCaprio’s character had a ‘conversion’ of sorts.

    Also, Brian McLaren’s series with Neo gives a few ideas on how to portray this, even though Brian clearly states that his pieces are not novels.

    I have a friend who keeps referring me to read George MacDonald and Walker Percy. I tried to read Walker Percy’s “The Thanatos Syndrome” and never really got into it. There’s a dark side to it that didn’t connect. Writers like these and someone like Tolstoy, etc. provide plenty of settings, characters and plots.

    Now the question is really how to do such.

  3. Jane
    December 17, 2007 at 8:56 pm

    You’ve got me thinking.I loved the “Thornbirds” movie and book where Richard Chamberlain plays the priest who is in love with a woman. I thought the woman’s character showed more love for God than his character did. He was stuck between love and his passion for a position in the Vatican. The latter won out while the woman’s love won out for her which produced suffering and sacrifice. It’s a wonderful story. I’m sure many would not see it as a “Christian” film, but I did.
    It’s a great challenge to come up with film that shows the depth and breadth of God’s love without making it a gushy Halmark…which is NOT real life. Take on that challenge!!!

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