Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Comforting The Afflicted Through the Mirror of Identification

By Thomas S. Green

I found myself being comforted by many of the films at Sundance. For instance Kinyarwanda offered hope that Christians and Muslims can work together to bring about peace and reconciliation. Films like Another Earth dealt themes of self forgiveness and our desire to be freed from the foolish mistakes and choices we have made, suggesting we don’t have to live in self made prisons. While these films were meaningful and offered encouragement, two particular films encouraged me in a deeply personal way.

The film Higher Ground, tells the spiritual journey of Corrine, a woman who comes to faith in Christ after nearly losing her daughter in an accident. While initially she finds joy, purpose, and community within a Christian community, she eventually choses to leave when she comes to the conclusion that her faith community cannot accept her personal journey of self discovery and her faith that is characterized by doubt. As I watched the film I couldn’t help but feel like Corrine’s struggle was one that many people wrestle with. Often times in my own experience toward self discovery I’ve found myself at odds with the faith community and the social implications of conformity needed to maintain a level of acceptance. I also identified with Corrine in her closing monologue where she admits that she has experienced God as very real and present at times, while at others God is seemingly distant and unreachable.

For me this film offered a mirror whereby I saw myself and was reminded that I’m not alone in my struggles or my thoughts about faith. It offered me permission to not have all the answers. In a bizarre way, this film freed me to be decidedly more forthcoming about my Christian faith with the people I encountered in the greater Sundance community.

The second film I deeply connected with was the film Take Shelter. Prior to coming to Sundance I had a sense that God had something that he wanted to communicate to me through this film. Take Shelter is a film about Curtis, a man who is gripped with a growing sense that a terrible storm is coming. Attacked by nightmares and panic stricken day dreams, Curtis isolates himself from his friends and family obsessively focusing his attention on building a storm shelter in hopes of being safe from whatever it is that is coming.

As a person who has wrestled with anxiety for the last several years, Take Shelter depicted, in an extremely dramatic way, what people with anxiety experience. During the introduction before the film, writer and director Jeff Nichols shared that the idea of the film came out of his awareness of a very real and growing sense of fear and isolation that exists within our culture. To him he wanted to make a film that not only addressed that fear but offered some sort of a solution to it.

In one of the final scenes after being in the storm shelter with his family for a few days, Curtis still hears the storm outside and refuses to open the door. After his wife listens and concludes the storm is past, Curtis is forced to decide whether or not he will trust his wife and open the door physically and figuratively, or continue to isolate himself and destroy any chance of remaining a family. As I watched this scene I felt God speaking to me about opening up about my fears and anxieties with some people he has placed in my life. This experience was far more than being about receiving a message to open myself with others. The significance was the awareness that came along with the message. God was communicating that he was with me and, in a tangible way that I’ve never been able to perceive before, that he truly desires me to be freed from the bondage and the effects anxiety.

Thomas S. Green is a recent graduate from the MFA Communications and the Arts program at Regent University. Thomas is passionate about filmmaking and exploring opportunities on how faith can be incorporated into the arts. He has moved back to his hometown, Cincinnati, where he is currently working on multiple film projects.

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