Tuesday, June 7, 2011

My Expectations of Sundance

By Thomas S. Green

Knowing that independent cinema often holds an aversion toward faith, I went to Sundance prepared to be scrutinized for my belief in Christ. Films like The Ledge were created with this aim in mind. Matthew Chapman, the writer and director of the film, stated in his Meet The Artists interview that his purpose in writing the film was to communicate everything he thought and felt “about the dangers and absurdities of faith.” According to people I talked with who had viewed the film, it took an aggressive stance against faith and left many Christians feeling deeply offended and belittled for their beliefs. It was precisely this sort of treatment I expected would be a regular occurrence that would be reflective of my experience at Sundance. What I encountered was altogether different.

Through sharing my experiences with the festival and the community that surrounds it, I would like to make the case that Sundance can be an inviting place that welcomes divergent viewpoints including those of the Christian faith. Secondly, I would like to suggest that Sundance is a place where Christians need to come so that they can be challenged in held perceptions and be agents of change in the perceptions of others.

The Role of Independent Cinema in Shaping Worldviews

According to different people you will get different definitions on what independent cinema is. Some will argue that it has to do a film’s budget, while others suggest it has to do with being outside of the Hollywood studio system. In my personal definition, I tend to think of independent cinema as film that primarily provokes thought. I believe that through the raising of questions, ideas espoused in films can plant seeds, that if accepted as truthful and genuine, can lead to changed perceptions and beliefs.

I also see independent cinema as a means to comfort those who have been marginalized by society. I think it could be said of independent cinema, much like the work of psychologist Arno Gruen, that “[It] hold[s] up for our suffering partners a sympathetic mirror image in which they can find themselves” (Benedetti, xiii). Such identification can foster the germination of healing and community.

During the Windrider Forum, Craig Detweiler offered a similar view. He suggested that the purpose of independent cinema is meant to either comfort the afflicted or to afflict the comfortable. Though I had never heard of this before, it proved to be an interesting framework from which to gauge my experience and evaluate the films I would see.

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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