Thursday, June 30, 2011

The New Priests

George Miller, a renowned filmmaker, said in an interview in 1998 that organized religion had removed much of the poetry, mystery and mysticism out of our religious belief. This caused people to look for answers to their questions about spirituality in other places. He considers the cinema to be today’s new place where people gather and worship as they once did in church. Miller also believes that the cinema storytellers have now become the new priests. I agree. As the new priests, we must learn to use the power of the Redemptive story in order to reach this new church .

The Redemptive story is a classic example of how God works in the lives of his creation. The Bible is basically a redemptive story about man’s fall and God’s ability to transform us. Man rebels against God and commit acts of inappropriate behavior or sin and goes his own way. But, in the end, we are capable of change because God has put within us the ability to recognize the truth and be transformed if we are willing to embrace the truth.

Redemptive stories require a significant character arc to complete the journey and must have a catalyst to initiate the process or journey. It can be a personal awareness within or an outside force. The outside force can be spiritual in nature, such as God, or it can be a force that can be identified as destiny or a grand plan of design. A subcategory of redemptive stories is transformational stories, which are similar, but often the catalyst for change is either an event, a crisis, or a person.

Redemptive films need to illustrate the wonders of God. As Christians we don’t do this very well in film. When it come to miracles, angels, the unexplained, healings or the story of the loaves and fish, our stories seem to be flat, one-dimensional and lacking depth. Perhaps we’re too close to the subject material. NonChristians for some reason seem to be much better at this. For example, Jesus of Nazareth, produced in 1977 for television, is exceptional at exploring the wonders of God. It is a difficult concept to explain, but they do it with simplicity, humanity and the divine in such a way that it moves you.

The wonders of God can also be found in the small things of everyday life which are truly the miracles. We can find the divine patterns of life that exist in the smile of a child and the dawning of a new day. Christian filmmakers often don’t know how to depict the glorious, marvelous and small wonders of God’s grace and love which occur daily in our lives.

Redemptive filmmaking requires the ability to question God. We Christians have a tough time doing this. We don’t want to admit we have doubts and are sometimes confused. Perhaps, we think it is a sin to question God. But that’s not Biblical. Jacob’s name meant deceiver, but his name was changed to Israel meaning one who struggles with God. This happened after the all-night wrestling match at Peniel. We have to ask questions. Where is God when we are hurting? Why do bad things happen? As filmmakers, we have to be willing to ask these questions. If our goal is to be authentic, real and genuine, our audience is asking the same questions. Let’s face it. Christian filmmakers paint a world the way they want to see it. Mainstream filmmakers paint life’s complexities and the world as it is.

The need for redemption requires us to face sin. NonChristians may not call sin, sin, but they are good at depicting it. There is no redemption in the filmmaking process without the ability to portray sin. Our audience will not accept the fact that our characters have gone through this incredible transformation without seeing what their lives looked like before the transformation. They have to see the ugliness. We have all gone through the same experience. Life isn’t always pretty. That doesn’t mean we offer gratuitous, offensive material just for the sake of showing it. But it is part of the journey to redemption. I know for some Christians, this is a difficult concept to accept. But here is something to consider. The Bible is a story of the human condition without God and does contain content that some may find disturbing. We are afraid that if we show sin we are somehow endorsing it. Most Christian filmmakers want their hero or protagonist to be flawless not at the end of the redemptive process but at the beginning.

Redemptive stories do not necessarily offer a convenient and tidy ending. Just as in life, there may not be a fairy tale ending as in “they lived happily ever after”. For example, in Bella, it would have been temping to end the movie with a happy and satisfying conclusion. However, both lead characters had their moments of redemption, which were more reflective of real life. Redemption is a complex process and is different for each of us.

1 comment:

  1. "Let’s face it. Christian filmmakers paint a world the way they want to see it. Mainstream filmmakers paint life’s complexities and the world as it is." Well said.