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Movies and the Conversation

Embarking Blog

...on the journey towards restoration of all things

Movies and the Conversation

Tom Elenbaas

Tonight I was able to attend the pre-release of the movie Old Fashioned, and earlier this week I attended the prescreening of Do You Believe? Both are films written and produced by Christians seeking to make good films with an important message that helps change the conversations we're having about everything from relationships to sex to our ultimate destiny. 

Christian films have come a long way, and I'm proud to have been connected to some of the folks making these films. Gord and Sue Toering - Executive Producers of Old Fashioned who helped start Skoche films are a wonderful couple from our church who live in Jenison, Michigan just trying to make a "skoche" (bit) of difference in media from the perspective of people of faith. Liam Matthews - Bobby in Do You Believe? - is a long-time good friend and artist who hopes to see Christian film come of age as an art of communication and was co-founder of 10 West Studios. I've also had the opportunity to have lunch with Rik Swartwelder from Old Fashioned and hear his heart and faith as well. My sense is that each of these folks - and many other Christians entering media today - are faithful Christians trying to do their best to change the conversation. Both films have a clear Christian messages of redemption, love and goodness. Do You Believe is more overtly about faith and belief while Old Fashioned is more subtle, mostly about love but definitely built on a message of biblical redemption in Jesus. They are very different types of films, but both well done with strong characters, filming, writing, and acting.

What do I mean by changing the conversation? For many years, it seems, Christians were known for boycotts and for creating their own subculture as a way to challenge and escape the changing dominant, increasingly secularized culture. With the increasing marginalization of the Christian worldview in what many have called the post-christian era in Europe and America, Christians have found themselves (or chosen to be) out of the conversation. For many of us, that's frustrating, because the message of the gospel and the goodness and beauty and power and transformative nature of its reality is truely life-changing. I'm glad that these friends and others are finding ways to slip into the cracks in modern secularism to offer a message of hope, love, renewal, and redemption.

Old Fashioned

This film is entering the conversation in one powerful way because its release date sets it up in contradistinction to 50 Shades of Grey. 50 Shades - first a series of "romance" books is known for its overt and free sexuality, opening up a world of affairs and personal discovery that redefines romance in terms of sexual freedom. Old Fashioned on the other hand enters the conversation holding up values of goodness, virtue, honesty, integrity and even mutual honor. I think its well worth asking the question... what kind of love are we all deeply longing for? And this film does it. If you don't have plans for Valentine's weekend this year, grab dinner with someone you love and go see it.

Do You Believe?

This film is the follow-up movie to the popular surprise indie film last year God is Not Dead. I admit - I haven't seen God is Not Dead, but this film I really enjoyed. Not pretending to hide anything, and without a bait and switch, Do You Believe lays the question out for conversation about the cross of Jesus Christ and what it might really mean to the modern day person. Through the lives of 12 different people who intersect in some powerful, dramatic, and emotional moments that touch the heart of our real lives, the conversation changes when the powerful questions is raised: Do You Believe? Coming out March 20 - a few weeks before Easter - this film provides the opportunity for a great conversation with anyone who is searching for something. 

I'm wondering... are there ways that you could be involved in changing the conversation? Maybe you're not a movie maker, artist, writer, or blogger. But you do have conversations with people everyday who share their worldview with those surrounding them everyday. Are you entering the conversation with everything true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy? [Philippians 4:8]

A Note About Art

One of the concerns I and many others have had about Christian art is its quality. Christian art has often been accused - and rightly so - of being derivative, schmalzy, low quality, or even just badly executed. These films, however, are well done. The acting, the writing, and the filming are excellent. I loved the artistic shots and gratuitous beauty in both films - art that moves you without you even realizing it. I also loved the depth of the characters and their real-life characters with real-life struggles. 

In any case, I'm hopeful for films made by Christians to change the conversation and am excited to see where not only these two films go, but also what happens with media in the future influenced by dedicated people of faith.

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