Newsbites: Materials! Saint of 9/11! Iranians!

Time for a few more news links.

1. Just last month, it was reported that girls were being auditioned for the part of Lyra Belacqua in The Golden Compass, the first installment in Philip Pullman’s ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy. But now The Hollywood Reporter says director Anand Tucker has left the project — for creative reasons or budgetary reasons, depending on who you listen to — and Chris Weitz is back on board.

2. Reuters has a story on Saint of 9/11, a documentary about Fr Mychal Judge, who was a Catholic fire department chaplain when he died at the World Trade Centre. Produced by the Equality Forum, the film “shows Judge moving in often-conflicting social circles: a proud Irish-American; a recovering alcoholic helping others fight addiction; a confidant for tough, gritty firefighters, and a celibate homosexual active in the gay community.”

3. Reuters reports on a recent Iranian film:

A witty Iranian film about four men who try to topple a big rock has audiences wondering about political allegory and hidden messages at a time of growing tension between Washington and the Islamic Republic of Iran.

But the director of “Men at Work,” Tehran-based Mani Haghighi, says sometimes a story is just a story, so don’t hold him responsible for whatever message you might read into it.

The film, which was showing at the Tribeca Film Festival this week, is a comedy about four middle-class, middle-aged men on a ski trip who happen across a pillar of rock by the side of the road above a lake. They decide to push it over, but that turns out to be more difficult than they think.

“When I was in Berlin, the radical political opposition there came up to me and said, ‘Really good work, that was the Islamic republic and those guys finally toppled it,”‘ Haghighi told the audience after a New York screening this week.

“Back in Iran, the people from the Ministry of Islamic Guidance came to me and said, ‘Really good work, the will of God vs. the weakness of man,”‘ he said, declining to answer questions about what the message of the film was for him.

4. There has been so much religious content at the Tribeca festival — from Saint of 9/11 to Jesus Camp and Flock of Dodos — that it comes as no surprise to see that, according to Reuters, the festival also hosted a panel discussion titled “What would Jesus direct?”:

Long criticized by conservative Christians for profiting from violent or sexually graphic films that corrupt the young, Hollywood is starting to see there is money to be made catering to those critics.

“On Sunday, 43 percent of America was in church,” Jonathan Bock, head of a movie marketing company that specializes in religious audiences, said at a panel discussion on “What Would Jesus Direct?” at the Tribeca Film Festival this week.

“For studios to not recognize that’s an audience is like them saying, ‘We’re not marketing movies to men,”‘ Bock said.

He and others on the panel, including a 20th Century Fox executive, said the turning point was Mel Gibson’s 2004 movie “The Passion of the Christ,” which surprised many in Hollywood by grossing more than $370 million in the United States.

“Until two months before it was released, it was pretty much known as the least commercial property in Hollywood,” said Michael Flaherty, whose production company was behind “The Chronicles of Narnia” and “Because of Winn-Dixie,” both with strong spiritual or moral messages.

“There’s a lot of people in the faith community who are looking for these films that are uplifting,” Flaherty said.

In other words, expect more feel-good movies and watered-down Narnia adaptations, and less treatments of the more unsettling themes of, say, Job or Ecclesiastes? Not that those texts get much attention on the big screen — or in churches — to begin with.

About Peter T. Chattaway

Peter T. Chattaway was the regular film critic for BC Christian News from 1992 to 2011. In addition to his film column, which won multiple awards from the Evangelical Press Association, the Canadian Church Press and the Fellowship of Christian Newspapers, his news and opinion pieces have appeared in such publications as Books & Culture, Christianity Today, Bible Review and the Vancouver Sun. He also contributed essays to the books Re-Viewing The Passion: Mel Gibson’s Film and Its Critics (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004) and Scandalizing Jesus?: Kazantzakis’s The Last Temptation of Christ Fifty Years on (Continuum, 2005).

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17520367805332608771 CM

    So to now match the banality of our Christian music scene, we will now get films of the same? Yippee.


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