Ladies and Gentlemen… Craig Detweiler.

Ladies and Gentlemen… Craig Detweiler. December 28, 2005

I interviewed screenwriter/film-instructor Craig Detweiler at Biola several months ago in L.A., before any trailers for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe had even been shown. (The trailer debuted above Detweiler’s head on a big screen at the Biola Media Conference.)

That interview was published today at Christianity Today Movies.

Here’s a clip:

Do you see “good, beautiful, complex, redemptive” films being made today?

Detweiler: Almost every class I teach here ends with David Gordon Green’s film George Washington, which came out in 2000. It asks, “What is possible?” It dares to suggest that there could be a new George Washington born as a poor black kid in the southern United States, faced with an epic crisis as a young man—his own cherry tree—and rises to the occasion and becomes part of that great tradition of Georges, from George Washington all the way up to George Washington Carver to Geronimo to George Bush. He’s the next in line.

I end my classes with George Washington because of the profound hope in it. Here is one of the youngest filmmakers with one of the purest artistic visions, and [his movies are] already in the Criterion Collection. It doesn’t matter if nobody’s seen or heard it. It will stand the test of time, whether people discover it this year, in ten years, or in a hundred years—it doesn’t matter. It’s going to last.

What lessons would you most like to see Christian filmmakers learn?

Detweiler: We surely don’t need any more End Times films. We don’t need any more films that mean what they say and say what they mean. I think we have to discover the lost art of subtlety and subtext.

At Biola, we start our filmmakers with visual aesthetics. We let them know that film is not meant to be an illuminated Bible. This is an art form that is visual by design. It does not need words to convey the message. What I’d like us to do is figure out what lighting, sound, color, props, and set design say. I’d like us to discover the power of silent film, to discover how Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc worked and continues to work, how Sunrise continues to work, how The Last Laugh continues to work.

Looking back at 2005, those who measure a film’s importance by its box office success will point to the final Star Wars chapter, Revenge of the Sith. How important is that film to you and your students?

Detweiler: I wish I did care. I’m sad to say I don’t. And I think my students don’t care. Hard to believe.

Lots more at the link.

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  • Nicholas

    I have lived with racism my entire life, know what it looks like, and have experienced it in almost all its forms. I think Crash is a lousy film, poorly made (some of the worse use of slow-motion and music I have ever seen and heard), confused about what it wants to say, and naive if not completely blind on the topic of race.
    That said, while reading Ms. Proulx’s article I was quite amused to hear her use the phrase “here was an atmosphere of insufferable self-importance”, cuz it sounds like someone hasn’t even chanced the thought that maybe her film lost, not because it covered a risque topic, but because maybe it really wasn’t very good.

  • Peter T Chattaway

    Hmmm, I wonder if Proulx’s reference to Scientology is a dig at Crash director Paul Haggis?

  • Jeffrey Overstreet

    Christian, I don’t recall him saying anything that suggested he knows Green, or knows his faith. But Green’s movies have me extremely suspicious…. “Undertow” is definitely worth seeing. Its genre conventions stifle it, in the end, but it’s … um… a wonderful disappointment that’s full of rewards.

    CTDelude, thank you so much for your thoughts. I agree with you, for the most part.

  • CTDelude

    Great intereview and certainly insightful. The dicussion about subtext and not laying everything out is becoming more and more realized it seems (second place I’ve seen it mentioned in two days).

    I’m kind of wary regarding the comments about the Christian writers turning down Charmed though. I believe those Christians made the right choice not to write for the show. NOT because of what they believed they would face because of their faith ,but rather I find writing to portray witches (and this isn’t Gandalf we’re talking about here, especially since the show is based in the REAL world) as the good characters without making some kind of judgement on the fact that witchcraft is bad is walking over that line Christians must pay a large attention to. That line being the divide of being in the world and not being of the world. I think too many Christian wannbe and actual filmmakers are certainly afraid to have characters who are in the depth of sin due to the judgement others may place on them but we must also be prudent to show the wages of those sins. A program like Charmed isn’t about to have things occur to their protagonists because of the fact they weild magical power that the Bible says a certain thing or another about. So we have to balance it out in a way.

    Again I thought the interview was great on a whole but I felt that small point had to be pointed out. I don’t miss the larger message but we must also be vigilant that those small things don’t slip into the foundation we’re trying to lay down.

    Now do I believe that someone not involved in the creative process (in this case meaning someone who doesn’t oversee the characters like a writer or director and the like) can’t work on the show? No. But it’s like my Pastor once spoke of a churchgoer who was having difficulty in her job approving projects for one of the major studios, she had to approve things she didn’t want to and was looking to get out. My pastor stopped her telling her that she was in a position to pray over these things and bless what should be blessed and curse what should be cursed. Literally to pray for a project to die if it was something other than what could possibly glorify God. She kept on.

    What it boils down to (cutting though my verbose nature as evidenced above) is that to walk the walk of Christ in this industry is to be constantly on your guard and to be well grounded in the Word. For if one doesn’t it is easy to say, “well I can work on this so I can see my own project made” and get sucked up in things that will bring fall, rather than the Lord’s glory.

    Man, I’m only 24 and I sound like an old dude….

  • Christian

    Interesting comments about David Gordon Green, Jeffrey. Did Detweiler go so far as to imply that Green himself is a Christian? I’m just speculating; I don’t see that in his comments. But I know that this is a transcript, and certain words, or more specfically, nuances, have been omitted.
    I still need to see “Undertow.” LOVED Green’s first two films. I own “George Washington” but haven’t watched it for a couple of years. These comments make me want to revisit it.