The Weinsteins Start Up Their Own “Faith-Based” Film Endeavor

Great.

Now the Weinstein Company is developing a faith-based filmmaking line.

Since the Contemporary Christian Music has done so much to sidetrack Christian musicians so their music doesn’t accidentally end up in arenas where the world might hear it… why not create Contemporary Christian Cinema? That way, faith-related films can play to those who already agree with their messages, and to those who don’t want to bother with the challenges of mainstream movies. Meanwhile, mainstream audiences can put even more distance between themselves and films that openly wrestle with issues of faith. They’ll spot the “faith” label, feel a shiver run down their spine, and move on to something else.

Walls and boundaries. That’s what we want. Neat and easy labels and categories. All the better for judging other people, for staying where we are, for complimenting ourselves on our choices.

No matter what the industry does to try and fence in me and my Christian faith, it won’t work. I won’t preoccupy myself with “Christian moviemaking” any more than I’ll spend time shopping for “Christian groceries.” I’ll keep exploring questions in the open sea of artmaking, fully convinced that God is revealing himself in the art of all kinds of people. After all, they’re all made in his image, and they’re all using his materials, so how can they possibly hope to stifle the truth? I’ll keep finding God as he peers out through the beauty and the truth that resonate in the works of even the most defiantly irreligious.

If I see a “faith” label on a film, it’ll automatically make me suspicious that the work is preachy and mediocre. And more than likely it’s obvious enough and simplistic enough to qualify as entertainment for a six-year-old. If I sound a little too judgmental here, well, what do you expect when decades of preachy, mediocre, connect-the-dots “Christian art” have shaped my opinions?

My advice to Christians who make movies? Make them complex enough, powerful enough, beautiful enough, and subtle enough that they can never be dismissed as movies for that “faith-based” audience and ignored by people who want something challenging.

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  • David McElroy

    Just FYI, the trailer is no longer there. It’s been removed from YouTube because of copyright issues.

  • Anonymous

    Sadly, most “faith based” movies, books, music, etc. does tend to be drab and sloppy. As a poet I see plenty of magazines that do not accept “religious” poetry. For good reason, more often than not the poems tend to be more like hallmark greeting cards. Though, we cannot hide our faith under a bushel and cannot help but have our Christian faith be a major influence on our work than say a communist or feminist can. Read Amiri Baraka, Lucille Clifton, Margaret ATwood, and many others. Their beliefs are representative in their work. Sometimes in overt ways, others in more allegorical and subtle ways. When you wrote your novel did you purposely put in Christian themes, etc. or did you find it happening more naturally and subconsciously, if they are in there at all?

  • Anonymous

    Sadly, most “faith based” movies, books, music, etc. does tend to be drab and sloppy. As a poet I see plenty of magazines that do not accept “religious” poetry. For good reason, more often than not the poems tend to be more like hallmark greeting cards. Though, we cannot hide our faith under a bushel and cannot help but have our Christian faith be a major influence on our work than say a communist or feminist can. Read Amiri Baraka, Lucille Clifton, Margaret ATwood, and many others. Their beliefs are representative in their work. Sometimes in overt ways, others in more allegorical and subtle ways. When you wrote your novel did you purposely put in Christian themes, etc. or did you find it happening more naturally and subconsciously, if they are in there at all?

  • jan@theviewfromher

    Great post. Just wanted to let you know I linked to it 12/15/06 over at The View From Her. I just discovered your blog, and will definitely be back. I like your perspectives.

  • Christian M.

    OK, this is a very late hit, I know…five days behind the blogging line of scrimmage. But I’ll say it anyway for the archives.

    There is nothing inherently wrong about making and marketing films to a Christian audience. You want films that are “complex” and will “blow you away,” and that’s fine. Many Christians want films that entertain, or encourage, or edify. Watching movies for them is not about being artistically challenged, but about being spiritually or emotionally touched or inspired. That does not make them less intellectually rigorous than you; they just have different tastes and appetites for entertainment, and less tolerance for visualized immorality. When I choose a film to watch with my family, or even with another adult, I want it to be good not just artistically, but good morally, too. I want to know that God would be pleased with how I spend my money, and who I support with it, and what I choose to be entertained by. Call me old school and irrelevant, but I believe the biblical call to holiness and purity, if it is to mean anything at all in our morally-challenged pre-post-Christian culture, applies to what we watch in the dark as much as to what we do in the light.

    My hope is that the faith-based film movement will, in time, get both sides of the artistic-moral goodness equation in better balance as the playing field of money, resources, and distribution begins to level with the “secular” film industry. However, it would be a classic phyrric victory if the cost of gaining industry approval was moral compromise in the form of adding enough “artistic” decadence, language, violence, or sex to films to prove to the Hollywood industry that they are not just appealing to the “faith-based” crowd. I believe that is a price too high, even if it means Christian filmmakers are never welcomed into the Hollywood elite inner circle.

    I enjoy your reviews, and appreciate your unique gift of insight and eloquence. I am anxious to read Through a Screen Darkly. However, I am always perplexed when I perceive that you are willing to elevate artistic goodness over moral goodness in evaluating a film. The challenge for faith-based filmmakers is not just how to improve artistically, but how to be morally excellent in an industry that does not operate within Christian moral boundaries. It’s not about making films that have no immorality, but about telling stories visually that can include immorality, but without compromising God’s standard of moral goodness in the telling. I want to see “good” stories told well, even if they don’t “blow me away” artistically. I don’t trust the secular industry to ever get the moral goodness side of the equation right; I can hope that the faith-based industry will get better at getting the artistic goodness side right.

  • Brett

    No, I don’t think we disagree all that much.

    I guess at the end of the day, there’s going to be a lot of crap passed off to people as some kind of art or entertainment. If giving it the “faith” label means that some larger percentage of the crap originates in a worldview that affirms human dignity (or at least doesn’t work as though it and human beings themselves are disposable) than before, then I can’t see myself losing too much sleep about it.

  • Roberto Rivera

    Maybe most other films wearing that label have been mediocre (well, heck, there’s not really any “maybe” about it, as we know), but will the next one have to pay for the last one’s mistakes?

    Ideally, no. But the “automatic suspicion” at work here is as warranted as it is when I come across a movie whose title begins with “Saw.” Sure, the next one might be different than those which preceded it, but, based on well-established patterns, there’s no good reason to assume or act as if that were the case.

    If a movie comes along that defies expectations, then we should make note of the filmmaker and relieve him/her of the burden of that automatic suspicion. But it’s going to take more than the occasional exception to put the rule to rest. zl

  • Anonymous

    Sadly, most “faith based” movies, books, music, etc. does tend to be drab and sloppy. As a poet I see plenty of magazines that do not accept “religious” poetry. For good reason, more often than not the poems tend to be more like hallmark greeting cards. Though, we cannot hide our faith under a bushel and cannot help but have our Christian faith be a major influence on our work than say a communist or feminist can. Read Amiri Baraka, Lucille Clifton, Margaret ATwood, and many others. Their beliefs are representative in their work. Sometimes in overt ways, others in more allegorical and subtle ways. When you wrote your novel did you purposely put in Christian themes, etc. or did you find it happening more naturally and subconsciously, if they are in there at all?

  • carmen

    Amen, brother (to both your post and your comments).

  • Jeffrey Overstreet

    We have no argument there.

    As I implied, I’m well-aware that I’m inclined to be suspicious of anything labeled “faith-based” in the world of entertainment. A lifetime of exposure to it has taught me that.

    But I’d like nothing better than to see a bunch of “faith-based” films change my mind by, well, blowing my mind. I’ll be interested to see, though, if anything really, really good gets categorized as that. Time will tell.

    And just because a film lacks one kind of indulgence (like your “animated blood bags” example) doesn’t mean it’s worth seeing. I’m interested in what a film *does* do more than what it *doesn’t* do, and a great deal of the Christian art and entertainment I grew up with was praised for what it *didn’t* have, but there wasn’t much to say about what it *did* have.

    Anyway, I think we agree here.

  • Brett

    Point partially taken. There is a tendency to lock all genre entertainment within its own fence and then do it just well enough to meet the expectations of its pre-sold audience. Often, “just well enough” can easily translate into “not very good.”

    But I don’t think your automatic suspicion of films with the “faith” label is an act of judgment as much as it’s an act of pre-judgment, or prejudice. Maybe most other films wearing that label have been mediocre (well, heck, there’s not really any “maybe” about it, as we know), but will the next one have to pay for the last one’s mistakes?

    And won’t the label also ensure that you wouldn’t be seeing a film that treats people as animated blood bags, waiting to be tortured and terrorized strictly for the audience’s amusement? Or that you won’t see a film — say, one scheduled to be released nationwide on the day Christians celebrate our Lord’s birth — that features a shotgun-toting young woman who points her weapon at the screen and says, “Merry Christmas, mother…”

    Christians don’t owe entertainment carrying the “faith” label any free passes on quality simply because that word is somehow attached to it. But quality is by nature a subjective standard, and some may decide that the faith perspective is a criterion that trumps some others when they judge which entertainment they seek out.


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