The Top 5 Most Fascinating Documentaries That Will Screen at the AFI DOCs Festival

Yesterday I attended the luncheon to announce the slate of films screening at the American Film Institute Documentary Festival (formerly Silverdocs). The festival runs June 18-22 in Washington, DC and Silver Spring, Maryland. With 84 films scheduled to run, there’s lots to choose from, but here are the five that look best to me:

1) Life Itself, Director Steve James

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I usually don’t like films in which Hollywood celebrates itself, but this is an exception. This documentary looks at the life and work of Roger Ebert, someone with whom I often disagreed but always respected.

2) 112 Weddings, Director Doug Block

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As a sidejob, a documentarian videographed weddings for decades. Now he goes back and sees how those marriages turned out. This trailer made me choke up a few times, seeing the emotion on people’s faces. I am curious what he found. I can’t wait to see it.

3) 1971, Director Johanna Hamilton

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I’ll be honest…five years ago I would have rolled my eyes at this story of hippies breaking into a FBI office to expose the way the government was spying on its own people. After Snowden, the IRS scandal, the phone tapping scandals, the email hacking, and so on, I wonder why we’re not all fighting back.

4) Dangerous Acts Starring the Unstable Elements of Belarus, Director Madeleine Sackler

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If 1971 is about privacy from the government, this documentary about performers who speak out against a restrictive regime is about freedom of speech. It’s a value I never thought would be questioned in America, but I’m beginning to wonder.

5) I am Big Bird: The Carol Spinney Story, Director Chad Walker and Dave LaMattina

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Caroll Spinney has been portraying Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch since the beginning, and still keeps going at 80. This story is more than an actor. It’s the sweet, gentle, optimistic thing that somehow became Sesame Street and Muppets. I quibble with Sesame Street from time to time, but in general, it is the best of what the Baby Boomer generation wanted to be.

New ‘Hunger Games: Mockingjay’ Images – See Julianne Moore as President Coin

Lionsgate has launched a cool new website with stills, interviews, and other deets from the upcoming The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1. 

Julianne Moore is seen as the perhaps noble, perhaps sinister President Coin. Woodly Harrelson returns in his role as Haymitch Abernathy. And, saddest of all, the late great Philip Seymour Hoffman looks like he never left us as Plutarch Heavensbee.

Plus there’s a very cool animated poster.

Check it out at http://www.thehungergamesexclusive.com/.

The movie hits theaters November 21.

All images via Lionsgate.

Released from Paramount Contract, ‘Noah’ Bible Guru John Snowden Responds to Ken Ham, Ray Comfort, Brian Godawa

Editor’s note: John Snowden was a youth pastor in the Los Angeles area when Rob Moore of Paramount approached him about a project. Snowden came aboard Noah as Biblical advisor and we know the rest. As of April 1, Snowden is no longer under contract with Paramount pictures and now gives his full reaction to the controversies swirling around Darren Aronofsky’s film.

John Snowden on the set of NOAH.
photo: Niko Tavernise. (c) 2012 Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

I knew some wouldn’t appreciate Noah’s liberties, for sure, but I didn’t expect the level of ire I’ve heard about the now apparently controversial Bible movie. Ken Ham, along with Ray Comfort, and similar disagreement from Brian Godawa, have led an all-out assault on the film. Here is my response to a few of their thoughts, which hopefully will also be an opportunity shed more light on what I firmly believe is very positive theology in the film. (Warning: There may be spoilers if you haven’t seen the film!)

Objection: Humanism!

Godawa in particular focuses on the fact that Aronofsky is allegedly a “humanist.” I put that in quotes because I don’t actually know that Darren is such. He might be. He may even “probably” be. But Godawa presumes that Aronofsky’s worldview has compelled him to tell a subversive story undermining God, and the proof is not what is in the film, but that Aronofsky is a humanist. This cynical view (and cyclical argument) assumes no person can tell any story that they don’t wholeheartedly embrace. So a humanist, for example, could never put into his film critical Christian theology such as that man was created in God’s image, because that would undermine his humanist agenda.

The only problem with this is that the film clearly holds this very important piece of theology front and center, that God created people in His image. Despite Godawa’s clearly false claim, the film repeats it many times from many characters. It is said by Noah twice, The Watchers said it once, Lamech said it, and it is perverted by Tubal-Cain. Throw in the bonus that Noah clearly says “we get our power from The Creator” and the whole humanism thesis quickly dissolves.

Objection: Veganism!

In an ongoing criticism of the film, Godawa vents that the depicted sin of humanity is all about meat eating in the film. When one reads through Genesis, there are two ways to read it regarding meat eating. First, the most literal way is that God never blessed eating anything but plants until after the flood – thus meat eating is a sin to Noah in scripture for the timing of most of the film. Or there’s the more “nuanced” way – which we’d naturally assume is Hollywood’s tendency: “Nuance it” to justify an agenda, right? Well, the nuanced way is: Sure, God never really gave permission to eat meat until after the flood, but since God did kill animals for Adam and Eve (but did He?), and since He gave Noah instruction to bring 7 of each clean animal onto the ark, and since we can read into that statement the Torah’s definition (that Noah hadn’t heard) of “clean” certainly implies kosher food laws it must mean that those animals were for eating, therefore Noah eats meat in Genesis.

For what it’s worth, I think both are actually viable ways to read the text. And since there are two ways to read into vegetarianism in Genesis, maybe we can give “Hollywood” a pass on taking the more literal interpretation as their own.

Objection: Creation From Nothing!

Creationism in the film was allegedly subverted too – because it starts with “In the beginning there was nothing.” That’s Pagan, they say! Atheists believe that!

So do I. I’ve taught the Bible plenty. My favorite part is creation and Genesis 1:1 – 12:3. The Hebrew verb for “created” in Genesis 1 is a word that is only used with God as the subject and it means to create from nothing. And in the creation sequence the film follows that very line with God speaking light into existence on “the first day and it was good.” The creation narrative in the film then goes on to name the six days one by one (albeit with an evolving-animals sequence), yet then on the sixth day, God distinctly creates humanity in his image. While I wish it said it was “very good” at that point, the fact that God created us in his image on the sixth day is very clearly in the film. Adam and Eve didn’t just passively evolve in the film. How can an atheist tell an atheistic version of creation with “The Creator” as the creator and still be pushing an atheist’s agenda?

Objection: No Rebellion Against God!

In the most head scratching criticism from Ken Ham, he suggests that the film doesn’t depict “rebellion against God.” It’s head scratching for two reasons. First, never are those words a part of Genesis 6 – 9. Second, more importantly, Tubal-Cain’s speech as the rain starts is so so overtly personifying rebellion against God: Tubal-Cain’s arrogant comparison of himself to god, giving and taking life, that men united are invincible, or that Tubal-Cain cries that he will build a new society in his own image are all manifestations of rebellion against God. Even just yelling at God to do what Tubal-Cain wants God to do images such rebellion. Tubal-Cain says to Ham “A man is not ruled by the heavens but by his will.” These are the same themes of Biblical rebellion against God that we find throughout scripture including at the Tower of Babel, which the story of Noah (and the lineage of Ham) feeds.

Ham got on the boat. Ken Ham missed it.

Objection: Environmentalism!

But the most important sin in this film is supposedly the environmental “agenda.” It’s pretty much unanimous after all, since almost every American right-wing Christian who’s seen the film has completely objected to the environmental undertones in it. It’s honestly not my favorite part either, but this is where grace (and not even that much is needed) toward a non-Christian director has to come into play.

But even with such grace, and to be clear, I’m a right-wing homeschooling Ken Ham-VBS-curriculum-teaching conservative-talk-radio-listening Christian myself (I really am), I defend the fact that the film clearly depicts primary sin as the violent arrogance of man time and again. It doesn’t depict “property rights advocates” in a bad way like Godawa claims, it depicts a bad guy subjugating his fellow man and taking the land that others are living on. It’s man’s inhumanity to man – the very thing Ken Ham alleges the film didn’t depict. And it most certainly doesn’t explain the flood as anything but man’s wickedness – which is partly environmental as depicted but is so overwhelmingly shown as violence (threatening, intimidating, killing, selling women in the mob scene, stealing, and people fighting over, yes, natural resources). You’d think from the reviews Tubal-Cain is the non-violent CEO of the Exxon corporation (yet carrying a “gun”).

But then even looking closer we can find that it would undermine its own ostensible “environmental agenda.” For example Noah scolds young Ham (played by a pastor’s kid, no less) for picking a flower, he uses environmental jargon to teach his son a lesson. An environmentalist “agenda” would leave that flower dead, destroyed, and irreplaceable. It would be the final action that sets in motion the ball rolling that will actually clinch the destruction of the entire planet – right? But that’s not the story told in that scene nor in the film as a whole. What happens in that scene is that God immediately and miraculously replaces that flower, clearly demonstrating that God is going to take care of things – just like he does in the end of this film, and in the end of Revelation 21-22. True story – an executive for one of those environmental organizations saw the film and was not happy with it. Why? Because the film showed that the “Almighty” (his word) fixed the environmental problems in the end, which is contrary to environmentalist’s messaging. There you have it.

Naameh says in the film to Noah, “We are surrounded by darkness, yet beauty survives even in this barren ground. Maybe it is a sign he comes to heal.”

God makes all things new. God restores the broken, grows gardens from deserts, and brings fertility from bareness. That is good theology, and that is in the film.

Objection: Unrighteous!

Nearly every rejection I’ve read mentions that Noah was righteous yet the film allegedly depicts Noah as anything but. Instead of being righteous he was sinful, mean, and focused on killing his grandchildren believing that God wanted him to kill off humanity. While I wouldn’t make the theological case that the Biblical Noah was blind to God saving humanity through him (nobody is claiming that’s the Bible’s position – it’s simply a movie’s dramatization of God wanting to wipe out humanity which IS in the Bible), and probably in a million years wouldn’t have dreamed up that plot for my own Noah’s Ark movie, it is clearly a choice they made in the film. But it doesn’t make Noah not righteous. Hold on, you say? You object? Let’s think it through – how can a person who almost kills children thinking it’s God’s will be righteous? Well, you can ask Abraham. How can a person be a prophet of God when he doesn’t obey God and wants people to die? Ask Jonah. How can a person be after God’s own heart but also be a murdering adulterer? Ask David. Why do we protect Noah as proto-Jesus by assuming righteous means anything other than Noah trusted God? In the film, Noah wasn’t taking pleasure in the idea of killing humanity, he was angry about it, and he was assuming it was God’s plan just like it says in Genesis 6:5-8. I also, for the record, believe that in the end the film does not communicate that it’s God’s will for Noah to kill the babies, but it is God’s will (as Ila explains) to help Noah learn God’s mercy in contrast to the stark justice he just witnessed.

Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. Where does Noah’s come from?

Objection: Paganism!

But all of these aren’t the real issue. No, as I see it, the core of the criticisms I read boil down to the fact that a person who is not of the Christian worldview is making a Bible film. Or perhaps if Christendom allowed this, why on Earth did they let him have any ability to have any creative control over his own film? Either way, I’m reading between the lines that this is what is truly and fundamentally intolerable. How could a non-Christian possibly get it right? Is there a line that would have been “right enough?” No, I don’t believe we would allow it. Rather any creative choice that strays too far from the text (if from a non-believer’s mind) should be rejected. The text stands alone – and I believe it does. Maybe that means we should actually reject any depictions of a Bible character? Or maybe only if it’s done by a non-believer. This is all sounding awfully similar to a fatwa, and it grieves me.

Wrap-Up

Let’s wrap this up. ”Love your neighbor” is our charge. That is expected of us even if we think he’s a secular liberal vegan pagan atheist humanist environmental whacko Hollywood director. Vilifying him (and effectively his whole team) will not get us any closer to God. And to me, he was personally quite a kind, thoughtful, creative, hyper-intelligent colleague with whom I had incredibly fruitful conversations. I’m thankful that he took a huge risk to tell a Bible story in a very creative way, and did it quite impressively. You don’t have to like the movie, love the movie, or see the movie. But we really need to respond better than this when we have objections.

John Snowden served as the Biblical Consultant on Noah from April 2012 until March 31, 2014. After six years of vocational youth ministry in West Los Angeles, John moved with his family to Kathmandu, Nepal, where he is a Vice President of CloudFactory, a tech company seeking to connect a million people in the developing world to basic computer work while raising them up as leaders to address poverty in their own communities. He is not related to Edward.

Read More:

Rebecca Cusey on An Invitation to Listen: How the Church Should Think about Noah

Rebecca Cusey’s Review: A Bible Movie That Doesn’t Preach or Browbeat

Rebecca Cusey’s Interview with Aronofsky and Handel

Peter Chattaway’s Extensive Noah Coverage

Barbara Nicolosi Accuses Me of Selling My Soul to ‘Noah’ Marketers – For a Stale Bagel

Apparently my colleague Barbara Nicolosi is going to blow the cover off the scandalous secret of Christian film marketing.

I want to be very clear that I have a lot of respect for Barbara. She was instrumental in helping me start thinking about movies specifically and culture in general. She taught at the Act One writing program at the time, a screenwriting school that takes the business of Hollywood seriously and trains Christians to hone their craft so they are able to professionally and artistically speak into the moviemaking and TV business.

Barbara was never soft with her students. You have to make a career of Hollywood, she taught, not a hobby. You have to respect the craft. You have to actually work hard, very hard, and maybe in decades you’ll be at a point where you can make a difference.

It was tough love, tough love that the Christian culture needed and she helped shape Christian thinking at that time and I’m grateful for her voice back a decade ago.

That’s why it bothers me so much, though, that in the case of Noah, Barbara will not concede that other Christians may have a valid different opinion on the movie (here’s my positive review). She has said that those of us who like it don’t really like it, but are lying and have received some shady, yet undefined, payout from the studio.

Because we have the temerity to disagree with her.

This is insulting at best, slanderous at worst.

I certainly don’t get paid much for being a movie critic. If I were selling my soul, I’d expect it to pay better.

Barbara has taken what was a friendly debate among various Christian critics and turned it into something ugly and personal. Us versus them. The righteous versus the evildoers. The godly versus the diabolical. Over a movie. Over, let’s repeat again, a movie. Not human trafficking or homelessness or war theory or abortion. A movie.

This was not necessary. And it’s not right.

Yes, marketing firms focus on the Christian market. This is not news either. We can’t have it both ways, saying that Hollywood ignores people of faith on one hand and demanding products (i.e. movies) that we want to see, and then turn around and complain that we’re treated as a market.

So you can peek behind the curtain here, let me tell you how I came to review Noah early and interview the directors.

By the way, separately from my screening and interview, the advertising department at Patheos made a deal to advertise the film on our site. Many other sites advertised the film as well. One had nothing to do with the other. This is an age-old dilemma in news, from the early days of newspapers. Like all reputable sites, we have a firm line between editorial and advertising, which is why what Barbara says about the Entertainment Channel at Patheos, which I run, being undisclosed paid advertising is patently untrue.

The stories I ran were selected for their news value and nothing else. With all the worldwide press this film has generated, I hardly have to argue it was a news-worthy story.

Peter Chattaway here at Patheos was covering Noah and other Bible stories in more depth than anyone else long before he was offered an interview. He continues to do fine work. And Steven Greydanus’ work on Noah has been extremely valuable and insightful as well.

By the way, Barbara will receive a decent sized check for her post, paid for in part by the advertising she so denounces.

Anyway, Paramount and Grace Hill Media, who have always treated me well and with integrity, offered me an advance screening and an exclusive interview on a movie with a lot of buzz, especially to my faith-based readership. I jumped at it.

That’s called journalism.

I know “journalism” is a lofty word to throw around about movie criticism, but ultimately that’s what I aspire to. Like Jake Tapper scoring an interview with the President or Barbara Walters interviewing Bono, we all scramble for content that will bring eyeballs to our writing and serve the public. We want the big story, the scoop.

I do many interviews a year, some of them pitched by Grace Hill Media, most via other contacts. I turn down quite a few pitches from GHM and others as well. Some interviewees are big names, others you wouldn’t recognize but have big talent. Here’s the interview I did recently with Jason Bateman about the extremely R-rated Bad Words, an interview I also very much enjoyed, and which, frankly, should be WAY more controversial than my work on Noah. 

Of course I jumped at Aronofsky. I would be crazy to turn down an advance screening and interview with the hottest movie of the year so far and a story that was making waves not only in religious circles, but worldwide secular circles.  It has nothing to do with the pride of meeting famous people or stoking my ego, except in the sense I would like to be an excellent journalist. It has everything to do with scooping the story and serving my readers. This is what journalists do.

I agreed to an embargo until a certain date – standard operating procedure in many beats of journalism – and nothing else. It was clear that the studio hoped I’d like the film. It was clear that I might not and that was the risk they were taking. We discussed that ahead of time.

Paramount tried to set up the screening and interview here where I live in DC. Darren Aronofsky was still editing some aspects of the film and could not take time for an entire day trip to DC. So I accepted a flight up to New York paid for by the studio. Patheos does not have a budget for travel, at least not yet, something not unusual in the tightened financial arena of current media.

The plane was just a rickety puddle jumper. More dubious than luxurious. I flew there and back the same day. I watched the film in a screening room and missed lunch time doing it. Someone brought me tea in a styrofoam cup (which I spilled all over the floor and myself like a dork but at least it helped me identify with the characters in the flood scene).

I liked the film very much, immediately. Paramount reps rushed me to make my window with Darren Aronofsky and Ari Handel. I talked with them for 25 minutes and found them both fascinating, intelligent, respectful, and well-thought. This is not always the case with Hollywood types, but it was here. (Read my entire interview here.)

I confess that in a moment of weakness brought on by low blood sugar, I did accept an abandoned stale bagel that was laying around the Paramount break room.

Ah the glamour of show business!

I then went home, paying for my own crappy overpriced airport dinner, which I scarfed down like an orphan in a Charles Dickens novel, and wrote an honest review and interview feature. Oh, I bought myself a nine-dollar beer too. I might buy myself another one after finishing this post.

All in all, I would rather have stayed in DC that day if it weren’t for the story I was chasing. I went through a long day of travel for a story that I thought, and still think, was valuable to my readers. The travel about as much fun as a root canal. The story itself was great fun. I do not appreciate Barbara or anyone implying I have done anything scandalous, immoral, or unprofessional here.

Barbara’s reasoning goes: These critics disagree with me, therefore they are lying. If they are lying, they must have a reason to lie. If they have a reason, they must be bought. It’s the worst kind of ad hominem attack and betrays a shocking arrogance about the presumed correctness of her own point of view.

She’s so right that anyone who disagrees with her is not only wrong, but evil.

My salvation hardly rests on whether I agree with Barbara on how many stars a movie should get.

I mean, I agree with Rotten Tomatoes’s Tomatometer 76% of the time, but I don’t expect that to get me into heaven.

I liked Noah. I’m not going to apologize for that or be bullied into changing my mind. I liked having a scoop. I’m not going to apologize for that either.

But I would much rather engage Barbara, learn from her, and enjoy her usually insightful analysis than fight her. I hope she’ll be willing.

‘Noah’ Opens Big – Will More Bible Movies Follow?

There was a pot of gold at the end of the Noah rainbow. Does this mean we can expect a deluge of Bible-themed movies?

“It’s been a long journey, but a spectacular finish,” said Rob Moore, Vice Chairman of Paramount Pictures, on Sunday. “The open was fantastic in the USA, but also in Russia, Korea, Mexico, Australia. It’s been successful everywhere it’s opened so far.”

In fact, in Russia, Noah debuted at $17.2 million, the fourth biggest opening and biggest non-sequel opening ever in that country.

The US domestic take for opening weekend will be $44 million, according to Paramount. Internationally, it earned $33.6 to bring the overseas cumulative box office to $51.1 million. The film opened in some international markets last week.

That’s a total global gross of $95.1 million so far.

Paramount was predicting a domestic opening in the $30 to $33 million range on the $125 million budget movie, making the actual opening a 50% increase above the projections.

The intense debate over the appropriateness of the adaptation of the Biblical source material seemed to be a largely English speaking phenomenon, said Moore. “It was more of an issue in the US and the UK,” he said, “More people are excited about pictures with elements inspired by Biblical stories internationally.”

The shift to an increasingly global focus by studios will mean that the success of Noah internationally may smooth the path for future Bible films, Moore said. “The biggest dynamic that’s changed in the last five years is the global focus,” he said, “Movies that resonate with a global market have a bigger opportunity to get made because of their international appeal.”

Ultimately, and more importantly, Moore said, “You’re having a global conversation and a US conversation about the Bible and what the themes are.”

“The whole world is talking about Noah,” agreed Jonathan Bock, head of Grace Hill Media, a public relations boutique firm that specializes in the faith-based market and helped market Noah. “They’re discussing what’s in the Bible and what’s not in the Bible. How is this not a good thing?”

“This bodes well for the future of these films as well as Bible films in the pipeline to move forward,” said Bock, “Bible movies are back in a big way.”

Without a studio-produced Bible epic for fifty years, the bean-counters didn’t even have a good historical film performance from which to project box office gross, pointed out Bock. “You can’t go back and compare to Ben-Hur,” he said, “They’re trying to compare to Gravity, to Inception. To go out on a limb and make a movie with no historical data was a huge gamble that paid off tremendously.”

There were plenty on the Christian right predicting the movie would be a financial catastrophe of Biblical proportions. The advocacy group Faith Driven Consumers made waves in a Variety report with a flawed poll implying that 98% of the faith-based market disapproved of Noah and predicted in a press release on Friday, “In the case of Noah, Paramount has left untold millions of dollars on the table. This movie will be remembered by the faith community as an epic missed opportunity.”

“I would say those within the faith community who were predicting it to be a flop, they were 98% wrong,” said Bock.

Exclusive: Darren Aronofsky: ‘Everyone Believes in God’ in ‘Noah’

There has been some talk about whether or not God appears in the movie Noah.

When I talked to Darren Aronofsky, he could not have been more clear. Speaking of the villain Tubal-Cain, he said:

What’s interesting is most of the time when you make a bad guy in a movie, if it’s a religious movie, you make the guy a nonbeliever or something. But that’s not the case. Everyone believes in God in this movie because God is ten generations ago. Adam is ten generations ago, creation was just ten generations ago.

Co-writer Ari Handel added:

In his genealogy, Noah is the first person born after Adam died. So the idea that God doesn’t exist in the universe, it nonsense. So Tubal-Cain has a relationship with God, it’s just a negative relationship with God. He’s angry but he’s also, in that scene, he’s also looking for more. It’s complicated.

Read the full transcript (with some spoilers, so beware) of our conversation here. 

Read my review of the film.

Read my letter to Christians: An Invitation to Listen, How Christians Should Think About Noah

An Invitation to Listen: How Christians Should Think about ‘Noah’

Imagine it’s Thanksgiving. You’re gathered with extended family: your organic, hippy-dippy sister and her vegan kid, your two-tours-in-Iraq Marine Corps cousin, your Boomer peacenik aunt and your Korean War vet, hard-drinking grandfather.

History with this bunch reaches back decades, some of it from before you came on the scene. There are tender spots of emotional wounds and intellectual points of disagreement. Sometimes the emotional and intellectual are woven so closely you don’t know where one starts and the other ends.

Everyone disagrees with each other, strongly. Everyone thinks the other is a little kooky.  And when you all look at each other, you sometimes shake your head.

But under it, you love your sister, your cousin, your aunt, and your grandfather. Deeply, richly, with something that goes beyond those points of hurt.

And then your artsy-fartsy nephew says “I’ve been thinking a lot about the story of Noah. It’s been kind of consuming my mind. What would make God do that? What would it be like to be Noah? Are people good with a little bad or are they bad through and through?”

Suddenly, in this charged, uncomfortable but loving context, a real conversation starts.

How do you react?

Do you know all the answers and give a lecture? How would that go over? Would people listen to you?

Do you get angry because this person is asking questions and not listening to you? Stinging your pride?

Or do you realize that, even if you did have all the answers – you don’t, but even if you did – they have to discover it and wrestle with it for themselves?

This is the opportunity we, as faithful folk have been given with the movie Noah.

When you love someone, you listen. Not pretending to listen while you’re formulating your argument. Really listen.

You listen especially to their heart, to the cry of their heart.

When you love the culture, you listen to it. You try to hear it, to understand it, to hold it close.

Listening is not agreeing, not condoning. It is merely saying, “Hearing you express the deep, inner murmurings of your heart is an honor for me. Thank you for sharing yourself with me.”

The movie Noah, even if it were blasphemous – it’s not, but even if it were – is not a threat. It is not a threat to you or to me. It is a movie, made honestly by a person who thought about and wrestled with the story. It is an offering, an invitation, an opening of heart.

It is a chance.

So who are we going to be? The loud, unkind know-it-all at Thanksgiving dinner?  Are we going to be the people that no one would even approach because they know the reaction will be painful?

Or the one relative people trust enough to open up to?

Patient, kind. Not boastful, not proud.

It’s hard but it’s right.

These are all things we can apply to cultural dialog, ways we can be in cultural dialog. We can approach Noah this way. We should approach Noah this way.

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

-1 Corinthians 13

‘Gravity’ Wins Best Picture in Patheos Movie Awards, Full List of Winners

And the envelope, er tweet, please….

The results are in for the Patheos Movie Awards, aka the Pathies.

Channel Nominations

Patheos is made of many different faiths, each with its own channel. Each channel selected a movie from 2013 for Best Picture.

With the Entertainment Channel as tiebreaker, the Pathie for Best Movie of 2014 goes to Gravity:

 

Additional Awards:

The Entertainment Channel voted on additional awards. The full list of nominees are here. And the winners are:

Best Director
Alfonso Cuarón – Gravity

Best Actor in a Leading Role
Chiwetel Ejiofor – 12 Years a Slave

Best Actress in a Leading Role
Emma Thompson – Saving Mr. Banks

Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Michael Fassbender – 12 Years a Slave

Best Actress in a Supporting Role
June Squibb – Nebraska

Patheos Awards

We have two Patheos specific categories that are special to us. The winners are:

Interview: Roma Downey and Mark Burnett Talk ‘Son of God’ and Future Projects

Plenty of people want to make movies about the Bible. I hear pitches constantly to draw attention to this Bible project or that faith movie. But only a few have the experience to create a professional result and the connections to distribute them on a wide scale. Roma Downey and Mark Burnett are just such a couple, trading on their decades of success in Hollywood to create The Bible miniseries that astonished Hollywood with its high ratings and the new Son of God movie hitting theaters this week. And they’ve got more projects in the works.

I sat down with Downey and Burnett, with two other reporters, in a hotel in Washington, DC. Literally as the first question was asked, a fire alarm forced us into the snowy January day.

They could not have been better sports. Burnett led us to a bagel shop across the street, offering bagels to everyone, and they both chatted there in the booth like old friends meeting for lunch. One thing was very clear: They both love The Bible project and feel lucky to be able to work on it. They brim with excitement about it. It’s a passion project, one they’re delighted is having the success it is enjoying.

Here’s our conversation:

When did you first decide to turn the footage from the miniseries into a feature film?

RD: We had an editor on set with us, each week we’d look at rough assemblies. As the Jesus narrative was unfolding on the screen, I said to Mark, I wish we had been making a film because this is so beautiful. It’s spectacular and really deserves to be on the big screen. We decided there and then we would to that as well.

MB: With no clue of how we would possibly get the thing in the movie theaters. But we just knew….we’re very blessed with our careers, so we knew we could afford to get the movie made and somehow we’d certainly get it in a couple of theaters.

RD: At the very least we could do special event screenings. Not even really daring to dream that it would become what it has become with 20th Century Fox.

So you were filming with both a miniseries and a feature film in mind.

MB: Yes. Just because we thought it looked so great and Roma said it should be on the big screen. It took us a year in edits to figure out how to do this in only two hours. When we saw it, we realized this is really emotionally connecting. It just flies by with the pacing. Of course, it came true. It’s literally coming out 2/28 in three thousand theaters. What’s great, people who are seeing this who have gone to church their whole lives, pastors, theologians, who say, “I’ve never thought of these details.” These moments, you know, when Peter gets out of the boat, when Jesus walks on water, what are the other disciples thinking? “Peter, what are you doing? What are you doing? You’re going to drown!”

RD: We just decided to tell the story with drama, with the occupying Roman forces at that time, Pharisees led by Caiaphis, the disciples led by Jesus, on this collision course…On one hand I think the film plays like a political thriller. On the other, I know it plays like a love story. The greatest love story there ever was.

Please tell us about filming the crucifixion scene.

RD: It was the most intense scene in the entire picture. It took us three days to film it. It was challenging not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually. And I think that everybody who was present was deeply impacted by the scene. The challenges that we had to put an actor up on a cross and we needed to make sure the cross is bolted to the ground. There were high winds one afternoon. There was intense sunshine on the second day. We had to figure out how we were going to get him up and down off the cross. We had to build a platform. How long could we keep him on the cross? How could he balance on the cross? There were many many rehearsals and we had different people up on the cross. It was the most moving thing for all of us was just to imagine what the whole experience must have been… I have have considered the cross my whole life but I never fully considered what his mother must have been. To be the mother of Jesus, to see your son so brutally murdered in such a way. I know that she was the mother of the Son of God, but she was also the mother of a son. So, yeah, all I could do was to bring a heart of a mother to it. I’m a mother myself.  We know all the disciples except for John were not present so the courage of his mother and of Mary to remain with him, to be there for him, you know? We also know Jesus only said seven things from the cross and one of those was to take time to look after his mother and make sure she was ok. Which of course says so much about him as well.

Did you imagine as you started out in Hollywood that you would do this? What does it take to get to the place to be able to do a project like this?

MB: Roma had intended to come here to act with National Theater of Ireland, and took a job to pay the rent as a coat check girl in Manhattan. My first job was as a housekeeper slash nanny in Beverly Hills, as a servant for $125 a week. So, cut to where we are now, it’s America. If you think of what we are doing now, only in America is this possible. In terms of making this film and the series, if it wouldn’t have been for Touched by an Angel and The Voice and Survivor and The Apprentice and Shark Tank, I don’t think we would have the leverage to have gotten this made. I know that’s true. It’s certainly gave us an entry point to getting it made so therefore you can look at things happen for a reason. It’s for such a time as this that we met and two careers.

If you also think back, interestingly enough, we both had huge success on CBS, so the only show that was really beating Survivor? 

Touched by an Angel.

Does that come up a lot in your house?

MB (laughing): Beaten by Roma.

What can you tell us about your upcoming projects, AD and The Dovekeepers?

MB: We absolutely had thought to write the outline for AD while in Morocco [as they filmed The Bible] because we’re living in the environment and thinking, boy, how did 12 guys take down Rome? Because really, wouldn’t it have been obvious that Jesus crucified, resurrects, there starts to become problems around the growing of realizing the son of god has been on earth … strange they didn’t just kill them all and just get rid of it that way.They weren’t exactly above killing everybody, were they? They crucified 500 people a day at one point. But it’s amazing you look at the four groups, the disciples, the Herod family who were insane, literally insane, the Romans who just wanted to keep peace and collect taxes, and the temple authorities who were literally battling against the people of the way and Rome at one time, it led to 40 years later, the temple finally falls, right? So that’s AD, AD is really through the line of Acts through Revelation, built around a huge drama about what was going on. By the way, it’s an amazing amount of church leaders who said to us, well, that’s a really important story because no one has really considered that much what they really went through.

And then Dovekeepers takes place actually, it starts, at the destruction (of the temple).

RD: Clearly we love this period of time and stories that show the triumph of human spirit in spite of the terrible times they were living through. And both stories have that as the heartbeat. Dovekeepers is a beautiful novel written by Alice Hoffman. In fact we’ve just gotten our first draft outline of the screenplay today, so we’re eager to get to read that, we’ll probably do that on the flight back. And it’s a great story that’s going to be a four hour miniseries, a special event miniseries on screen 2015 on CBS. And AD, we have a 12 hour commitment from NBC to make that series and we’re hoping that will be an ongoing series, that it won’t just be a one-off.

Is it through Revelation or does it go past, does it go into the early church fathers?

MB: Revelation is 95, ok? around 80, 90, 95  [AD]. We planned to get to 70 as the temple falls, however, like with everything on TV, I’m about to make season 29 and 30 of Survivor.

Congratulations

MB: If people are watching, it could absolutely go on. We’ve really thought of taking it to AD 337. You know what happens then, right?

Constantine.

MB (Laughing): You passed. Your teacher would be so happy.

I gotta tell you, I’m fascinated by the early church history. I would love to see that.

MB: You’d have passed that test.

I was in Italy this summer, so I had a little cheat.

RD: Did you see the Pietá?

Yes.

RD: You know the moment when we have Jesus dropped, lowered down from the cross, we wanted to pay homage to Michelangelo’s Pietá, the camera lingers for just a moment when Jesus is placed in his mother’s arms. It’s a beautiful statue that’s in Rome that is Mary holding the dead Jesus in her arms and Michelangelo, it’s the only statue he ever signed. He signed it  because he really felt it was inspired by God.

The Cynical Opportunism of Anti-’Noah’ Group Faith Driven Consumer

How are these guys any different than Al Sharpton?

Faith Driven Consumer is an agency that has made lots of news pushing a hugely flawed poll that purports to show that 98% of faith-driven consumers reject Darren Aronofsky’s upcoming epic based on the Biblical Noah.

When you click through to their website, the poll is front and center.

The single question is what we in polling-conscious Washington DC call a “push poll.” It is a question framed not to find out what you really think but to form how you think.

As a Faith Driven Consumer, are you satisfied with a Biblically themed movie – designed to appeal to you – which replaces the Bible’s core message with one created by Hollywood?

That’s bad enough. As I wrote before, it’s embarrassing on many levels. 

But wait, there’s more.

Right under the question there is a field that demands you enter your name, email, phone, and address.

They want you. They want to gather the names and contact information for concerned Christians and use them for money.

They want a list. A list is a powerful thing in this world.

So “Faith Driven Consumer” has created a controversy that did not fully exist before for the sole purpose of making money off you.

This makes me very, very angry.

Because I love and respect the Christian in Minnesota and Tennessee and California who feels underserved by Hollywood. I love the church-goer who works hard and volunteers at the church homeless shelter or pregnancy center and takes care of their children and, at the end of a long day, just wants to relax in front of a movie or TV show that doesn’t mock them or their beliefs.

These people are part of what makes America the great place it is. They don’t spend a lot of time thinking about art and Hollywood and the connection of faith and moviemaking, like I do. They just want to watch The LEGO Movie with their kids or Lone Survivor on date night.

I consider it a big part of my job to honor and serve these folks.

And “Faith Driven Consumer,” taking a page out of exploiters like Sharpton and his ilk,  is scaring them and exploiting them for their own ends. For money.

That, actually, makes me sick.


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