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Why Are Christian Movies So Awful?

April 15, 2011 1 comment

Just read an article at Salon.com called Why Are Christian Movies So Awful? It’s a review of the new movie Soul Surfer, which apparently is based on the true story of a young Christian surfer who lost her arm, but was gutted of any theology by the producers.

One line from the review stuck out to me:

At the risk of offending many people in many different directions, Christian cinema reminds me of gay cinema. If, that is, gay cinema were permanently stuck in 1986, with a self-ghettoizing mandate to present positive role models for youth and tell an anodyne but uplifting story that sends a message of hope.

On the face of it, this is a curious turn of events. Whatever you want to say about Christianity as a system of thought or a force in history, you’ll have to admit that it has a pretty impressive record as a source of inspiration for artists and writers. But when we use the buzzword “Christian” in contemporary American society, we’re talking about a distinctively modern cultural and demographic phenomenon that has almost no connection to the spiritual and intellectual tradition that fueled Dante and Milton and Leonardo and Bach.

Christian movies will continue to be awful so long as Christian theology continues to be awful and shallow, as it has become in contemporary American Christianity. If Christians continue to be obsessed with “culture war” and are content with “a self-ghettoizing mandate to present positive role models and tell an anodyne but uplifting story that sends a message of hope” as a means of getting a leg up in that war, rather than making art that proclaims God as He is revealed in Scripture, then we will never see great art like Bach’s on the big screen.

At least those were the thoughts kicking around in my head during the awards ceremony for 168 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0_nrNDSMRos

I echo O’Hehir’s closing line:

If I really had any faith in American pluralism and in my fellow human beings, I guess I would predict that someday soon Christian filmmakers will ramp up their craft and make much better movies than “Soul Surfer.” Does the Lord really want to be glorified by way of something that looks like an especially tame episode of “Baywatch”?

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Categories: film, theology

“Useless” Wins Best Film

April 6, 2011 2 comments

Thank you for any prayers you offered for the film “Useless” mentioned in my previous posts. We won Best Film last week! As well as Best Actor and Best Cinematography.

You can watch the film online at http://www.uselessmovie.com or http://vimeo.com/21904874

For Immediate Release:

Contact: Paul Luebbers, 626-394-9763, info@168project.com

POLICE DRAMA ‘USELESS’ CUFFS BEST FILM AT 168 FILM FESTIVAL AS TOP-NOMINATED ‘CHILD’S PLAY’ TAKES CUSTODY OF MOST AWARDS (6) INCL. SCRIPTURAL INTEGRATION, DIRECTOR, SUPPORTING ACTRESS & SCREENPLAY-DRAMA

11 Shorts Claim 24 Awards in Faith-Based Speed Filmmaking Contest, Bandied by Musical Romp ‘Good News’ as Best Comedy, Lonely Heart Drama ‘Second Glances’ for Editing & Pastoral Introspective ‘The Main Thing’ Crowned Best Doc

The red carpet at the Alex Theatre, Glendale, CA

GLENDALE, Calif. (Apr. 2, 2011) – Husband and wife team of Dennis & Olivia Bentivengo’s cop-with-a-conscience drama “Useless” won Best Film tonight at the Bible-verse-illustrating 168 Film Festival, collecting three awards, including Best Actor (Kevin Sizemore) and Cinematography (Brandon Adams).

Based on the Apostle Paul’s appeal to Philemon to grant the slave owner’s son Onesimus his personal freedom in Philem. 1:10-11 and up for 11 awards, the film stars an actor who’s no stranger to law enforcement in Sizemore, known best for playing Harlan on “Prison Break” and Marine Sgt. William Moore on “NCIS,” and appearing soon in “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” currently in post-production.

Frontrunner divorce drama “Child’s Play” — with the most nominations (14) going into the 9th annual weeklong (i.e., 168-hour) filmmaking competition in a 20-finalist field of 11-min.-or-less films — from U.K. producer Owen Kingston took the lion’s share of awards, with six, counting Best Scriptural Integration, Screenplay-Drama and Director for Kingston and Tom Cooper (who were the festival’s top award winners with four apiece); International Film for Kingston, Cooper and Anita Wadsworth; and, rounding out the picture’s haul, Supporting Actress for Eleanor Appleton and Original Score for Michael Wray.

Tied for second-most wins with “Useless” was seven-time 168 filmmaker Theo Love’s cheeky guide to the atheists’ gospel “Good News,” which scored Best Comedy and Screenplay-Comedy nods (director-producer-editor Theo and wife Jessie, Eric Lee and wife Susu Keepman Lee) plus Best Actress for Benedicte Westbye.

Last two of “Second Chances”-themed edition’s five multiple-award-winning films, with two each, are journeyman Stephen Puffenberger’s exploration of a church’s life cycle “The Main Thing,” which took Best Unlimited Documentary and the Evangelista Award for the best telling of the core of Jesus’ message; and 168’s two-time Write of Passage winner and producer Alan Tregoning’s “Second Glances” for Best Editor (Chris Wiegand) and Sound Design (Wiegand, Josh Spake). Wiegand tied Puffenberger and the Lees for second-most awards, while 18 others won single awards, some of them albeit shared with fellow team members.

While six out of 24 award recipients were multiple winners in the 168’s 22-category competition, five recognized films were multiple winners out of the 11 overall winning films. The six single-win films are: “Breaking and Entering” for Best Supporting Actor (Mark Blitch); “Stranded” Animated Film (Michael Mitchell, Sarah Abel); “Guide Me Home” Music Video (first-time helmer Henry Wong); “Khwaish – A Desire” Production Design (Susheel Rankawat); “The Cure” Makeup (Kelly Jo Kern, Rachel Ringwood); and Behind The Scenes Documentary “The Making of ‘The Potter’s Hand’” (“The Potter’s Hand” director Brandon Chandler.)

Categories: film