Christian Film: what is it, really?
Is Christian film just the general label for film and DVD with a Christian message or purpose? Almost all Christian film of this kind is produced by openly Christian, studio-independent film makers and usually for a church-going Christian audience. But should there be more to Christian film than preaching to the converted?
Making films to win the lost for Christ".
Christian film and DVD production has been on the rise since the collapse in production costs thanks to digital technology. High quality low cost video production set free the independent budget for other aspects of film making including higher profile actors and directors.
Almost four centuries of Christian film
As long ago as 1680 Catholic priest Athanasius Kircher promoted the magic lantern to project Christian images and immediately got into trouble with the authorities. Anything that takes place in a darkened room has always been viewed with suspicion by organised religion.
Traditional sensitivities over presenting fictionalised events and the controversies about portraying the sacred, would later compound the fear of cinema and film as the sin of creating a ‘graven image’.
In the 1800s, missionaries including David Livingston used magic lanterns to present the Gospel in Africa. Dedicated movie theatres emerged in the early twentieth century and soon displaced ‘wholesome’ magic lantern shows used in many churches for social and evangelic purposes.
Puritanical church goers, suspicious of the new popularity of these houses of darkness were quick to condemn the cinema, film, the film industry and film goers being more of the devil than delight.
World’s first 'feature' is a Christian film
The first Christian church to see the potential of film in evangelism was The Salvation Army. Herbert Booth, son of The Salvation Army’s founder, made what is probably the first Christian film in 1899.
With the Salvation Army’s ‘Limelight’ film department he made the world’s first feature film ‘Soldiers of the Cross’ in 1926. Film makers of other denominations also produced openly Christian films. Bertram Willoughby, an American Congregationalist produced ‘As we Forgive’ with his New Era film company.
Most early Christian films are long lost. Perhaps only those of Venezuelan ambassador to Switzerland, Carlos Octavia Baptista, survive from the first age of films made specifically to ‘win the lost for Christ’.
Christian film gets a Hollywood makeover
Throughout the twentieth century, the big Hollywood studies turned out spectacular Bible epics. Hollywood films tended to use Christian subject material, rather than make Christian subject films.
Though they certain promoted the ‘Christian’ and morals of the day, Hollywood movies probably didn’t constitute what many Christian film makers and consumers would described today as Christian films.
In the 1940s Christian film libraries emerged leading to the formation of the Christian Film Distribution Association (CFDA) with its ‘Crown Awards’ for films that ‘glorified Jesus Christ’. Billy Grahams ‘World Wide Pictures’ became a pioneer in partnering churches to bring Christian films to the cinema.
Emergence of the modern movie vision
Perhaps the film that marked the arrival of Christian film as a serious creative force in the cinema world was Gateway Film’s ‘The Cross and the Switchblade’ in 1972.
Visionary film makers kept alive the art of making Christian film throughout the latter half of the twentieth century. As a means of teaching and story telling, film offered a means to engage a modern audience in a medium ever growing in popularity and sophistication.
With the arrival of television, churches looked to film as a new opportunity to evangelise. A new generation of Christian thinkers and explorers with the film making skills provided the impetus to reach an increasingly film-literate and intellectually demanding audience.
Independent Christian film production
By 2006, Christian film makers were bringing around 50 films a year to the screen with an average gross of $39 million. Finally taking the Christian market seriously, all major Hollywood studios now have departments targeting the growing demand for faith-based and family output.
The twenty-first century brought new technologies for film making, reproduction, distribution and new writing and production talent. Hard questions could be asked and addressed in exciting film with production values as high as those of the commercial movie world.
Christian film continues to grow and offer a wider range of engaging titles in every major genre from block-buster action movies to niche market art-house offerings.
Rising quality and rising expectations
Christian film companies produce everything from fiction enriched Bible re-tellings through biographies, historical romances, mysteries, science fiction, youth culture and darker films. There really is something for everyone who wants to explore Christian themes and concerns through film and DVD.
With high quality production and reproduction, Christian film and DVD is well placed to compete on equal terms with commercial offerings. Promotion and marketing of Christian film and DVD has also stepped up to the challenge of staking out a claim on the world's screens.
Striking cover art, hard hitting titles and content that lives up to the promotion makes Christian film and DVD a gift that’s as exciting to give as to get.
Quick Guide to Christian Film and DVD
What is it?
- Film and DVD that engages and explores big themes through story and imagination.
- Bible re-telling, historical, romance, mysteries, science fiction, children and youth culture.
- High quality, modern, attractive titles and designs for all ages of DVD and film fans.
What will it do for me?
- Get you into a good film with a fresh take on Christian themes and ideas.
- Explore a deeper understanding of man and God through film and DVD.
- Provide a gift to encourage another to explore God through inspired film.
Over to You
At Eden.co.uk you can find a truly interactive Christian community helping you find all you need to live, learn and grow your faith.
Almost all Christian film of this kind is produced by openly Christian, studio-independent film makers and usually for a church-going Christian audience.
- Is Christian film just the general label for film and DVD with a sermon?
- Should there be more to Christian film than preaching to the converted?
Tell us. Post your ideas, views and tips – beautiful, brilliant and bizarre at Eden.co.uk
March 2nd, 2012 - Posted & Written by Les Ellison