“I want people to leave the cinema feeling that something's been confirmed for them about life.” – Danny Boyle
The acclaimed British director of multi-award winning ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ & the London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony certainly thinks the film industry has more to give its audience than simply entertainment.
Now that Christian Cinema is beginning to break through, especially in the US, we explore the potential impact this growing genre on the UK and whether Christians and churches could use it to their advantage.
Cinema & Christianity – Friends or Enemies
Brad Pitt at the Toronto Film Festival
Cast your mind back to 2004. Mel Gibson’s ‘The Passion of the Christ’ was airing in UK cinemas and Christians had mixed feelings. The extreme violence made the film controversial of itself; but it was the allegedly anti-Semitic undertones and dodgy biblical accuracy that got the religious community hot under the collar. The film sparked worldwide protests and, in 2006, was named by Entertainment Weekly as “the most controversial film of all time.”
At the same time, many churches bought up tickets for their congregations and encouraged people to invite friends to watch the film with them as an opening to spiritual conversation. A tract was even produced to help people connect the film with the gospel message, while another was circulated encouraging people to boycott it. The same can be said about ‘The Da Vinci Code’ and ‘The Life of Brian’.
It will be interesting to see how Britain and the world react to the cinematic production of the highly debated book by William P. Young, ‘The Shack’. With no concrete announcement and only rumours so far, it’s hard to know when and if it will ever make it onto film. But if it does, I’m sure it’ll receive the same treatment as ‘The Passion of the Christ’: some Christians will love it, while others will condemn it.
Christian Cinema's Arrival in the UK
Just as Mega-Churches began to dabble in the music business by opening a record label (Passion, Hillsong & Jesus Culture being among many), others are opening film studios and movie production companies.
Brothers Alex & Stephen Kendrick run Sherwood Pictures, creators of ‘Courageous’. After a trip to Disney Land, Sherwood’s Senior Pastor Michael Catt asked Alex Kendrick, who was the church's media minister at the time, where he wanted to be in ten years time. He replied, “I want to make movies, but no church is going to let me stay on staff and do that.”
After making 4 successful films with Sherwood Pictures (Courageous, Fireproof, Facing the Giants & Flywheel), the brothers have now branched out and set up their own production company, Kendrick Brothers Productions. And there are other Christian film companies producing big budget Christian films (Pure Flix, Bridgestone Media, Provident Films, Big Ideas).
SA Independent Film Festival 2012
from the offical website
Back in 2012, Courageous won the ‘Best of Festival’ Award at the San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival. Fast becoming the Christian Oscars, the festival has high hopes for this emerging industry. As the president and founder of SAICFF explains:
“Our mission is to inspire, encourage, reward and ultimately to build a replacement industry for Hollywood. Too many simply complain about Hollywood’s darkness. Our mission is to light candles of hope by affirming those films that exalt what is true, good, and noble”
More and more of these top-notch films are making their way into UK churches and homes. One way to see if we like what we see is to read the customer reviews:
“This film is a triumph of integrity and sensitivity for the film makers… A great film for small groups.” – Iain, Eden Customer Review for ‘October Baby’
“One minute I was crying, the next I was laughing hysterically! It really is a powerful, emotional film.” – Becky, Eden Customer Review for ‘Courageous’
“I thought initially the concept was going to be somewhat cheesy… I was hooked by the middle of it, and I'm widowed!! You’ll find it hugely enjoyable, with a LOT of smart lessons to be learnt and a couple of surprising twists.” – Romayne, Eden Customer Review for ‘Fireproof’
Want to Give Christian Cinema a Go?
Here’s a selection of Christian films we thoroughly enjoyed and think are excellent examples of quality Christian Cinema – inspiring faith through motion pictures.
Christian Blockbusters for the Whole Family:
Ring the Bell – a humble coming-to-faith story about a big-shot sports scout who discovers his faith in small town life
Soul Surfer – true story of Bethany Hamilton, who was attacked by a shark then courageously became a surfing champion
Escape – kidnapped on a uninhabited island, will Paul find his wife and rely on God as his only hope of escape
Christian Ministry Films for Churches:
October Baby – Christian Film of 2012, an emotional journey telling the story of an abortion survivor
Courageous – championing Christian fatherhood, four policemen each learn how to become strong father figures
Fireproof – inspiring love in marriage, the story of a firefighter who battles to show his wife how much he loves her
Christian Documentary/Biography for Small Groups:
Father of Lights – acclaimed film maker Darren Wilson's search for God through testimonies and events around the globe
Eyes to See – true story of a cameraman’s experience of the devastating earthquake in Haiti, and how he chose to help
Journey to Jamaa – 2012 World Vision film, capturing the story of two orphaned children in Uganda
The Bible on the Big Screen for Everyone:
Road to Emmaus – walk alongside the two travellers as a mysterious stranger joins them, experience this story through their eyes
Apostle Peter and the Last Supper – dramatisation of the last days of the father of the Christian faith, telling his incredible story
The Bible: Epic Mini Series – breathtaking American series bringing 5 Bible stories to life
April 28th, 2013 - Posted & Written by James Warwood