*Scroll to the bottom of the page to see what films we’re seeing at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival
Oh man, I love movies! From VHS Star Wars nights to Thanksgiving weekend blockbusters with out-of-town cousins, a hallmark of my childhood was captivation with the big screen. It wouldn’t have been reasonable to call me a “movie buff”, but if I were given a choice between watching a movie and doing anything else I’d usually opt for the movie. This may be universal experience or maybe it’s in my genes because my kids seem to be just like me.
For years I gravitated to releases with the biggest budgets and the gentlest MPAA ratings. Since I came up in a fairly conservative Christian home I was concerned to be entertained safely. My parents’ scruples–and later my own–kept a great many films at arm’s length. Behind this filtering process was an assumption that movies exercise some sort of power over viewers, but I couldn’t articulate that then. I only knew I wanted to experience the thrills of some movies while avoiding at all costs the worrisome effects of others. In other words, I knew that movies did something, but I wanted to control what I allowed them to do to me. For the most part, I wanted to be entertained by feel-good stories that ended happily ever after.
I went to seminary in Southern California, home of the movie industry. My school actually offered courses on film and theology, so I signed up. We watched 15 movies over 10 weeks and attempted to bring each into conversation with the biblical book of Ecclesiastes (admittedly not a favorite of mine before this class). You may remember that Ecclesiastes isn’t an especially hopeful book. It doesn’t pair so well with the feel-good movies I used to prefer. But what Ecclesiastes does offer is an honest take on the human situation. My professor Rob Johnston summed up the message of Ecclesiastes, saying, “Life is absurd and painful and joyful and worth dying for, all at the same time.” In this tension lies a certain mystery. A friend of Rob’s, theologian Bill Dyrness, says the theological task is “located at the intersection of hearing God’s story and telling our own stories.” So, in this class we attempted to use the mystery of Ecclesiastes as a lens through which to view the whole of the Bible, the witness to God’s story, and each of the assigned movies. Some of the films I watched in this way challenged and stretched me, but all turned out to be rewarding.
That first course gave me confidence enough to sign up for a second: an immersion course at Sundance Film Festival. This was a truly profound experience–watching movies, feeling the power (or lack thereof) in their stories, and considering what light, if any, they shed on God’s story. I also recognized a growing sense of responsibility as a Christian participant in this influential cultural event. Lots of people assembled there in Park City for the festival: filmmakers, producers, distributors, film fans and cultural leaders of all stripes. Each year this group makes a significant contribution to the cultural landscape of the coming years by deciding which movies hit theaters and shape the public that sees them. And I was there, present and engaged, as a Christian, as a witness to the Lord Jesus.
We have an opportunity of our own to participate in a major film festival in April. The 2018 Tribeca Film Festival opens downtown in a few weeks, and All Angels’ is planning to be there! Movies can be entertaining and fun, but they’re also powerful vehicles for telling stories and exploring people, the world, and God. I believe we do well to practice “hearing God’s story” and “telling our stories” together as a community. The movies offer us a way to do this. So you’re invited to join me and All Angels’ as we head down to Tribeca and see some movies later this month. We may learn more about ourselves and refresh our understanding of God’s story in the process. And of course, as living members of Christ’s Body, our presence will itself be a witness to God’s gracious presence in the world and an expression of mission in this city.
– Seth Little, All Angels’ Director of Worship Arts
Grab some popcorn. We’re going to the movies!
The 2018 Tribeca Film Festival is happening in a few weeks, and All Angels’ is planning to be there! We’ve selected six movies to see, showing Saturday-Wednesday, April 21-25 (with two on Tuesday evening). Anyone is invited to secure their own tickets and join us, but we’re currently seeking volunteers to attend a screening and write a review for this blog. If you’re interested in volunteering please contact Seth Little at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll cover your ticket if selected! Learn more about the festival at www.tribecafilm.com.
Here’s our All Angels’ Church @ Tribeca Film Festival Schedule:
Blowin’ Up (Documentary Competition), 6:30 PM – SAT 4/21, CINÉPOLIS CHELSEA 8
- Zoe (Gala), 9:30 PM – SUN 4/22, REGAL CINEMAS BATTERY PARK 11-5
- Tanzania Transit (Documentary Competition), 8:00 PM – MON 4/23, CINÉPOLIS CHELSEA 6
- Charm City (Viewpoints), 8:00 PM – TUE 4/24, CINÉPOLIS CHELSEA 6
- Little Woods (U.S. Narrative Competition), 9:00 PM – TUE 4/24, CINÉPOLIS CHELSEA 9
- Diane (U.S. Narrative Competition), 9:30 PM – WED 4/25, CINÉPOLIS CHELSEA 8