How to Depict Religion Powerfully on the Screen

It’s easy to be superficial about Christianity on screen: a character’s offhand remark, a shot of a crucifix or rosary, or a quick scene of prayer does the trick. A serious screen treatment of Christianity means getting dirty, down in the roots of its motivational power, showing this power played out in the actions and interactions of the characters, in their self-understanding and understanding of one another, in the conflicts that make up the plot. Displaying a cross is one thing; centering a character on the symbol is quite another.

Lee’s Strange Vampire Saga Turns Sour in Da Sweet Blood of Jesus

Da Sweet Blood of JesusSpike Lee took a bunch of provocative ideas, put them in a blender, and poured out Da Sweet Blood of Jesus, an audacious but muddled character study that nevertheless proves the veteran filmmaker can never be easily dismissed.

It’s a remake of the obscure 1973 film Ganja and Hess that offers a bizarre probe of religion, art and sexuality through a story of vampirism and uncontrolled lust. Yet the meandering script and uneven performances make the film more noteworthy for its effort than its execution.

Berlin Film Review: ‘Golden Kingdom’

Poster for Golden KingdomA cultivated sense of calm — no more or less than you’d expect from a study of Buddhist practice — permeates “Golden Kingdom,” an impressively disciplined, occasionally transporting debut feature from globe-trotting American helmer Brian Perkins. Blending documentary-style observation with supernaturally embellished storytelling, this picturesque portrait of four child monks in Myanmar forced to fend to themselves in the absence of their mentor adds a bracing spiritual dimension to an otherwise universal boys-to-men arc. Premiered in Berlin’s youth-oriented Generation strand, the film may only resonate with children of a particularly patient persuasion, but international auds will find keys to this particular “Kingdom” via ample festival travel and niche arthouse bookings.

Red alert as controversial religious film hits India theaters

Poster for MSG - The MessengerThe northern Indian state of Haryana was put on high alert on Friday for the launch of a controversial film featuring the head of a religious sect who claims to be a messenger of God.

The film MSG – The Messenger opened in approximately 3,000 theaters across the country with major bookings seen in Haryana, the base of the sect Dera Sacha Sauda (Dera).

The sect claims to have 50 million followers across the world.

Boyhood – Gender (and Religion?)

Boyhood – Gender (and Religion?)From Cinema through Sociology & Anthropology

This is evident in films that try, or pretend, to portray religious characters, who embrace morality as service to others or, at least, as loving others. They risk becoming emasculated. Thus, love is not the main thing they do or is portrayed very differently, as protection for instance. Real men shoot, they don’t love. They protect from the enemy or, at best, they bear injuries with great dignity. It strikes me that Jesus in film is often the suffering hero rather than the loving hero who washes people’s feet.

Christian Film Market Offers More Than Just Entertainment, Hollywood Publicist Says

From The Christian Post

Hollywood’s Christian film market continues to expand thanks to a growing consumer appetite for faith-based films. One Hollywood publicist believes that ultimately, Christian films have the potential to extend beyond providing superficial entertainment on the big screen to having a significant social and cultural impact in the modern world….
“There are so many stories to tell regarding the Christian experience and the many different sub-cultures that exist within it,” said Spencer. “I also think those who are not Christians can benefit from these stories as well. As humans, I think we are all inspired by stories of faith, hope, love and perseverance. These are qualities that help replenish the human spirit regardless of its attachment or non-attachment to organized religion”.

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Echo of the Mountain (Variety film review)

Echo of the MountainFrom Variety

Long fascinated by indigenous Huichol culture, noted Mexican documentary/features helmer Nicolas Echevarria (“Cabeza de Vaca”) turns his artistically sensitive, respectful eye toward master muralist Santos de la Torre in the beautifully made if repetitive “Echo of the Mountain.” One of the Huichol’s leading artists, de la Torre creates stunning, complex traditional murals out of multicolored beads, their patterns tied to the peoples’ land and religion. Echevarria films him and his family both in the act of creation and during elaborate rituals which, though interesting, remain frustratingly unexplained. While little concrete is learned, this attractive window onto a threatened culture has been picking up awards and should see rotation on PBS-style broadcasts.

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Snow In Paradise: Why Positive Takes On Religion Are Vital In Cinema

Snow In ParadiseFrom The Hollywood News

SNOW IN PARADISE is an incredibly powerful story, rooted in the possibility of finding a way out of darkness and bad choices through the comforting welcome of a religious community and new belief system. This positive take on religion is something seriously lacking nowadays, in a time when the majority of worldwide coverage of religion seems to focus solely on negativity, and the importance of conveying this message was not lost on Askew. ‘Having a production office in the annex of a mosque was extra special for me,’ he said. ‘I felt cultural bridges were being built.’

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Exaltation – Fundraiser – Hartley Film Foundation

Exaltation From the Hartley Film Foundation

Few things are consistent throughout human history. The use of dance as an expression of culture and self-expression, and as a method of veneration to higher powers, is one of those constants. Exaltation will explore the universal use of dance around the world to communicate a reverence for the spiritual.

Dance unites a myriad expressions of religion, custom, and belief. The filmmakers, who are dancers and choreographers themselves, will travel the world observing self-expression through dance in many locations from remote villages to massive cathedrals. Director Matthew Diamond and his team hope to spark dialogue and interfaith understanding, and to communicate that although we come from different backgrounds and cultures, there are some things that unite us all.

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As It Is In Heaven (Overbay, 2014) – Filmwell review

As It Is In HeavenFrom Filmwell

As It Is In Heaven is a hushed film; a quiet film in the way of Gitai’s Kadosh or Reygadas’ Silent Light when these films are focused on the ritual lives of their respective communities. Such films remind us that we watch cinema simply because it can do something the other arts cannot. It allows us to see people doing things that puzzle us, and perhaps even grieve us, in real life. But it gives us the space to see these things in bite-sized pieces, broken down into component elements, activities, and rhythms.
This is significant for films about religion, as absurd rituals and beliefs start to feel more coherent through this exposure. Even if we don’t identify with what we are seeing and hearing, we leave a film understanding someone better.

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