… but doesn’t know quite how to deal with it. For instance, they start off telling of a movie currently in production about “a spoiled young American who goes on a partying trip to India and gets pulled into the search for a little girl who was sold to human traffickers. The film was partly shot in India and centers around Dalits, the so-called “untouchables” on the lowest rung of the traditional caste system.” The profits from the film are earmarked to help the Dalits. You would think liberals would be falling over themselves to praise a project that aims to selflessly help some of the most oppressed and poverty-struck people on Earth, and that champions a fight against modern day slave traders. But here the praise is muted, and countered by people who just really aren’t sure churches should be in the movie making ‘business,’ regardless of intentions. And then there are those who just wish silly old “conservative” Christians “would look more closely for spiritual themes in Hollywood’s movies”. Because, you know, sometimes they’re hidden in there. (OK, sometimes they are. See this BreakPoint list of recommended films, for starters. Not that I agree with all their recommendations or thumbnail summaries, but, hey, it’s their list…)
On the upside, at PBS, there is some actual reporting mixed in with the hand wringing; for instance, that Fireproof was the highest grossing independent film of 2008. And, although the reporter ‘balances’ the story by talking to people with strange, hypothetical concerns (one of my favorites was the gentleman who frets that if these movies are too successful, a genre will spring up, which will somehow then cause the films to be cut off from the mainstream…), on the upside, a handful of people working on church productions were allowed to have their say, and successful movies were given their due, if perhaps grudgingly.
There did seem to be undue concern, I thought, about these films not being done in Hollywood by the entrenched film industry. To which, I say: let the best movies win.
Years ago, my husband and I were driving to a nearby city to pick up business supplies, and midway there we saw a long, and I mean long, line of people outside a shopping center complex: all ages, families, singles, richer, poorer. Amazing. We stopped to investigate, and traced it to a movie theater. The film that had drawn the attention was Driving Miss Daisy. We hadn’t heard of it, but since we were on a shopping expedition, and not keeping an appointment, and had some wiggle room as far as time went, we blocked out the time to see the movie. Chatting with people in line, some were back for the second or third time to see it. Others were there because friends had suggested it. We really liked it, too. Is it a classic? Maybe. Maybe not. But it is a good movie, head and shoulders above the trashy amusement so often delivered by Hollywood in recent decades.
For that matter, as I remember it, it was a nice mix of musement and amusement. And don’t tell me that musement isn’t a word. I don’t care. Muse means to think. A-muse means to not think. (Literally. It means that. Atypical means not typical. Amoral means not moral. Amuse means to not engage your mind.) Driving Miss Daisy was a film that not only entertained, it asked you, politely but firmly, to consider a few things carefully. Musement. Definitely.
Please understand. I can understand that some people might not like the movies being produced by churches. That’s fine. Before I became a Christian I rather deplored Christian themed movies myself, and these days there are some sorts of Christian films I don’t think much of, either. We all have our tastes.
Please understand. I can understand how people who make their living making films might feel undercut by films being made largely by volunteers, as so many of these church films are. I have a love-hate relationship with ebooks; whatever I may think about their merits (and, frankly, I really like ebooks), I am afraid they might spell the death of the already beleaguered brick and mortar bookstore industry. I also know of previously robust traditional publishers who are sweating, not sure yet how, or if, they can stay afloat in an age of ebooks and print-on-demand technologies that have unleashed self-publishing on a scale never before seen. I used to laugh at stories about buggy whip makers resenting the rise of the automobile. I no longer laugh. But I don’t wish we didn’t have cars. And I also don’t wish that we only had films made by Hollywood.
On Facebook yesterday, at the page of a Hollywood insider who professes to be Christian, I stumbled across a conversation where participants were coming undone over the movies discussed in the PBS article. That’s where I found the link, actually. (I have long since stopped looking to PBS for much in the way of useful information.) And I do mean undone. The opening salvo, from a guest, was “Trying to figure out if this is yet another example of yeast congealing… instead of leavening the lump.” The hostess came back with, “This is yeast hating itself and its place in the cosmos and rebelliously deciding that it wants to be something else entirely.” To which the man who had launched the opening salvo said, “Ah, yeast committing suicide rather than being a martyr. What a waste.”
What a waste, indeed. But not the movies they are deriding, some of which have brought cheer and joy and inspiration and, dare I say it, musement, to many.
If I remember right, St. Augustine had experience with people acting like this, and described them better than I ever could. I was skimming The City of God this morning, looking for the precise quote or two I wanted, but so far am falling short. I came across a reference to one of the banes of the Greeks being that they loved contention more than truth. That sort of fits, perhaps. But what I wanted was the part where he talks about the literati who love wordplay so much that they wildly applauded ‘wit’ if it struck them as original, and lost pretty much all correspondence with reality along the way.
Anyway, it struck me as sad, and sorry, and nasty, what they were saying. And I wonder if it says more about them than they mean for it to. “We are the gatekeepers! You can’t have anything happen outside our gates!” Perhaps? I don’t know. It also reminds me of girls who don’t get invited to the prom, and respond by sneering at the very idea of proms. Sour grapes, you know. But I don’t know. I can’t translate stuff about yeast supposedly hating its supposed place in the cosmos. I’m not really sure I want to. Do I? And how it fits into a story about people who are, as it happens, trying to make movies not leavened with the ungodly yeast that’s taken over so much of the movie industry, just beats me.
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