Last Saturday was a big day for Heumoore productions, as it won the Audience Choice award, was runner-up for feature film category and won the Best of Festival award for it’s feature film The Widow’s Might.
The Widow’s Might tells the story of a young group of entrepreneurs who make a film in order to help save the homestead of widow Grace Jackson from confiscation for property taxes. In the process, there is a political message and an important theological message as well. Two generations work together as the Moore family undertakes, together with Cameron Cavillo, Jim Morton, and others to bring community attention to the widow’s plight.
The film that the group (Cinemablog Productions) makes ends up being a musical western in which the railroad is attempting to take a widow’s property in cooperation with the local sheriff, making use of governmental claims of “eminent domain.” While it is true that much of the settlement of the west came as a result of the US government giving large swaths of land to the railroads prior to the settlement of the areas west of the Mississippi River the western portion of The Widow’s Might assumes an already settled area that may or may not be receiving a railroad depot.
For many years full Bible Presbyterians have been calling attention to the fact that America’s churches have turned much of their calling over to civil government. The church has the primary responsibility to care for its own widows according to Scripture. It was refreshing to see a film in which young people, especially those who are members of one of our full Bible (i.e. Hanover) Presbyterian congregations took that message public and did it in an entertaining way. In the film, the institutional church did not involve itself directly in political or theatrical activity, but as “the widow Grace” said, because of the church she would never “want for a place to stay.”
The Reverend Kevin Swanson, a speaker and judge at the festival and an ordained minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, noted that we presently live in a toxic environment as far as film and other entertainment forms are concerned. Swanson noted that films have multiple purposes of entertaining, communicating, evoking emotions or what the Puritans would have called the affections, and giving a medium to express rejoicing and edification. All Christian film, to deserve the name, must be driven by a deep sentiment of the fear of God, according to Swanson.
While admitting that there is a certain danger in adopting worldly forms because forms are often reflective of worldviews, he also noted that in the world we presently inhabit, the shepherds of youth are no longer parents and pastors, but cultural icons. We are currently raising the third generation of “teenagers” since Elvis Presley, and the social context of much film today is rebellion.
Rev. Swanson went on to discuss how rejoicing was an important part of the biblical culture. He used the example of the Israelites singing at the shore of the Red Sea after God overthrew “horse and rider” in sea. He compared it to a modern cultural response of “a victory dance in the end zone” after a touchdown. He pointed out also that rejoicing, as it is viewed prospectively in Deuteronomy will involve the community: the widow and the Levite as well as the individual and the family.
In a private interview, Pastor Swanson indicated that he thought the primary direction of Christian film in the future will be toward the family and the home first of all rather than toward the theater or the general populace. He sees film as edifying in that it should be watched both as an entire narrative, with a beginning, middle, and end; but also because it can be stopped and restarted with family discussion taking place in the home, which cannot happen in the theater.
While film is not significantly different from any other art form in the Christian’s arsenal, Swanson explained that the visual forms tend to intensify the aesthetic experience. The Christian film must reflect the Christian worldview, first of all. Then it must pay careful attention to method, themes, ethics and the law of God, and it must be very careful how it treats sin and sinners. On this last point, the Christian film must be careful to demonstrate that one does not break God’s law so much as God’s law breaks the sinner.
The film, workshop, and interview outlined above hardly exhaust the festival experience. To download some of the films that were shown at the festival, please visit http://www.behemoth.com. It is my understanding that CDs of the workshops will be available soon from http://www.visionforumministries.com.