Archive for January, 2007

Journey home

January 31, 2007

Sandwiched between luggage and the suburban car window on the way to the airport, it hit me: Sundance is over and we were leaving. The snow packed hills of Northern Utah that had become so familiar over the past week flew by the window, and I suddenly realized I didn’t want to leave.

My week at Sundance was life changing. I had a hard time getting my head around the experiences. The movies, the Q&A’s and meet-and greets. What was the highlight? Where specifically had I seen God move? Definitely the Save Me Premiere and the Q&A after Black Snake Moan. And of course sharing a (donated) condo and making 9 new friends from the Pasadena cohort (including our countless discussions and rapidly growing supply of inside jokes). But there were so many more, and I’m not sure if I could point out one single highlight.

I kept starring out the car window as if I’d find a nicely packaged interpretation of the week I could carry back with me. Instead I was hit hard with how real God’ presence had been the entire week – it was a profound spiritual experience. We were all living life together in our mess, seeing other people’s mess on screen, and God revealed himself desite ourselves.

Even more, it was a safe place to actively engage with this mess and culture with in the context of a class, while we were full participants in the festival: we saw the movies, mingled with the directors and stars at their parties, shared our film aspirations with other up and coming talents (didn’t find another designer though). And we saw God stir is us, and more exciting, in others.

I don’t know how you can duplicate this – there’s not formula to get people to show up ready to talk about spirituality, let alone experience it, in film especially at a place like Sundance. But I do know what you can do to thwart it: close your mind and shut your eyes. Turn your heart off your heart off to where God might be moving. Because a project is made by non-Christians, or Christians different than you, assume God is not involved.

Newsflash: He’s there and speaking loudly.

Back in the Suburban staring out the window, the tears welled up as I thought about going back. I haven’t been around so many open hearts in such a long time, and the thought of leaving it was scary. Can I be a steward of this experience? Can I speak to this around those who didn’t go or wouldn’t understand?

I struggle with this everyday to share the hope and meaning I’ve found in Christ. I prefer to show people my sentiments rather than telling them. I’m the quiet one who doesn’t speak up a whole lot, but is probably lost in a deep well of thought. How do I share? Are you ready? Am I ready? I’m coming out of the cocoon, back into real life where many Christians are sacred of cinema (or “sin-ema”) and avoid it (or make harsh uninformed critiques about films they haven’t seen.)

I don’t know what’s next … and perhaps in that way, the journey isn’t over.

I’m here for all the films.

January 25, 2007

Inevitably when I tell people I’m a student here for the Festival, the next question is, “Do you study theatre?” or “What school do you go to?”

Then I have a choice. Do I brush off the Christian context that brings me here, or mention the spiritual and theological dialogue?

Heck, maybe I am a missionary after all. I’ve been going for it and gotten positive responses overall. Some people turn out to be local church goers and resonate (they’ve had time to engage themselves with the festival since its in their town). Others instantly tell me about the alternate films showing in churches around town with Christian content (Bonhoeffer documentary, etc.). My favorite so far has been the glazed over look with, “Oh, you’re here for those films.”

I told those ladies, “No, I’m here for all the films.”

What is a Sundance film?

January 24, 2007

That was one of the writing prompts for an article review I wrote for class. I said it was simply the absence of a studio backed film – independent, sans Hollywood. This could be a wide range in styles carrying an even larger number of themes. I watched two movies tonight that spanned this spectrum.

Waitress with Kerri Russell (I started calling it ‘Felicity’) about a woman trapped in an horrible marriage who finds solace in making crazy pie creations. Enter unwanted pregnancy and the new cute town doctor, paired with hilarious dialogue and pie recipes along with real questions about happiness and responsibility – I walked out with a new favorite. Thanks to a good reaction plus a few newspaper articles in town, it’s becoming a festival favorite, and my professor Craig mentioned it’s already been picked up for 3 million (meaning it has studio backing and will get distributed to theaters and DVD). I’m so excited – you’ll love this movie!

Longford, a British film about the true person, Lord Longford, who advocated for the redemption and chance at parole for infamous murderer Myra Hindley. Are there crimes that are unforgivable? The British public seems to think so with the horrific murder of five children in the countryside, but Lord Longford says no to drawing such lines and struggles with the consequences of such a forgiving and lavish love. There was a Q&A that was unfortunately hijacked with horrible questions about the details of the British prison system and self-awareness.

Jim Broadbent from Longford

Michelle and Janelle with Tim and Jim

We did somehow manage to sit directly infront of the film’s director Tom Hooper, among others involved with the film. In addition, the director of Queen (which was nominated today for best picture – my bet is they get it) was just two rows back.

Anyway, after the Q&A, and before they were mobbed with the crowd, Michelle talked to Hooper and lead actor Jim Broadbent (from Moulin Rouge and Bridget Jones among others). I was busy snapping the picture, but I think there was a comment about the theme of redemption in the film. A first for all of us, Hooper mentioned we were good sit behind – we laughed at all the right places!

Slow and tragic day

January 22, 2007

Not all play

I opted out of movies today, and finished up a book review before the class kick off at the Mountain Vineyard Church. Over 100 Biloa, Fuller students, in addition to folks from Windrider and the Angelus Student Film Festivall. They showed the 3 of the top 4 winners from this years festival, and brought the filmmakers on stage for Q&A. Queen of Catcus Cove is a gem – see it if you can. Tomorrow we see the grand prize winner. This group isn’t connected to Sundance directly, but these are the future filmmakers who will hopefully have stuff at the festival a few years down the road.

On a horribly tragic note – a wife and daughter who were to be a host family for our group were in a bad accident on their way back from Salt Lake. The 4 year old daughter was killed, and the mother is in critical condition. Her car slipped on ice, and spun into another car killing the other driver as well. This is all the more horrific as the family had just lost a newborn child this past November, not more than 2 weeks old, and were already grieving. A classmate posted a note here on our class blog, and the church gave us an update tonight followed by a touching prayer of grief.

This puts the whole festival into perspective for us. Those from the congregation gave a touching charge to the group: This is life – we don’t understand it, but it happens. Go make movies about real life. (It was something like that, I was fighting tears after the prayer).

Please keep the husband in your prayers as he deals with the loss of another child and possibly his wife. Would she pull through and find healing with her husband in all the ways they need it…

Save Me Premiere

January 22, 2007

Cast and Crew dialouge after Save Me

There are a few movies that the whole class will see together, one of which is the documentary For the Bible Tells me So. It deals with the way the American church is treating homosexuals. Whew – hot topic. Watch out, the water’s just getting warm.

Since a group of us flew in early to check things out and see a few extra movies, my classmate JJ and I wanted to see Save Me, which also deals with homosexuality and the church. Chad Allen (who recently played Steve Saint in End of the Spear) plays a gay drug addict who hits rock bottom, finds healing at a Christian gay rehabilitation retreat center, and falls for one of the guys at the center.

We stood in line to get wait-list tickets to the premiere, and easily got in. We even chatted with one of the actors and production coordinators in the process (who says standing in line is so bad?).

The cool thing about getting into a premiere at a place like Sundance is the dialogue since most of the cast and crew are there. The opening comments by the director of Save Me were poignant: “This is not a gay movie. This is not a Christian movie. This is an American movie.” While the film itself was about average (cinematography, sound, acting), JJ and I agreed everyone in our class should see it for the message, which an audience member summed up in the post-movie Q&A with the director, producers, cast and crew: “This is a movie about love!”

This movie was written and produced by gay and pro-gay filmmakers, but the irony is it’s not for the gay community – its for the rest of the country, especially those who would condemn and judge homosexuals.

Judith Light, plays the stanch conservative christian who seeks to ‘cure’ these men of homosexuality, and really more selfishly, find her own redemption and make peace with God in the process. Instead she is shown love by those she condemns. It portrays all sides in a real way without going over the top. I felt I could walk away from this film and enter into dialogue – it’s building bridges.

Yet honestly, I winced and wrestled during this movie. Am I endorsing something I don’t agree with by being here? How do I feel about this issue? But I needed to be there, and glad I was. JJ and I walked up and talked to three of the producers afterwards and told them we were theology students here to study spiritual themes in films. We said we appreciated the film, but especially their dialogue and approach with it afterwards. They seemed honestly glad we came up to say something and gave their thanks. I left blown away with the irony of the gay community producing a film with such real, but respectful, portrayal of how they are treated by the church.

Responding to hate with love – sound familiar?

Ready to dance?

January 22, 2007

Sundance is amazing. The weather is cold, the movies are intense, and the company is good. There are a few really famous people (Heather Graham, Steven Baldwin were a few I just saw). Yet it seems there’s a ton of – “that’s the brother of so-and-so in that TV show…” Actors that I don’t even see until others in my group point them out and speculate who it was that just walked by. Kinda fun.

We somehow ended up staying in this amazing condo with full amenities. This is a few steps above the host family experience we were all expecting (I guess someone owns the condo, and is letting our group use it.) I feel like I’m in a pottery barn catalog and am pretty wowed.

I think we’re in for a wild ride. I can’t believe this is where I am!

I’m back

January 21, 2007

It’s been a bit of a break, but I’m back. I’m writing from a condo in Park City, Utah where the Sundance Film Festival is in full swing down the street.

I don’t know if I blogged about it much more than I was simply going, but I’m attending the festival as part of a class with Fuller: Engaging Independent Film. No where better to do just that than at the premiere independent festival in the US.

More to come…

Fuller in LA Times

January 4, 2007

I should stop being so surprised when this happens, but it’s pretty cool.

The LA Times writes about Fuller’s recently passed 20 year building plan, including the new worship center, the controversy over the demolition of the historical apartment building off Union Street, and the implications for such a high-tech building in light of global worship.

Some grace from the city of Pasadena

January 3, 2007

I park on the street outside my apartment complex, and have to get special city permits to do so because its a 2 hour zone. These permits expired December 31, 2006.

I’d gone through the renewal process in early December for 2007, but to my dismay no new permits arrived in the mail over Christmas. Nothing before New Years. I called franticly 7am on New Years day to get the one-day exemption, and again on the 2nd. A lady on the phone told me: there’s a grace period until January 31st with 2006 permits.

Grace period. The city of Pasadena is giving me some grace. Huh. I think they probably need more time to process all the permit requests, but still… the use of the word grace, caught me a bit. The city showing me grace … every time I get in my car on the street, it makes me smile.

Rose Parade

January 1, 2007

Roses in indiviudal vials

Dino-mite!

I somehow ended up with pretty good seats for the 118th Annual Rose Parade (thanks to Joanna and Crystal who got up at 5am to find them!). Colorado Blvd – one block from Fuller’s campus was the 6 mile parade route. The place was swarming with people, and the parade lived up to its reputation.

My camera battery died, so forgive the grainy images on my flickr page. Hopefully you caught some of it on TV, and if you did, you heard much more about the floats than I could deduce on the sidelines. Yet it was amazing to SEE the details and flowers up close!

Last Saturday through a connection at my home church, I got in on a VIP tour as the floats were being built. I tried to volunteer to help (most floats are put together with volunteer help), but they really didn’t need anymore help that late in the game. It’s such a big deal down here! It’s neat to see the entire community buzz around the event. Very cool!