Monday, February 29, 2016

When Movies Do Good, A Response to the Criticism of Hollywood

I did something last night I haven’t done in several years, I sat down and watched the Academy Awards for movies made I the year 2015. 2015 was a year I had seen quite a few of the films nominated in various categories, but as is normally the case, not all of them.  The television show and some of the comments I had seen on Facebook moved me today to mention again, my thoughts about movies and the good they can do.

A number of years ago now, close to 11 as of this writing, I was taking a 10-year-old boy to the movies. The boy’s name was Tyler Graebner, he was dying of cancer. I wrote then an article that was later on used for the forward of a book on movie reviews about the good movies can do, like how they inspired Tyler who was going through chemo and radiation treatments at the time and was wearing a stocking hat to cover his bald head. The movie Fat Albert by most measures was not a great movie, but the night I took Tyler, that movie as imperfect as it was, earned a spot in my heart that will endure for my lifetime on this planet. It motivated and showed Tyler that it was okay to be bald, he had nothing to be ashamed of.

I have seen other movies that have moved me, most recently was the movie 13 Hours, it was a movie that shows that movies can provide a truth that is not always provided by politicians and the press corps that sometimes have their own agenda to drive, placing the truth sometimes in a distant second or even further back as to the intent of the stories that are written to persuade a public.  We have seen those political benefits in other places, though, places like documentary movies that show the reality of the world we live in and sometimes, the things that bring others harm.

There are other movies, though, movies like Precious, Prince of Tides, or even this year’s winner for Best Picture, Spotlight that deals with the powerful theme of child abuse. We even see movies many hate like 50 Shades of Gray that show the impact of this horrible crime.

There are other movies, though, movies like The Notebook that can show the power of love among an older couple, the impact of Alzheimer’s, then there was the documentary about Glenn Campbell, I’ll Be Me.  These types of movies can bring awareness to horrid diseases, their impact and more that can move a nation and a people to care and act to eradicate that disease.

I think of the Oscar Winner for Best Picture Shine, that can educate about the reality of a horrid disease impacting 1 out of every 10 Americans, Mental Illness.  We can see the potential, the hope, the promise, the reality that the disease often falsely presented impacts individuals with families, mothers, fathers, children, spouses, many with an incredible talent. We learn to see the potential as opposed to the false representation sometimes presented in other mediums, including, unfortunately, sometimes, film.

I could go on and on about how movies have had a positive impact on society. We seem to at times love to bash “Hollywood” whoever, and wherever Hollywood is, but we can so easily ignore the reality that there is often also much good that can and does come about from movies. As a person whose faith is important, I have also heard, first hand, Billy Graham talk about how more people have come to faith in Christ than they ever did from his crusades.

Jesus used the concept of story to teach, in fact, in the book of Mark in the Bible it says, “He never taught them anything without first telling them stories after he had told them the stories he would explain the meanings.”  I recall dear friend and former college professor Bev Holmskog illustrating that in the 1980’s movies were the most popular form of storytelling on the planet. It occurred to me then, early on, it would be more productive to find a way to use that medium to change lives, to make a difference. Later on due to the influence of dear friend David Bruce who has garnished recognition for his work in the Christian world of reviewing and finding spiritual truths in film that we could use film to find a way to build bridges to point others to truth. For me that made perfect sense, I never doubted the potential as I had I felt been given a special insight from God to see these truths and knew of the importance of using those truths when there, to point others to The Truth, Jesus.

I know, movies aren’t perfect, but neither are they the evil so many and unfortunately still in 2016, even some Christians present them to be. Where there is truth, there is the possibility to shine light, whether that be the light of justice that comes from racial prejudice and inequality or greed that can sometimes come about from a society of people who seem to care more about self-gain than they do world peace and legitimate understanding.

I have seen the power of movies in all of these areas and more, I am thankful for the light God has given me in understanding these realities, I never see a movie without asking prior to seeing it for God to show me a truth that will make my life, and the life’s of those around me better. I have found a God who is fully capable of doing that.  I pray that others will as well.  Movies are a medium that God not only can use but has used to strengthen and grow the life of the seeker who seeks to find and discover the spiritual truths provided by Jesus in their own lives.

What movies have impacted your life or the life of others you are close to?

My Own Story in Part in Film, The Long Walk, (Caution Adult Content) 

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