Heaven Almighty

6 11 2007

russ-filming.jpgI welcome to my blog a good mate and Christian filmmaker, Russell Brown (no relation!). Russell has recently released a superb doco called Seven Days about a missionary in Zambia. Well worth checking out.

Recently I saw the movie, Evan Almighty and I was quite impressed with it until I heard that it was the most expensive comedy ever made. This grated with me. So I invited Russ to write a piece on the movie. As usual his ideas are thought provoking and challenging.

Russ writes:

evan-almighty.jpgThe most expensive movie comedy ever made was released in cinemas earlier this year. Evan Almighty stars Steve Carrell as newly-elected congressman Evan Baxter, a man who would describe himself as agnostic at best. A series of bizarre events and a personal appearance by God himself, looking very much like Morgan Freeman, eventually convince Evan that he has been divinely chosen to build an ark … a real, wooden, big-as-a-football-stadium galleon to protect two of every land animal from a second prophesized flood. Evan must fight his own self-doubt, as well as the slings and arrows of the ridiculing public and media, to construct the ark in time and accept that God often chooses the least likely of earthly citizens to be His servants.

 

I would encourage people to see this film as a launch-point to dialogue on the realities of an obedient walk with God. For the most part, Evan Almighty is an authentic presentation of the highs, lows, convictions, doubts and red herrings that are inevitable snapshots along the journey of the faithful. Does the movie succeed comedically or artistically? Not really, yet I found myself laughing throughout, simply out of empathy towards Evan’s predicament. I recognized the confusion Evan feels when pallets of timber are deposited without explanation on his front lawn. I winced when Evan thought the foretold rains had arrived, only to find a wayward sprinkler jetting his window. And I rejoiced with Evan’s wife when she realized God had answered her prayers for a closer family in ways that superseded her own ideas.evan-large.jpg

 

So, is the message in Evan Almighty worth its estimated cost, floating somewhere between $175-210 million? As a fledgling film-maker myself, the question was put to me: is it ethical to spend three times the price of Greg Norman’s yacht producing a film about a man with a magic beard, when there are so many other pressing needs in the world? $200 million is one greenback for every empty plate in Africa, after all.

 

What this question assumes, however, is that media ventures are somehow a waste of time, a superficial dalliance with big screen flesh (of the metaphorical kind). It harks back to the days when parents berated their offspring with, “Don’t fry your brain watching TV, go read a book.” It assumes that the escapist nature of movies renders them entirely irrelevant to “real” life. Yet who hasn’t had their real life changed for the better during a night at the flicks? Who hasn’t been forced to deal with their selfish habits while watching a documentary on the box? Who hasn’t bawled their eyes out on the couch while watching a fifty-cent rental containing a hidden message from God about His personally-ordained path for their own life? Guilty, as charged. I’m a serial offender. I would suggest it’s the transforming potential of films that keep us – Christians and searchers alike – returning time and again to the multiplexes. Yes, there’s trash out there, material which denigrates God’s name both explicitly and accidentally, but who can name a facet of their life that doesn’t possess this duality of holiness and worldliness – work, family, church?

 

stones-throw.jpgAnd singling out a movie for criticism simply because of its notoriety as The Most Expensive Comedy Ever Made prompts the statement, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” Only those who have managed to cruise through life without a television, DVD disc, church data projector or youtube account should apply for the position of moral high ground. Yes, there are those in foreign lands who will never possess these things, but it is only through TV and movies that many people are aware of their plight and have been prompted to assist. Targeting Evan Almighty as a madman’s venture misses the point of the movie itself: sometimes God calls us to do crazy things that cannot be explained with present information, and we just have to roll with it and hope that God reveals later how he has utilised us. If Evan Almighty moves one person closer to accepting Christ as their Lord and Saviour, then $200 million looks like pocket change.fiona5.jpg

 

I recently completed a documentary about a mission volunteer in Zambia. Halfway through the mammoth editing process, a mentor said to me, “This is a worthy project, but you have to accept the possibility that it will never be shown on TV, never be released on DVD, and only a handful of people will ever get to see it. Of that handful, perhaps only one person will be moved to change their attitude toward the third world. And you must accept that one person may never, ever, tell you about the impact your film made.” Sobering words indeed, and as much as I wanted to punch the guy, I knew his words were legitimate. Now that the documentary is out there – on TV, in festivals, in bookshops – and I’m about to embark on a screening tour of Australia’s east coast, that mentor’s remarks continue to remind me of this: following God is never about net profits or press kits or frequent flyer points, but the desire to boldly follow the Spirit, knowing God can use a sinner like me to ignorantly make a difference.

Russell Brown

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Russell is the director of Mintox Media in Perth, Western Australia. His documentary Seven Days is available at most Christian bookstores. You can find more information about the upcoming Seven Days Director’s Tour by clicking here.

Check out the short for Seven Days below.. to order a copy click here.

 

 

 

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2 responses

7 11 2007
Sarah McKenzie

I agree Russell; sometimes we condemn people who do a good work instead of praising them and seeing if we can do the same and better. Let’s see if the Seven Days Director’s Tour can bring about some change!

sarah

7 11 2007
Jason

Hey this is Russ’ mate Jason and I want to add to what Russ said about spending that much money on films.
1) Like Russ I’ve been to Africa and other 3rd world countries and am increasing surprised how many poverty stricken watch and love these movies (they get them illegally of course). Movies are a gift to the world and enhances life everywhere.
2) There is a presumption that money is THE answer to the world’s problems with poverty. Of course it is helpful but we need to start changing our thinking that throwing money at problems will solve them. Note that Make Poverty History asked for no direct money. Bono said it “we need justice not charity.” (But charity is still important)
3) 200 mill is a drop in the ocean when you compare it to the billions of dollars spent and used in mining companies, the stock exchange and other world industries!

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