Faith, Media & Culture

Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith and media.

Three faith-themed films have hit the home video market just in time for Christmas. 

 Hillsong – Let Hope Rise  follows the very popular Australian worship band Hillsong UNITED as they perform such inspirational hits as Oceans,  Mighty To Save and Hosanna. It just came out yesterday (12/20) and is available via Digital HD, On Demand, DVD and in a Blu-ray combo pack.

Talking about the film during the taping of the upcoming New Year’s Day edition of In The Arena, a Catholic radio/TV show, Hillsong guitarist Dylan Thomas reflected on his own humble beginnings as a working class child of divorce in Australia to becoming a member of an internationally known worship group that is having a positive impact on people around the world.

He says he hopes the film helps people to realize that God has a plan for everyone, telling host Msgr. Kieran Harrington “No one’s more special than anyone else. We’re just kids who grew up on Australia and were part of our youth ministry. There’s nothing extremely glamorous about what we did. We just put God first. We’ve always done that. As long as God’s in it, we’ll keep doing it but, truly, God can use anyone.”

The movie follows the group’s journey from a tiny church in the Sydney suburbs to an influential international ministry whose songs are sung every Sunday by more than 50 million people across the globe. Their songs have been translated into 90 languages and the band has sold more than 20 million albums.  The group has built on its success to partner with and assist international organizations committed to feeding and educating children in the slums of India, building housing for those living with AIDS in Africa and rescuing victims of human trafficking around the globe.
The film, which was released in theaters across the country this past summer, received positive reviews and feedback from audiences including a high “A” grade from Cinemascore.  It also scored high among Christian film critics and received endorsements from leaders such as Bishop T.D. Jakes (The Potter’s House), Pastor Joel Osteen (Lakewood Church), Rev. Samuel Rodriguez (National Hispanic Christian Leadership), and Pastor Ken Foreman (Cathedral Of Faith).

Hillsong Church recently partnered with Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) to launch Hillsong Channel, a ground-breaking 24-hour television network available in over 77 million U.S. households and featuring energetic, cutting-edge worship music from award-winning singers and songwriters.

The Innocents takes place in Warsaw, December 1945. The second World War has ended. Dr. Mathilde (Lou de Laâge) of the French Red Cross is treating French survivors of the German camps when a panicked Benedictine nun shows up at the clinic begging her for help.

Mathilde follows the nun back to her convent and shockingly finds a young sister about to give birth and several more in advanced stages of pregnancy. Her attempt to help them is complicated by  occupying Soviet troops and the strict Rev. Mother (Agata Kulesza, Ida) who fears the shame of exposure. Facing a crisis of faith, the nuns increasingly turn to Mathilde as their beliefs and traditions clash with harsh realities. Directed by Anne Fontaine; Starring Lou de Laâge, Agata Buzek, Agata Kulesza.

The movie was recently screened at 2106 Justice Film Festival at New York’s Sheen Center. I just caught the DVD and I can tell you the film is a gripping and intelligent examination of what it means to have faith versus the danger of distorted thinking. Highly recommended.

Greater (also released yesterday) is an inspirational film that follows the true story of Brandon Burlsworth who is perhaps the greatest walk-on in the history of college football. Brandon dreamed of playing for the Arkansas Razorbacks, but was told he wasn’t good enough to play Division I ball. Undeterred, Brandon took a risk and walked on in 1994. Written off by fellow teammates and coaches, Brandon displayed dogged determination in the face of staggering odds. The awkward kid who once was an embarrassment to his teammates and an annoyance to his coaches, ended up becoming the most respected player in the history of the program, changing the lives of all he touched. The PG-Rated film, which ran in theaters earlier this year, stars Neal McDonough (Legends of Tomorrow), Leslie Easterbrook (Laverne & Shirley), MIchael Parks (Django Unchained), Nick Searcy (Justified) and the relatively unknown Christopher Severio (Suit Up) as Bulsworth. You can read my positive review of Greater here.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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