View Our Winner for Best Spiritual Documentary
The films nominated for this year's Best Spiritual Documentary vary widely in tone, style, and subject matter. But each in its own unique way they documents humanity's shared desires—for peace, love, and truth.
As with all of the categories of the Beliefnet Film Awards (BFA), the judges had no trouble highlighting documentaries that truly touched and inspired them in some way. Click through this gallery to learn which film won both the Judges' Award and the People's Choice Award, voted on by you. Also watch videos and read about the other films nominated in this category. And the winner of the Best Spiritual Documentary of the Year is....
Text by Dilshad D. Ali.
Judges' Award Winner and People's Choice Award Winner: 'Lord Save Us From Your Followers'
Filmmaker Dan Merchant has one burning question: "Why is the ‘Gospel of Love' dividing America?" Merchant draws on a variety of film devices--from man-on-the-street commentary to animated shorts to exclusive interviews with controversial figures like black preacher-politican Al Sharpton, liberal evangelical Tony Campolo, and conservative radio host Michael Regan—in his search for answers to why Christian faith in America has come to be represented by divisive language and actions.
The film, says BFA judge Brandon Fibbs, helps Christians "to see what we really look like to those on the outside looking in. … Christianity, [Merchant] contends, is far more interested in the gospel of being right than the gospel of Jesus Christ." But if Christianity supposed to be built on the foundation of "loving the unlovable," then what does that say about the face of Christianity in America today?
For more on "Lord Save Us From Your Followers," read the Beliefnet Interview with Dan Merchant.
Watch Video: 'Lord Save Us From Your Followers'
'Trouble the Water'
In 2005 when Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc on New Orleans and the levees broke, thousands of Americans became refugees in one of the worst natural disasters to befall the country. As BFA judge Saul Austerlitz said, "In the face of the unbearable, who has the courage to go on?" The answer comes in the form of this documentary by amateur filmmaker and musician Kimberly River Roberts and her husband Scott, whose were overturned when Katrina obliterated their home and their city. They pointed a camera on themselves and their community to provide a harrowing yet hopeful look at the disaster at ground level. Their 15-minute home movie is the centerpiece of "Trouble the Water." Additional footage showed that what wasn't destroyed by the floods was made worse by an uncaring government bureaucracy. Through it all, New Orleans residents showed what it meant to have faith, lose faith, and then dig deep for the chance at a new beginning
Watch Video: 'Trouble the Water'
'Waltz with Bashir'
It opens with a pack of 26 rabid dogs, yellow eyes burning, tearing through the streets of Tel Aviv to get to the home of director Ari Folman's friend, Boaz. They're coming, Boaz says, to kill him. It's part of a recurring nightmare Boaz has that stems from his stint in the Israeli Army when they invaded Lebanon in 1982. But what alarms Folman is that although he also was part of that invasion, part of the army that stood by while another militia went on a murdering rampage through the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila, he has no memories of it. This was his impetus to make "Waltz with Bashir," a horrific, yet compelling animated masterpiece about the experiences Israeli soldiers had during that invasion and how they were irrevocably changed by them. "It's no coincidence that both of Folman's parents were survivors of Auschwitz, and that his film ponders the moral complicity of the bystander," says Beliefnet's Idol Chatter reviewer. By exploring these painful, controversial issues, Folman offers "confession as a mode of moral or spiritual redemption."
Watch Video: 'Waltz with Bashir'
'At the Death House Door'
Pastor Carroll Pickett has ministered to death row inmates at a penitentiary in Texas for 15 years. After presiding over 95 executions, there comes the fateful day when he ministers to Carlos de Luna, a convicted killer on the eve of his death. Pickett records a tape of his conversations with de Luna, and after listening to it, becomes utterly convinced that the man is innocent. Thus begins his journey of faith to discover the truth, as he teams up with crime reporters from the Chicago Tribune to uncover the real facts in de Luna's dubious arraignment. Pastor Pickett's heart-wrenching story makes for a compelling film that delves into the deeper controversy surrounding capital punishment. As Beliefnet's Movie Mom blogger and BFA judge Nell Minow says, "The gentle, loving spirit of this man and the way he grapples with moral issues is profoundly inspiring."
Watch Video: 'At the Death House Door'
Though it may sound simplistic, the legendary rock gods of U2 have always held the belief that music really can change the world. And they bring this mantra to full, vibrant life in their documentary "U23D," which broke cinematic ground as the first three-dimensional concert film in movie history. The film, which shows concert footage from their 2005-06 Vertigo tour in Mexico City and Buenos Aires, Argentina, is way more than just a concert film. Says BFA judge Sharon Linnea, "Seeing crowds of people in many different countries whoop it up … for songs urging peaceful coexistence of religions, sustainability, and living a life of defiant love, gave me more hope than I'd had in a long time." Believing in a world where we can coexist in peace and harmony has never sounded or felt so good.
(Full disclosure: Sandy Climan, one of the film's executive producers, works as a consultant for Beliefnet.)