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Louis Black shares his thoughts on the new Christian cinema: "I've seen only two of the new Christian movies, but I'm enthralled."

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I've seen only two of the new Christian movies, but I'm enthralled. It's the same fascination I've had with so many non-Hollywood cinemas over the years (see "Video Reviews"). There is a long history of groups creating films for themselves when Hollywood doesn't address their issues. In the past there was the Yiddish, the Ukrainian, the black, and other renegade American cinema movements. These independent cinemas are different from the more formally defined one, the Sundance-centric modern independent film. Birthed over a couple decades by Shirley Clark, David Holzman's Diary, Return of the Secaucus 7, the work of Robert Downey Sr., and others, that independent cinema movement defined itself in opposition to Hollywood. The more ethnic/religious-oriented filmmakers tend to emulate Hollywood. Thus these films are re-enactments, if you will, of Hollywood cinema. Technically, they're almost never as good as mainstream films, but they are driven by a passion mostly lacking in the industry. These are films made from belief and commitment. They are also, often, pretty funny.

I've seen only two of them. One about the Rapture, in which all true believers are swept off the face of the earth and the nonbelievers remain. Two cops drive around and try to figure out where everyone has gone. Another had a lone hero against overwhelming odds battling the Antichrist, played by Michael York. A tumbling action-packed thriller, it kept switching locations every few minutes in a dizzying cross between Billy Jack and James Bond. They were both great fun to watch.

As with so much of this independent cinema, these movies are playing by Hollywood rules, but they are trying to create a different kind of meaning. They are using the rules to subvert the rules. If nothing else, they are both ideological works. Kind of like narratively coherent Godard films, these attack the status quo, but from an entirely different direction.

Sarah Hepola does a very fine job presenting the Christian cinema without condescending to or mocking it ("Jesus Is Coming"). If we inherently support the idea of independent media, we should support its distribution even if we don't agree with its ideas. Though I certainly disagree with the intolerant fanaticism at their core, I find the philosophy driving these two films the most fascinating part. It is a cinema of ideas with potentially terrible consequences.

Kevin Fullerton's "Soda Jerks" story in this issue is terrific, and you should read it. end story

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christian cinema, independent cinema

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