If you've seen many movie previews at the theater recently, you've probably heard these words spoken over Civil War imagery: "They carried the same Bible, they believed in the same God. One side fought for God's glory, the other for his kingdom on earth."
Ron Maxwell is writer, director, producer of the new film Gods and Generals, which is part of what he calls his "civil war trilogy." This second film, set before Maxwell's 1993 Gettysburg, explores issues of faith, patriotism, and war at a time when our nation is again asking many of the same questions.
Were you raised in a spiritual home?
Yes, I was born at Wheelus Air Force Base in Tripoli, Libya, after World War II. My dad taught Sunday school, and he took us as kids to church every week. So church and singing hymns have been part of life from an early age.
How has that affected your sense of calling about the work that you do?
If it has, it's in a very internalized, subconscious way. I'm not on an overt mission of any sort. It has shaped my values and perhaps, the choices I make as a filmmaker.
If I didn't know that I was holding on to the Lord's hand the whole way, I wouldn't have the strength to take the rejection and the doors slamming in my face. I wouldn't have enough patience, and I wouldn't have the peace of mind required to do this kind of work.
What draws you to the Civil War era?
I feel that I'm in the company of a lot of great historians, novelists, and filmmakers who have, grappled with it, tried to understand it, and tried to cope with it in artistic ways. Hopefully we each are adding to the illumination and understanding of that epic, tragic moment in American history where we were forged in a fiery manner into the nation we are today.1
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