Editor's note: This is the second of a four-part series about what it means to make "good, Christian movies." In this part, the author examines what it means to make movies that are both honest and true in their depictions of humanity.
As the director of a film festival, I hear a lot of impassioned talk about movies with a message. In fact, I've figured that Christian filmmakers could be divided cleanly into two parties: those who want a religious message and those who don't. You have the courageous wardens of truth, supporting gospel-oriented flicks such as The Hiding Place and Left Behind. You have the brave renegades who fight for P. T. Anderson's Magnolia or Michael Moore's Farenheit 9/11. You have the evangelists and the expressionists, the ten commandments and the beautiful lifers. To which I say: go for it.
If you want to advance a message in your film, however—to which I would quickly add that not all films need to have one to be good (What About Bob? comes to mind)—you'd be smart to keep it honest and truthful. For a film "with a message" without truth is by definition a falsehood (The English Patient), while a film "with a message" without honesty smacks of manipulation and quackery (The Girl Next Door). Tricky territory, this.
So what exactly does it look like for a filmmaker to profess a commitment to honesty and truth? Toddy Burton, a filmmaker at the University of Texas, points us in a good direction:
Reality is hilarious. Truth is hilarious. That's why people make fart jokes, because they're funny. Body functions are funny. Did you see Mean Girls? It's a teen comedy based on a non-fiction book about teen girls called, Queen Bees and Wannabees. The movie is hilarious and it's because it's all just ...1
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