Alissa's note: I'm happy to welcome Jessica Gibson, one of my fall interns at CT Movies, to the blog today.

This past May, to mark the one year anniversary of the massive tornado that devastated Moore, Oklahoma, Behold Motion Pictures produced a documentary of the disaster called Where Was God? The film began as a series of interviews with families, teachers, service workers, and others who survived the storm and have been helping rebuild Moore in the year since. Elevate Faith, a media project run by Elevate Church in Moore, conducted the interviews and partnered with Behold to share the stories of staggering tragedy and faith.

On May 20, 2013 a severe thunderstorm developed over the southern metro area of Oklahoma City, spawning a series of destructive tornados ranging from EF1 to EF3 sizes. At 3:01 in the afternoon, an EF3 tornado touched down outside Moore. By the time it hit the town, it had intensified into a full EF5 tornado that traveled 23 kilometers and was nearly 2 kilometers wide. It caused an estimated $2 billion in damage. Twenty-four people lost their lives during the storm, including seven children at the devastated Plaza Towers Elementary School. Where Was God? focuses on stories from Plaza Towers families whose children were trapped during the storm and the heroism of a teacher whose actions saved her young students.

The most remarkable thing about these interviewees’ testimonies was that by the first interview, the film had already answered its question. The opening line of the documentary is Romans 5:3-4, in which Paul describes how suffering creates hope. That process is the clear message of Where Was God? from the start. It’s not a resounding, amazing conclusion, but a steady, calm assertion made in every image and story.

Grief and trust are both plainly evident in these stories. It’s hard to watch the raw emotion from all the interviewees as they recount tragedy after tragedy: being trapped in storm shelters, emerging to nothing but rubble, loved ones missing for hours, family members who didn’t make it. The film puts the fear, destruction, and loss right in front of the viewers, giving images to the interviewees’ words with news clips and home videos taken during the tornado.

But the most potent images are the ones of rebuilding and healing; interspersed with the stories are shots of a memorial sculpture being built out of rubble as a companion piece to the documentary that’s now housed in a new storm shelter in Moore. The sculpture, made of reforged scrap metal, carved beams from houses, and shattered glass, aesthetically captures how Moore’s community is turning their loss and pain into a beautiful witness to God’s presence.

Anyone interested in seeing Where Was God? can contact Elevate Faith through the documentary’s website here. Churches and organizations can set up a date to screen the film, or theater showings can be requested through here.

Caveat Spectator

The film’s website offers this parental advisory: “Where Was God? is not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America. While the film does not contain any adult language, sexual content, or violence, Where Was God? is a detailed non-fictional account of a great tragedy. The themes of death, mortality, and grief are present in the film. We advise parents to use their best judgment when deciding whether or not this film may be appropriate for their children.”

Jessica Gibson is an intern with Christianity Today Movies and a student at The King's College in New York City.

Watch This Way
How we watch matters at least as much as what we watch. TV and movies are more than entertainment: they teach us how to live and how to love one another, for better or worse. And they both mirror and shape our culture.
Alissa Wilkinson
Alissa Wilkinson is Christianity Today's chief film critic and assistant professor of English and humanities at The King's College in New York City. She lives in Brooklyn.
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