Tuesday, December 23, 2014

2014 Ecumenical Jury

About a month ago, film critic Kenneth Morefield announced the creation of the Ecumenical Jury Awards:
The Ecumenical Jury is made up of film critics and cinephiles who wish to recognize and celebrate films that use the medium to explore themes of religion, faith, or spirituality. We particularly seek to enlarge or expand the perception of what is meant by either labeling a film a “Christian” film or suggesting that it should be of interest to Christian audiences. The jury seeks to recognize quality films (regardless of genre) that have challenged, moved, enlightened, or entertained us and to draw the attention of Christian audiences to films it thinks have the potential to do the same for them.
It was humbling and exciting to find myself on a jury with some of the best Christian film critics writing today, all who have taught me to think deeply about the connections between films, truth, and beauty. There were over 60 films nominated for the final top 10, which is one of the most interesting end-of-year film lists I've seen, and the one that most closely corresponds with my personal top 10 list (which I'll publish in the week leading up to 2015). The list is so diverse--foreign films, blockbusters, dramas, comedies, horror, and one excellent documentary. For a list of films addressing faith, religion, and spirituality, you won't find any typical "Christian" films here. I would use discretion and discernment in choosing some of these films, but I think the best films engage that sort of critical thinking, i.e. discretion and discernment. The honorable mentions list is also excellent and diverse, a "top 20" of sorts. (I included the 2014 Cannes winner, Winter Sleep, as my honorable mention vote.)

I wrote a short blurb for Noah, which was voted as #9 on the final list:
Noah is the filmic mashup between a Narnia-esque fantasy, a Shakespearean family drama, and a gritty biblical morality tale, all rolled into an epic cinematic experience. This is not your Sunday-school Noah, with happy flannel-graph animals gathered on a boat beneath a rainbow. Filmmaker Darren Aronofsky depicts Noah (Russell Crowe) as a tortured soul, a man striving to remain faithful to the Creator and care for his family while embracing the difficult task of being a key figure in the destruction of humanity. While Noah has some flaws, it’s certainly a *fantastic* film, in both senses of that word: “extraordinarily good” and “imaginative.” For those who are hesitant about Noah–particularly those who claim it isn’t “biblical” enough–I would invite them to watch again with open minds and hearts, seeking the truth and beauty in the flood of this tale. Noah reminds us that we are broken and beautiful, bearing both the weight of our sin and the image of God in our souls.
Check out the 2014 Ecumenical Jury Awards here. Which film on the list is your favorite? Which one should have been included?

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