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Giving Movies a Second Look

By Belinda Elliott Senior Producer - Who doesn’t love a good movie? We need only to look at the enormous amounts of money that recent films like Indiana Jones, Iron Man, and The Dark Knight have made at the Box Office (over $300 million each) to see that Americans are turning out in droves to watch the latest blockbusters.

According to the Barna Group, in 2005, adults watched an average of 45 movies and “nearly one-third of adults (29 percent) contend that movies have had a substantial impact on the development of their personal morals, values and religious beliefs.” Many churches have even started incorporating movie clips into their services as teaching aids.

How should Christians approach films? A new study offers to help Christians better evaluate movies.

"The power of film it's amazing how it engages us and how it shapes our lives,” says Christian musician Michael W. Smith. "Film is more powerful today than it ever has been. I think the problem is do we have a filter? I'm not talking about a content filter, but a worldview filter? How do we take our Christian worldview to the movies?"

Smith, his son Ryan, and filmmaker Mark Cowart are tackling this question through C2: Giving Movies a Second Look, a DVD-based small group study. Smith and Cowart are cofounders of Seabourne Pictures, where they have been producing thought-provoking feature films, short films, and music videos since 2005. For this latest project they partnered with Randall House Publications to develop a curriculum that will help Christians think more critically about the films they watch.

“Everyone watches movies, yet so many Christians do not stop to evaluate how the movies they watch line up with the Bible,” says Matt Markins, Randall House director of marketing and sales. “C2 is out to change how people view movies.”

Each DVD study includes a short film, along with a downloadable leader’s guide to facilitate discussions about the movie. Each lesson is divided into three easy-to-understand sections: Connect, Critique, and Conclude.

“The ‘Conclude’ portion of each lesson will remind your students to develop a God-centered worldview rather than just accepting the theme or agenda that each movie has to offer,” says Markins.

Mark Cowart, Michael W. Smith, and Ryan SmithThe first volume of C2 includes the film, Love at First Sight, a light-hearted look at the idea of two people falling in love from the first moment they meet. In the film, co-written and directed by Cowart, two teenage video store clerks argue over which is the better movie, a newly released blockbuster (aptly titled Love at First Sight) or an obscure French indie film, Labour of Love.

The short film is quite entertaining. Several scenes of particular interest involve clips of fictional films that the filmmakers developed to go along with the movie’s central plot. The bonus features on the DVD explain what went into making these fictional films, and it is worth taking the extra time to watch these. The downloadable curriculum discusses various topics including the meaning of true love and judging others.

The second volume of C2 includes the film Relapse, written and directed by Ryan Smith. The movie tells the story of a grieving mother who has discovered that through new technology her dead son can be brought back to life, but only for one day at a time. It is a powerful and thought-provoking film that is superbly crafted by the filmmakers. The accompanying study guide explores the topics of addictions, playing God, and dealing with grief.

Smith said he wanted the film to be more engaging for viewers than other movies that he often sees being made by Christians.

“Christians have a bad habit of spoon feeding things to their audience,” Smith says. “I think that we underestimate people's ability to process and to think for themselves. What we were going for was something that requires a little bit more of the audience. It requires the participation of them to actually think about what they are watching, think about what they're seeing."

The C2 curriculum combines the movie-going experience with spiritual discussions about a film’s themes or the possible agendas of the filmmakers. It is appropriate for all ages from teens through adults and would work especially well in small group settings.

"My hope is that you'll take way from this experience a newly developed filter as you approach the world of entertainment," Michael W. Smith says about the study.

To learn more about the C2 curriculum, check out the following links:

Michael W. Smith explains, "What is C2?"

Love at First Sight (Volume One) trailer

Relapse (Volume Two) trailer

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