“We’re called as Christians to give ourselves away, and that’s what we’ve got to work out.” These profound words from veteran movie producer Ralph Winter challenged students and filmmakers participating in a Windrider Forum discussion at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. The panel was exploring the idea of “afflicting the comfortable” through thoughtfully crafted documentary films that may stimulate social action.
Winter, a Hollywood producer whose credits include blockbuster movies like X-Men and Star Trek, was asking, “How do we break out of [our natural tendency to want comfort] and discipline ourselves?” His insightful answer . . . “We’re called as Christians to give ourselves away.”
Craig Detweiler, professor of communications and director of the Center for Entertainment, Media and Culture at Pepperdine University, expressed his perspective this way: “Hollywood films comfort the afflicted—always happy, always a clean resolution, for the most part.
“Independent films afflict the comfortable. You come out feeling worse than when you entered. We don’t usually go to films for that. We don’t want to pay money to feel worse. But these are filmmakers with a prophetic gift who say, ‘This is what’s wrong with the world.’”
Detweiler says he comes to Sundance to cultivate empathy. “I come back here because I need to have my heart broken annually so I can go back to my comfort and work and minister out of that.
“That’s what the Windrider* experience is.”