Film as Art – Film as Influence
Unable to return to Taiwan due to Covid restrictions, Hans Widmer is in Dunham, Quebec, Canada, where he recently graduated from the YWAM School of Digital Filmmaking. At the same time, his wife Diane graduated from the School of Acting for the Screen. Hans and Diane will bring their craft back to Taiwan as they continue to serve with Create Taiwan.
Ingmar Bergman, one of the greatest filmmakers of the 20th century, said, “No art passes our conscience in the way film does, and goes directly to our feelings, deep down into the dark rooms of our souls.” Advertisers certainly know this—they are well aware of the power of a 30-second film to evoke a powerful desire—a desire for things the viewer rarely needs. Purveyors of propaganda also know this. Hundreds of propaganda films have been made by the Soviets, the Americans, the Chinese, the Nazis, and even terrorist groups, to sway the hearts and souls of nations.
In recent decades, Christians have also come to realize that film is a powerful medium—arguably the most influential in this day and age—to plant a message “deep down into the dark rooms of our souls.”
Proclaiming the Message
This is easy to talk about, but quite difficult to do. Viewers today, even in underdeveloped areas, have become selective in what they watch—there’s just so much to choose from. Among all these competing messages, it’s the message that’s best told, that becomes the loudest and the most influential. So, how do we proclaim a message in the best way possible?
This is where art comes in. The art of a well-crafted story. The art of stunning cinematography or compelling animation. The art of music and sound that conjures up primal associations. The art of images arranged in time to achieve an eloquence, a tempo, and a rhythm that transports the viewer to another world where imagination becomes reality.
I am a missionary. Not with a pith helmet in the steaming jungle. Not with a church-planting team in an inner city. Not with a disciple-making movement in a restricted country. But with a camera (or a tablet for animation), a computer, and God-inspired creativity and imagination to tell His message in a way that will hold viewers spellbound. Film that’s real. Film that’s visceral. Film that’s gritty. Because that’s how life is. Jesus was real. Jesus was visceral. Jesus was gritty. He even ate with tax collectors and prostitutes! And he changed lives. He changed the world, and continues to do so to this day.
Films can change lives. Isn’t that what missions is all about? Changing the lives of unfamiliar people in an unfamiliar place, to influence them toward the Kingdom of God, whether the word “God” is used in the film or not? After all, the Book of Esther never mentions God, but it certainly has been used by God to draw people unto Himself for more than 2000 years.
“Films can change lives. Isn’t that what missions is all about?”
So at Create Taiwan, filmmaking, whether animation or live-action, involves a whole lot more than just drawing or camera work. Yes, it can have tremendous influence, so filmmakers need to be responsible for their message. But films only have influence to the degree that they are art—great art, and compelling art—that “goes directly to our feelings.” This is by no means easy. But this is what great filmmaking demands. Are you able and willing to step up to the challenge?
- Hans W.