Yesterday I wrote about one way of using film with your youth group. read it here.
Today I want to offer another option.
In all the youth work books that I have read that offer film clip discussions, I have never seen any offer character studies. By that I mean looking at a specific character in a film and discussing their journey through it. In many films, characters have an arc that they go through. They start at one place in the beginning and end up somewhere else by the end. It may be that their beliefs have changed or they achieved something but in most cases, a change happens.
An interesting way of using film with your youth group (or church) would be to start this change over a number of weeks and look at the decisions the character is making. You could show the film in the first week of the month (similar to the structure of my last post) and then over the course of the rest of the month, chart the progression of the character or simply look at their worldview concerning different issues.
This could result in a rewarding study that helps young people appreciate the characters in film and discuss whether they would make the same decisions if they were in their shoes.
Week 1: Watch the movie and have short discussion on the George Clooneys character
Week 2: What kind of person is the character at the start of the movie? What are his relationships like?
Week 3: Dealing with grief or shocking revelations
Week 4: What kind of person is the character at the end of the movie? What has changed?
I run a website with fellow ICC graduate Mark Williamson called reel faith which seeks to offer an alternative view on how films should be used in youth work. I taught an open evening lecture on the subject at the international christian college on Thursday 1st March and myself and Mark are speaking about the same issue at the youthwork summit in London on May 19th. I have also written a number of blog posts on the subject of why we should no longer be using two minute clips from films to simply make a theological point. Read them here or here.
As you can see, dialogue between film and faith is incredibly important to me.
At the lecture at ICC I offered a couple of practical ways films could be introduced into your youth work programme and over the next couple of blogs, I want to outline those ideas.
One Month Film Study
Start by showing the film at your group on the first week of the month. Show the film in its entirety and have a discussion using the questions I have suggested previously. What will become obvious is that there will be two or three major themes that the young people highlight from any given film and on that evening you can have a brief discussion about those themes and find out what the young people think about them.
For the three remaining three weeks I would suggest looking at one theme a night. I find this a great way to do youth work as the talks and discussions you will then be giving for the rest of the month have been suggested by the young people. It is issues that they want to wrestle and grapple with and the young people should be more engaged with you because of that. It also means that rather than coming with your own agenda for a particular film, you are letting the film speak for itself and allowing open dialogue to flow out of it.
So in theory you could do two or three films over a year and spend a month looking at each one of them. You are no longer spoon feeding young people about issues within films and instead are giving them the tools to critically engage with film and culture in general themselves.
An example could be Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Week 1- show the film
Week 2- ‘Going against the flow’
Week 3- ‘Integrity’
Week 4- ‘Sacrifice’
Have a go yourselves and put your comments and thoughts up on here or on the reel faith site. We’d love to hear them.
On Thursday night, I had the pleasure of hosting an evening at the International Christian College in Glasgow, looking at how we use film in christian youth work and how it could be developed. Below is a summary of what I said:
I started by asking three questions to get folks thinking:
1) What is your favourite genre?
2) Can you think of a time when a film changed you in some way?
3) How do you use film in church or with young people?
Films are stories and stories have been around for thousands of years. Judaism used a form of oral storytelling as a way of self definition. It helped them to understand who they were, how they came to be and who there God was. Jesus used parables (stories) to communicate the kingdom of God. And today, we use film to do the same.
Moses encountered God in a burning bush. Moses would have walked past that bush many times but on that occasion God chose to make that place holy. On that occasion heaven collided with earth. In Celtic theology, this is understood as a ‘thin place’. A place where heaven and earth collide. I believe film can be thin places. Places where we encounter the divine.
Historically there has been five ways in which people have interacted with film:
1) Avoidance- (steer clear)
2) Caution (watch with suspicion)
3) Dialogue (a belief that films can have theological themes)
4) Appropriation (we can achieve greater insight about god and ourselves)
5) divine encounter (we can encounter God and be transformed)
1) which view do you most often hold?
How we have historically used film with young people?
The Matrix Red/ Blue Pill clip
1) Who has used this clip in their youth work or seen it used in youth work before?
It’s not wrong to show a two-minute clip but what you need to ask, is, the theme I am communicating through the clip true for the rest of the movie?
What other themes appear in ‘The Matrix’?
The blurring of humans and machines, Sex and sensuality, Fate and freewill, mirrors. The blurring of the real world and the simulated world. Philosophical themes of Descartes, Socrates, Plato, bondage and S&M, sexual ecstasy and orgies.
Do any of these ideas conflict with the Christian worldview? By endorsing one theme, are we endorsing the themes we do not agree with?
Now you make think this is all nonsense and unnecessary. Maybe there is nothing wrong with cherry picking scenes from movies that fit the message we want to share. We realise that we shouldn’t read the bible out of context. the bible out of context. Because it’s wrong and can and has lead to all sorts of misunderstanding and oppression. The bible has been used to condemn and oppress all sorts of people because readers have cherry picked what they have wanted to hear. We come to the bible, not with an agenda, but to hear the inspired words of God. I believe we should be doing the same with film.
So what’s the alternative?
Part 3- A new kind of film criticism
Rather than picking out specific scenes to a film your young people might not have seen, why not start by watching a film and then allowing a discussion to take place over a period of time. Rather than having an agenda, let the film speak for itself. You could then do a whole series of discussions and chats around the themes of one particular film, showing a short clip to refresh their memory.
This also gives young people the tools to be able to do this on their own when their watching films or TV programmes.
Here are the questions that I believe are useful to helping people unpack a film.
What the key themes that this film is trying to engage with?
Ø What is the film trying to tell you about this?
Ø Is this the commonly held perception of this?
Ø What’s your perception of this?
Ø What’s the biblical perception of this?
Ø Do these compliment or conflict with each other?
Can you see yourself in any roles / do you identify yourself with any characters?
Are there any background influences from writers/directors that shape the view?
We then watched my short film ‘prodigal’ about a repentant Satan trying to re-enter Heaven and used the questions as a test-case study.
Higgins G “How movies helped save my soul”
Johnston R “Finding God in the Movies”
Johnston R “Reframing theology and film”
Johnston R “Reel Spirituality”
Ortiz G “Explorations in theology and film”
Sogaard V “Media in Church and Mission”
Little old me will be discussing film and youth work at the International Christian College on 1st March at 6.30pm. Come along if you can.
details below or check out the ICC website here
Reel Faith: Film and Youth Ministry in Conversation
Thursday 1 March 2012
More often than not we only use film in our youth work in order to introduce a concept via a 2 minute clip. But film is so much more than that. As a filmmaker and a Christian youth worker, Steven Mitchell believes that film can be used creatively to challenge and inspire young people but we need to rethink how we use it.
Come along and be part of the conversation.
|Steven Mitchell completed the BA in Youth Work with Applied Theology graduating in 2010, since then he has worked as youth worker at South Beach Baptist Church in Saltcoats. He is also an award winning filmmaker who has created a number of short films in a range of genres including Prodigal, which explore questions of love, goodness, and forgiveness through the fallen angel Satan and Speed Date, a silent romantic comedy set in the world of speed dating, which premiered at the Loch Ness Film Festival.|
Cost: £5 (including light refreshments)
Where to find us:
Buchan Bus Station is 10 minutes walk from the college. The nearest railway stations are Queen Street (15 mins walk) and High Street (10 mins walk). Buchanan Street is the nearest Underground Station.
Buses 11, 12, 38, 42, 56 all come along Cathedral Street and stop just a few minutes walk from the college.
This is an idea I have been fascinated for awhile but, as a christian, I speak about it in different terms.
“Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” 2 Peter 1:4.
Eastern Orthodox understands this as “the purpose of life, and it is considered achievable only through a synergy (or cooperation) between humans’ activities and God’s uncreated energies (or operations)”.
I believe Peter Bensons ‘spark’, Ken Robinsons ‘element‘ and the process of theosis are all speaking of the same thing.
Becoming what we were created to be.
I believe this should be one of the main goals of christian youth work.
Through prayer, prophesy, observation and conversation, we should aid young people in discovering who they are created to be and offer them opportunities to be transformed into this likeness.
Whether it be a footballer or a dancer or a teacher, we should name these qualities and help young people become them and help them relate this to being created in the image of God.
Do you do this currently in your youth work?
If not, how would your work change if this was at the centre?
one of the issues I want to explore is the ethics of the two minute film clip.
You know what I mean. We all do it.
We pick a scene from a film that matches up with the point we are trying to make with our talk. Seems harmless doesn’t it.
But what does that communicate to young people?
Postmodernism has often been described as the pick and mix ideology. We pick what we like from here and there and build our lives around it. Postmodern religion would be picking bits from all different religions and creating a hodge-podge of spirituality.
And most of us would say that’s wrong.
For years, christians have cherry picked verses from the bible that suit their theology and ignored the ones that they disagree with.
And most of us, even though we do it from time to time, would say that’s wrong.
But then we come to film. And somehow it’s okay to cherry pick bits from films that fit our views and ignore the rest.
Well I say that’s wrong!
I believe that we need to move away from cherry picking film clips and instead show the entire film and let the film speak for itself.
Yes, this is harder. Yes, it means that we need to find news ways of doing illustrations, but I believe it is more ethical.
As a filmmaker, I want people to watch my whole film, not just bits that fit their sermons, and wrestle with all the themes that come out of it.Yes they may not agree with everything in them but that is good for discussion.
So that’s what I’ll be exploring and I hope it will be a lively discussion.
If you’re interested in coming along, please let me know.
the “prodigal” facebook page is here.
check out the trailer/ prequel below
The DVD is available for £5.
Please make a payment through paypal to firstname.lastname@example.org with your address and it will be posted out to you.