When I arrived at The Attic Film Festival, the first screening I saw was Reconciliation. It was as heart-wrenching as the first time I saw it, and it was comforting (in that large crowd) to know I wasn’t the only one reacting that way to the film.
Reconciliation is a father/son story that is far from common on today’s movie screens. Like boxers in a ring, one fighter is the Evangelical Christian son, while the estranged gay father and his partner stand in the opposite corner. They fight themselves and each other as they wrestle through their own opposing convictions in hopes of reconciling before the father dies. Regardless of whether you’re gay or straight, it’s a compelling story, and you can’t help but come away with a greater sense of compassion for the other side. As I said in a prior, more extensive review of this movie, “It does not belittle the Christian or the homosexual, but rather exposes the complex lives of each. The fact is, it’s not easy to be gay or Christian. There’s always someone somewhere pointing the finger at you, trying to fit your great big life into a tiny little label so they can write you off for their own comfort.” I highly recommend seeing this film if you haven’t already.
I said in my review of The Attic Film Festival that I would highlight what each of these films brings to the faith-based film industry. Reconciliation does the unthinkable by addressing a conflict that neither Hollywood nor faith-based films want to touch. It brings together two sides of an age-old argument respectfully and challenges viewers on both sides of the spectrum to think outside their boxes. Typically, faith based films that are morality- or politically-driven do not fairly present both sides of a story (if they present both sides at all), so this is a refreshing bit of film for any viewer.
After such a compelling tear-jerker, it was a lot of fun to follow up with a comedy. Rogue Saints held the biggest number of laughs I’ve had at a movie in the last two years, though The Avengers comes a close second. It’s always a good sign when you actually laugh out loud at something on screen, and this movie was one crack-up after another. It probably helped that the film poked fun at Christians in a well-meaning sort of way. With the rising popularity of comedians like Chonda Pierce and Tim Hawkins, Christians are more than happy to laugh at themselves. And with rising anti-Christian sentiment in America, we are more than ready. It’s not that faith should be taken lightly, but the habits and traditions which have developed inside churches over the years are seriously comical, particularly when you look at them from an outsider’s point of view. What are these unspoken rules and foreign jargon? Who are these strange people and what do they want from me?
The film begins with a quick lesson in Christian culture (not necessarily theology, mind you) as main characters Nick (John Wu) and Dylan (Jason Pead) discuss their plans for pulling off a diamond heist. Though the media reported that a wealthy old woman’s enormous diamond went “missing” after her death, Nick and Dylan decide to pursue a rumor that it was buried in the cement foundation of a church’s baptistry. In order to extract the diamond, they must pose as Christians and find reasons to be mulling around in forgotten corners of the church. As Nick explains the set up to Dylan, the audience gets the Cliff’s Notes version of how to fit into the modern Christian culture without being noticed. This and the introduction are done through a montage of scenes that remind me of some of my favorite TV shows like White Collar, Leverage, and Burn Notice. Fun and fast paced, the film gets us the low down in high humor before delving into the thick of the plot. I won’t give away the details, but I will say that the film’s pacing didn’t lose me in the second act like many comedies do. There were enough events, choices, and character conflicts to keep it moving, and around every corner, an out-loud, belly laugh was waiting.
Despite its potent comedic flavor, the film still carries a meaningful theme. And highly deserving of all our respect, the film isn’t “on the nose” about what it’s trying to say. Through the actions and words of characters, the film communicates the sense of genuine caring and community that resides at even the strangest of churches. I often hear people say that they follow Christ, but they don’t go to church because they can’t stand “those people.” Well, “those people” are scattered throughout this film, and it makes the point that even quirky, in-your-personal-space people are capable of genuine love and kindness. The film doesn’t make excuses for their oddities, but shows how people (including run-of-the-mill, everyday folks) are far deeper than their actions or words convey. Love runs deep in the family of Christ.
Though the film doesn’t release until Fall 2012, I highly recommend keeping an ear to the ground for its release. Or better yet, pre-order it online at their website. It’s going to be a favorite among all its viewers. Writer David C. Brunk and Director Adam Lubanski have really outdone themselves in raising the bar for faith-based films. It’s great storytelling, the script trusts the audience to be intuitive, and it succeeds as true entertainment.
Up next: Reviews for Milltown Pride and Walther