By Mark Rodgers
The Clapham Group is founded, in part, on the understanding that culture is upstream of politics. As a Christian, I have a set of convictions that inform my politics (see Andy Crouch’s excellent piece in Christianity Today on the Presidential race), but as a cultural observer, I believe that the content we consume informs our political decisions as well.
This year has seen the ultimate hostile takeover of politics by the culture including Donald in the Shark Tank, Keeping Up with the Clintons, Trump’s Project (is out of) Runway and Survivor: The American Experiment. So in the spirit of the age, I thought for this month’s reflection, it would be interesting to see what some of the films on Clapham’s plate might tell us about November 8. (Thanks to IMDB for the brief summaries)
The Great Gilly Hopkins: 12-year-old wisecracking Gilly Hopkins finds herself shuffled from foster home to foster home until she meets Maime Trotter. Clapham has been working with Lionsgate, the Annie E. Casey Foundation and faith-based foster car organizations to raise awareness of the need for more families to serve as foster homes, and for some to become adoptive parents. The film has an all-star cast, and opened in selected markets last weekend.
Lesson for November: Personally and through pubic policy, we have to prioritize the most vulnerable, especially those without homes to go to.
The Vessel: Ten years after a tsunami destroyed a small-town elementary school with all the children inside, a young man builds a mysterious structure out of the school’s remains, setting the town aflame with passions long forgotten. I served as an Associate Producer on this beautiful film executive produced by Terence Malick and starring Martin Sheen. The film had a limited theatrical release in late September, and will be available on demand soon.
Lesson for November: Are we holding on to ideological and political idols of our own making, rather than allowing God to refresh us through His grace?
Hacksaw Ridge: WWII American Army Medic Desmond T. Doss, who served during the Battle of Okinawa, refuses to kill people and becomes the first Conscientious Objector in American history to be awarded the Medal of Honor. About eight years ago, I was introduced to Bill Mechanic, the former head of Fox Studios, and his passion project, Hacksaw Ridge. Although not formally involved, I have been deeply committed to the project, and have offered to be a traveling evangelist for it. Hacksaw releases widely on November 4.
Lesson for November: Character counts, and once convicted, we need to be willing to stand for our principles not matter the cost.
Denial: Acclaimed writer and historian Deborah E. Lipstadt must battle for historical truth to prove the Holocaust actually occurred when David Irving, a renowned denier, sues her for libel. We believe that anti-semitism is on the rise, and believe that more stories and cultural content need to be created to remind us of the past, inform us of the present and warn us of the future with regards to its rise. The film is in theaters now.
Lesson for November: Be diligent, as ant-semitism lurks in shadows of the left and the right, and it shrinks away only when it comes to light.
Voyage of Time: An exploration into our planetary past and a search for humanity’s place in the future with narration by Cate Blanchett and Brad Pitt. Aware that Malick’s opus magnum was in post-production several years ago, we approached a foundation to support efforts to promote the film, but sadly with no success. However, we are cheerleaders of Malick’s unique approach to see story through a spiritual lens. The IMAX version released October 7.
Lesson for November: There is a God, and there is a direction to history. Be at peace, it ends well.
Silence: In the seventeenth century, two Jesuit priests face violence and persecution when they travel to Japan to locate their mentor and propagate Christianity. I serve as President of Cave Capital, which is an investor in Silence, which is Martin Scorsese’s passion project, and stars Andrew Garfield, Liam Neeson and Adam Driver. I’ve written about Silence over the years in my monthly musing, and will certainly write about it again. The film releases December 23rd, in time to qualify for Oscar consideration.
Lesson for November: God may seem to be absent, but He isn’t. He is with us every step of the journey, including in the voting booth. He cares.
Film informs, but doesn’t direct. When it tries to direct, it is called propaganda. Although we don’t do this often, we invite you comment back with any lessons that you’ve taken away for the election from a film you’ve seen recently. Let’s see how the culture has informed you, and we can all draw lessons for November from it.