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Monday, Feb. 16, 2015

FAITH ON FILM

Series sparks dialogue at RFC

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The Robinson Film Center kicked off 2015 with a new monthly series called “Faith on Film.”

The series brings together area clergy members from different religions and denominations to have a conversation about film through the lens of their faiths.

“We’re always looking for ways to engage our audience and offer an experience for them that is more than just sitting and watching a movie,” Meghan Hochstetler, education director for the Robinson Film Center, said. “Our mission is to educate, enrich and entertain through the power of film, and this fits our mission perfectly. We want to be a place where people of all faiths can come together and have a meaningful conversation about film. “ The first event was held Jan. 8 with a screening of “The Homesman,” a Western starring Tommy Lee Jones and Hillary Swank and which Jones directed. The film is set on the American frontier in the decade before the Civil War and upends a many traditional ideas about the roles of women at the time.

The screening was followed by a faith-based dialogue led by B’nai Zion Congregation Rabbi Jana De Benedetti and the Simple Church Pastor Justin Haigler.

“To be honest, ‘The Homesman’ was a challenging movie to watch,” Haigler said. “It was a tough movie for sure with issues many of us don’t like to have to watch, much less discuss openly with people we don’t know very well. But I do think it was helpful to have the opportunity to process these issues together.”

“After watching the film, some of the faith-based discussions dealt with accepting responsibility to take care of others, evaluating the role of women in society, understanding how to help our community members with mental illness, and an overview of how movies lend themselves to allowing us to focus on questions of faith,” De Benedetti said.

“Faith is the lens we see through when we look at our experience, and film is a lens that intentionally focuses on some aspect of our experience,” De Benedetti said. “Since our community is filled with people of faith, it is helpful for us to facilitate conversations with people who see with similar lenses and a safe way to hear how other faiths look at things.”

“The highlight for me was seeing people from various faith backgrounds in the same room. It was a unique opportunity,” Haigler said. “A movie became the catalyst for people from very different backgrounds to work through some very difficult issues together. Each person having the freedom to share their perspective through their faith lens was pretty cool.”

Hochstetler said the series is already off to a great start. “We had a soldout crowd for our first Faith on Film screening. We are trying something new, and it’s very encouraging to have this kind of support from our community. This seems to be the kind of dialogue our audience is thirsty for.”

The aim of the series is to be as inclusive as possible. “This is a conversation we want to share with all members of our community. You don’t have to be a member of a particular religion, or of any religion, to appreciate a great discussion about film,” Hochstetler said. “To choose the films, we have a steering committee made of leaders from several different Christian denominations as well as Jewish and Hindu congregations. We welcome clergy and leaders from any religion.”

“The goal is to allow us to watch movies together and know that we can discuss religious aspects of the movies with clergy and other interested people,” De Benedetti said. “The clergy and the Robinson Film Center hope that the community members will feel that this is a forum that will allow a non-judgmental arena to explore faith based issues in movies. Hopefully, this will enhance the viewing experience of the movies and allow our community members to learn more about each other and other faiths.”

Haigler sees the same goal. “In our culture, movies are watched by nearly everyone, but typically we watch them with our own peer group. What makes Faith on Film special is that we have the opportunity to talk with other faiths about a movie we just watched together. It is a chance to learn from each other and discuss what another faith may see in the same film.”

The series will continue throughout the year.

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