Thursday, April 20, 2006

Film Review



Good question. The first time I heard about this film (possibly from stevansheets.com), I thought to myself, “I bet this makes Christian music look really stupid.” And, secretly, I hoped it would. As I watched the film that Vickie Hunter and Heather Whinna (professing non-Christians) put together, I was surprised by my reaction.

Christian music is something that has been one of the striking points for my cynicism regarding the Christian religion and the church. I’ve come from a place where all I was ALLOWED to listen to was Christian music, and from there I began to make a CHOICE to listen to only Christian music as I was in college. Then some things began to change. First, the quality of the music began to bother me. I was exposed to really good “secular” music, which just blew the quality of the best Christian music out of the water. Second, the lyrics in Christian music, though usually well meaning, were trite at best, and heretical at worst. Several years have past in this process, and now I scroll through my iTunes collection of over 2000 songs and there are a few smatterings of music by artists who happen to be Christians (Pedro, Damien, Chamberlain, etc), but NO “Christian music.”

The balance has shifted.

I’ve begun to notice this lack of balance in many areas of my life, but music is the most obvious.

Oh yeah, the film.

I have been to Cornerstone (the festival where the majority of the shows and interviews take place), so there was some nostalgia related to seeing the sights, and hearing some old favorites (MxPx, OC Supertones, Zao). I think the filmmakers did an excellent job letting the interviewees talk and not spin or edit (what I like to call Mooring) what they had to say.

In a culture as big as Christian music there are bound to be differing points of view, but even through the differences, all of the interviewees seem to “get it.” They understand that many people don’t understand Christian music, they understand that people would be dubious of anyone trying to “get a message across” instead of just “perform.” Not one person comes across as ignorant or as a Bible-thumper. When “Christians” show up on TV or in film, they are usually exploited for some facet of their belief that is “whack-o” by the world’s standards. That doesn’t happen in this film, surprisingly.

There are those who dissent from within, who hedge whether they are in or out. David Bazan (Pedro the Lion) makes great points about bringing people together who love music, letting Christians and non-Christians enjoy music together, forming relationships. Bazan also a demonstrates a clear cynicism about the Christian music scene, though he continues to perform at Cornerstone festival (he didn’t perform last year, the first time in several years). Many of Pedro the Lion’s fans have seen this transition and rise in cynicism from David’s point of view, both in his lyrics and his between song banter/Q&A periods.

Overall, this film does a great job showing the reality of Christian music: that most people in the scene are sincere, most are asking the questions about why they do what they do, most strive for excellence in what they produce, and most importantly most of the people in the scene are likeable people. Sean Howe reviewed this film for Spin magazine and stated, “Even an atheist will be less fearful of the God-fearing.” Yes, and those of us who forgot how valuable, life-affecting, and meaningful Christian music can be…we will remember.

1 comment:

Dan S said...

Outstanding post, Tim. I think what you are feeling is some of what I was feeling when I started to listen to Blindside last year. I am a Christian, therefore at least some Christian music should be relevant to me!

I can't wait to see this film (can't find it anywhere yet) but I've heard nothing but great reviews.

Some of the things David Bazan says just trouble me sometimes. I just don't hear people in love with THE CHURCH anymore. The whole "I believe in Jesus, but not the church thing" just doesn't ring true with me, or the Bible, I think. I dunno.

I will say this: I am incredibly exciting to see MxPx at Cornerstone again this year!