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Christianity Today at the Movies: Features

Christianity Today at the Movies: Features

Award-winning website devoted to film reviews, interviews and commentary, all written from a biblical perspective.
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Watu Wote joins other films attempting what African sermons cannot.Two years ago, the heroic actions of some Kenyan Muslims brought their majority-Christian nation together. The Oscar-nominated film depiction of that heroism may do so again—if many people watch.Watu Wote is a fictional retelling of real-life horror. In December 2015, al-Shabaab terrorists stormed a bus headed toward the border with Somalia and demanded Christian passengers separate for targeted execution. Muslim passengers responded, “If you want to kill us, then kill us. There are no Christians here.” The Christian women were given hijabs to wear, while the Christian men were hidden behind bags.They knew the danger. One year earlier in a similar bus attack, Muslim militants killed 28 Christians who failed to correctly say the Islamic creed.Filmed on location in Swahili and Somali, the 22-minute film was nominated for the Live Action Short Film category at the 90th Academy Awards.“The film captures an issue close to Kenyan hearts, that apart from religious differences, we are all Kenyan,” said Timothy Ranji, bishop of the Anglican diocese of Mt. Kenya South. “The downside is that it will be watched by very few Kenyans.”Access to film is limited in Kenya. The nation ranks 77th worldwide in terms of cinemas per capita, according to UN data. Radio is a far more effective means of communication in the East African nation, Ranji said.And some, like William Black, may choose not to watch it. “The movie tells a good story, I’m sure,” said the American Orthodox missionary and professor at St. Paul’s University in Limuru, Kenya. “But it hits too close to home.”Black believes that terrorists want to push Kenya to the tipping point. “The narrow focus ...Continue reading...
This celebration of black culture and black success points to a bigger story for the church.A while ago, I stopped watching a certain type of black movie.In the wake of the black suffering that I saw in real life, I didn’t want to see another black slave scene. I didn’t want the water hoses of Alabama to once again wreck my hopes. I didn’t want to see us integrate another school, sports team, or profession despite the overwhelming odds. I didn’t avoid these films because I was ashamed of our history, but because my soul needed rest.The film Black Panther presented itself differently. It did not set out to highlight black suffering, but black achievement. Furthermore, it was black achievement in a black context. For black people, this was a film for us, by us, and about us.The Marvel movie—set in a fictional, futuristic African country (Wakanda) and featuring an African and African American cast—has even inspired black viewers to come to the movie dressed in traditional African clothing.This response might seem excessive, but given the history of cinema, the chance to center the black experience outside of the setting of extreme poverty is no small thing. Black audiences are celebrating the vision for a bigger story for black boys and girls; their support is a call to attend to the whole of black life and culture.American evangelicals might look to Black Panther as a starting point for dialogue and reflection as they increasingly address concerns about diversity, reconciliation, and representation in their churches and the church at large.This movie milestone exemplifies how deeply we as a people want to be our whole black selves and tell our whole stories. We resist the expectation that we must conform to cultural norms in order to be accepted in white spaces, including evangelical ...Continue reading...

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