Park City • In days of old, God used a burning bush to get Moses’ attention. Today’s prophets are often the truth-telling artists, singers, songwriters and filmmakers whose modern version of “Thus sayeth the Lord” bursts forth in a stunning, sensual explosion of sight, sound and touch.
They get our attention, and their prophetic word is visceral. It often goes beneath the rational radar and it can disturb more than it comforts. The annual Sundance Film Festival, which wrapped up last week, is like a tribe huddled around a campfire listening to the stories. These stories function like burning bushes, as prophetic calls to action. These films are meant not just to be watched, but to change us and, through us, to change the world.
Here are some of the messages I heard at Sundance 2014.
Value the worthy traditions of your youth.
As most young adults jettison their religious trappings, Native American filmmaker Sterlin Harjo is drawn into the hymns from his upbringing in the church. In “This May Be the Last Time,” he discovers the ancient roots of these hymns that connect the spirituals of the South, the whole-note singing of Appalachia and the very heart of his own existence.
There is something very real beyond the physical.
In “I Origins,” a scientist sets out to prove Charles Darwin’s theories of evolution and to destroy arguments for intelligent design. Unwittingly, he is drawn into an exploration of Leonardo da Vinci’s quip that “the eye is the window to the soul.” Reality, it turns out, is more than meets the eye.
The blind can see.
In “Blind,” a stunning piece of storytelling, Norwegian filmmaker Eskil Vogt explores the inner world of a beautiful young woman who loses her sight but finds her fertile imagination can nonetheless take her to places she would never have gone had she seen only through her eyes.
Love your neighbor.
In “The Overnighters,” a small church and its pastor encounter legions of men who are flocking to North Dakota for a chance to cash in on the energy boom. The community’s family values don’t include welcoming the thousands of down-on-their-luck, blue-collar workers flooding into the community. Who will love these strangers who are now neighbors?
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