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September 24, 2008

Here’s Your Chance: A Renaissance in the Film Industry

200pxdukes08poster “Film impacts popular culture more than any other medium,” said Ellen Hubbard, co-founder of the American Film Renaissance Institute (AFR) during a speech for the Conservative Women’s Network.

Movies, arguably, do have more transformative power in popular culture than politics and perhaps books. Hubbard reminded us that the American lexicon is filled with quotes from movies. People quote movies in day-to-day speaking and quotes can be heard in political speeches like President Ronald Reagan’s 1985 speech where he said, “Go ahead, make my day.” Sadly, conservatives and Christians have virtually abandoned this creative industry and tragically lost a wonderful opportunity to influence culture in America and around the world.

What do we need to know about making a quotable and successful movie? Hubbard pointed out, “Film is an emotional medium. Bad filmmaking is throwing a bunch of facts on the table. What’s needed is a compelling story.” 

Compelling stories were the stuff movies were made of during what’s known as the “Golden Age" of film. In the '30s, '40s, and '50s, timeless themes of heroism and honor, sacrifice and self-reliance, family and religion, meaning and purpose, and general intelligibility about the world around us were portrayed. While few and far between, films including these themes are still being made and inevitably, moviegoers flock to see them.   

But for the most part, what themes are being portrayed now? Today’s standard film fare is rife with overtly anti-American, anti-Christian, anti-family, anti-business stories from producers like Michael Moore, George Clooney, and Alan Ball. Predominately, today’s films promote -isms like nihilism, postmodernism, fascism, occultism, and paganism. From the mid-1960s onward, standard fare has included stories which encourage unrestrained lasciviousness and dishonorable conduct.

You might have stopped patronizing movies but your children and their peers haven’t, and they are absorbing these emotionally charged and ultimately poisonous messages. What can we do about it?

In his 1989 farewell speech, Ronald Reagan asked an important question: “Are we doing a good enough job teaching our children what America is and what she represents in the long history of the world? Those of us who are over 35 or so…grew up in a different America. We were taught, very directly, what it means to be an American.  And we absorbed, almost in the air, a love of country and an appreciation of its institutions,” like family, neighbors, schools. Reagan continued, “If all else failed, you could get a sense of patriotism from popular culture.  The movies celebrated democratic values and implicitly reinforced the idea that America was special.”   

Reagan was right. For instance, when I was growing up, war movies portrayed American heroes defending liberty and freedom. In the last couple of years, you’d be hard pressed to find movies featuring American heroes like our servicemen and women in Iraq defending American principles of democracy despite deprivation, suffering, and sometimes death. There’s a good reason for it. There are relatively few people who have traditionalist, conservative, or Christian worldview working in Hollywood. 

Thankfully people like Ellen Hubbard and Jim, her husband and co-founder of American Film Renaissance Institute, are starting to acknowledge that conservatives and Christians have a problem, and the problem is not with the people in Hollywood making movies which reflect their worldview.  Jim Hubbard pinpoints whose problem it is: “Our primary criticism is with the more traditionalist and conservative element in this country.”   

The Hubbards aren’t just sitting there criticizing people; they are doing something positive within this important industry. They formed AFR to provide conservative filmmakers a venue in which to show their works. Jim says, “Our mission is to bring conservatives to the table. It’s not a negative mission to seek out and destroy current producers. Our mission is not to subtract from Hollywood but to add to Hollywood.” 

You don't have to sit back either. You can influence the industry by attending good movies in their opening week, and encouraging struggling actors or filmmakers. Here’s another way you can help can the movie industry: October 1st through the 4th, AFR is hosting a festival in Washington, D.C., starting with the movie The Dukes, a story about frustrated doo wop singers trying to make money by stealing, starring Robert Davi, Chazz Palminteri, Peter Bogdanovich, Frank D’Amico, and Elya Baskin. If you like satire, An American Carol fits the bill. There are a number of other films AFR is promoting, too. To find out more about their programs, which include teaching aspiring filmmakers how to make good movies, go to their website

Christians should be the first to support and encouraging upcoming filmmakers. If you can, get involved in this effort.

(Image © CAVU Releasing)

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