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GONZAGA UNIVERSITY NEWS FEATURE
By Kelly Birch, PR Assistant
Gonzaga University Class of 2009
|Barbara Nicolosi Explains Why Movies Should Matter|
Screenwriter, Director Barbara Nicolosi Explains Why Movies Should Matter to Gonzaga University Community
“The Passion of the Christ,” “The Chronicles of Narnia,” and “The Nativity Story” indicate Christian films are a growing part of the American culture landscape and Christians should care more that they are made well, said filmmaker Barbara Nicolosi.
Nicolosi, executive director and founder of Hollywood-based Act I, Inc., a non profit training and formation program for Christian screenwriters and movie executives, explained “Why Movies Matter” to a packed Gonzaga University audience Jan. 22.
Nicolosi, who is also a screenwriter and movie producer, said Christians should care more about faith flicks because they represent one of the best opportunities for Christians to reach mainstream culture and spread the word of God.
Nicolosi focused on the importance of building bridges between Christianity and the arts, especially film, because she said Hollywood is in midst of “a spiritual renaissance” packed with potential to touch people’s spirits and call them to God. She said movies matter for three key reasons: because they are the entertainment choice of our times; because all entertainment matters; and because all art in general matters a great deal.
She grouped movies into four categories based on message and quality: big lies that are badly told, big lies that are well-told, big truths badly told, or – the best hope for Christians – those that are big truths, well-told
For example, she said the storyline in “Munich” is wonderfully told, but the film does not have a truly Christian message, while “Little Miss Sunshine” is a very positive and important story that is, unfortunately, told crudely,
Nicolosi emphasized, however, that not all entertainment is created equal. Entertainment, she said, can be “good, bad, or very bad,” adding that bad entertainment is “entertaining oneself at the expense of others. It takes something away from you.”
Conversely, good entertainment can actually help people better understand and even reconcile different sides of their character. “Think about your recreation time,” she asked. “Is it really recreating you? … We were made not for a purpose but for a feast . Entertainment should also be a feast.”
Nicolosi said two ways she likes to entertain herself are by playing video games and reading Christian blogs (online). When done blogging, Nicolosi said she feels as though she has learned something and is often invigorated. However, she usually feels as though she gains nothing from spending an afternoon playing video games.
One reason that film is the entertainment choice of our time, according to Nicolosi, has to do with the raw power of storytelling. Nicolosi implored audience members to think of a story that had been “saving” for them. “Do you believe that a story can make you braver, kinder? Do you think stories can change things? What kind of stories do you need?” she asked.
She also described a good story is one that “has an end; allows us to see the result of choices,” she said. “Good stories have discernable, coherent meaning. You need good characters.” In addition to solely providing answers to life’s problems, she said stories also should raise questions.
Another reason Nicolosi cited for the popularity of movies is their use of great art: the power of music, compositions of visual art and imagery, drama, and storytelling.
Above all, Nicolosi stressed the necessity of beauty in film, an attribute present in all good art. She defined beauty as “a challenge when we confront it. It is a quality that appears in an object — harmony, love, joy, radiance. Seeing Christ on the cross, that’s a beautiful sight,” she said, adding that beauty has the power to provide gifts of humility and joy.
And what does all of this mean for Christians and Christianity?
“The [Catholic] Church used to be the Patron of the Arts,” Nicolosi said, adding that the Catholic Church has moved away from supporting art, and is hiring mediocre musicians, composers and artists.
“We have to make the sacrifices that beauty demands,” Nicolosi said, noting that she hopes the Church will start to put more of its resources into art, employ more talented musicians and artists, support “good” Christian films, and offer guidance to those in the film industry and other arts-based careers.
There are well-made films that offer no truth and some that resound with it, she said. Likewise, some poorly made films offer truth and many do not.
If Christianity and Hollywood become filmmaking allies, as Nicolosi hopes, she said there will come a day when more well-made films offer positive messages that shine with beauty and ring through our souls with truth.