My husband and I went to the Christian Worldview Film Festival (CWVFF) 2017 over last St. Joseph’s Day weekend. We had the great good fortune to meet a number of talented young people who were both confidently skilled in the art of film making and openly devout in their faith. This was enormously refreshing.
PREVIEW FOR NEXT BLOG: Several were involved with a movie called Polycarp, a wonderfully evocative faith filled historical drama. While Polycarp was not a 2017 entry, having been released in 2015, I was blessed and privileged to meet the writer and director – Jerica and Joe Henline. These talented and exceptional young people, a brother-sister team, along with their named lead, Garry Nation, will feature in a subsequent article. While my technicians and computer gurus arrange for the video interviews to be downloaded and edited I was inspired to share thoughts on this weekend’s experience.
I will also be reviewing Champion the winner of the Best Feature film AND Audience Choice awards, as well as publishing an interview with the film's director Judd Brannon.
At the end of the festivities, there was an Awards ceremony to celebrate those films which demonstrated certain outstanding characteristics. During that ceremony I was struck by the differences between this ceremony and a certain other awards ceremony for more secularly oriented films which very recently occurred. And I thought it might be interesting to contemplate the contrast between the two. Therefore, I hereby present to you:
10. Pregnant women – LOTS of pregnant women. Not just a few sporting fashionable “baby bumps” (a term I find somewhat disposably offensive) but married ladies in abundance who were noticeably with child, and happy to acknowledge such. The M.C., Brett Varvel – comedian, actor and minister – referred to the previous year when his wife “was carrying another human being inside of her”.
9. Children – EVERYWHERE – not just tolerated like squiggly adornments but encouraged to participate and delighted in by the other participants and attendees.
8. Beautiful women who were MODESTLY dressed
7. Gonna hit you with a double negative here – You will NOT see at the Oscars NO profanity, celebrated sexual innuendo, promiscuity, devaluation of human life, gratuitous violence, disrespect for our country, ignorance of our country’s history, aggressive atheism, sexualized children, or derisive attitudes towards traditional marriage – among either the film themes OR the participants. And all those things were just plain old not present and certainly not missed at the CWVFF.
6. Award for Best Gospel Presentation in a film.
5. Award for the film that best exemplified a spiritual Mission Awareness.
4. A clever short film which tells the story of a young man confronting the repercussions of his infidelity while being interrogated for a murder (Vindication – the Winner of the Best Short Film)
3. A winner of the Honor Your Father film contest – a beautiful animated short called Father-Daughter Dance.
2. Praying.
And the number one item which was embraced at the CWVFF but will, to their discredit, not likely ever be honored at the Oscars is:
1. Sanctity of Life Award.
All the films celebrated both spiritual as well as physical life, especially the life of the unborn. But there were several whose main topic addressed this issue specifically:
 Facing Darkness – a documentary about the doctors, nurses and personnel who braved the Ebola crisis at ground zero (winner)
 Carry Me Home – short historical drama featuring one of the runs Harriet Tubman made with mother, father and infant slaves to bring them to freedom
 Birth Control: How Did we Get Here – documentary on the tragic legal and sociological steps our country took into the abyss of abortion
 Fourth World – feature film about a journalist who goes “in country” with the homeless children in a third world country
While Polycarp was not one of the entries, the Henlines had short subject entries, one of which – Frontline – I am pleased to report, was the winner of the Best promotional Film Award. Click on the name if you'd like to see it.
As you can see from the samples of films and trailers and photos there is an abundance of real, professional talent amongst these people of faith.
I remember the quote from Ronald Reagan: “America is good. And if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.” I had been longing for the days when American films took spiritual life seriously and expected respect for Truth, Justice and the American Way to feature in American movies. I had begun to despair those days would ever return. This festival filled me with a renewed optimism that a fresh generation of film makers will contribute to MAKING OUR COUNTRY GREAT AGAIN.


I know this production is not of a movie BUT Sleuth HAS been filmed. So – with that rationalization in mind:

The McNeese University Bayou Players in Lake Charles, LA have put on a brilliant production of Anthony Shaffer’s classic black comedy mystery play – Sleuth.
To tell much about it would be to give away too much of the plot and Sleuth is just too delicious to spoil. So I will tread lightly.
The story is primarily about two men, Milo Tindle and Andrew Wyke, who meet at a secluded English manor to discuss a delicate personal matter involving a woman who is important to them both. The cat and mouse game that emerges is the fascinating matter of the evening.
I am a BIG fan of the movie with Michael Caine and Laurence Olivier, which I first saw at the theater when it came out in 1972. (Please do not bother with the truly awful 2007 remake DESPITE it starring Michael Caine in the role of his antagonist from the original). And given the limitations of a live play, and allowing for a few tech glitches which I am sure they will work out for the Saturday/Sunday performances, I would hold this live McNeese Bayou Players production favorably up to that award winning movie any day.
The acting was excellent. Michael Davis presents a chilling but funny caricature of a posh British snob, and Eric Thibodeaux was extremely convincing in his role as Milo Tindle, at turns both hapless and frightening. The supporting cast listed as Joseph Pressley and Milton Hebert do a superb job of facilitating the tantalizing mystery.
The manor drawing room set was, of course, brilliant, headed up by the ever resourceful Randy Partin who, I think, if given the task of building a working rocketship on stage could do so with a sheet of plyboard and a box of crayons. In this case, he has created a working English manor drawing room, complete with stairs leading to a second floor, and aided in ambiance by a desk built sometimes between 1906-1910, brought out of the LCLT storage room.
Sadly, the production only goes for three nights, one having already passed.
So RUN, do not settle for walking, to see the McNeese Bayou Players production of SLEUTH at the Lake Charles Little Theater at 813 Enterprise Blvd.
You can buy tickets there, call them at 433-7988 or purchase tickets online.


"One shot is what it's all about," is a quote from Robert De Niro's character, Michael, in Deer Hunter. And that was the philosophy of director Alexsandr Sokurov’s vision of Russian Ark, an extremely unusual film for many reasons. This is an “art” film – quite literally, as well as in genre. Spoken in Russian, with subtitles, the entire movie is from the first hand point of view of a recently deceased unnamed man (voiced by the director) who finds himself following 19th century visitors into The Hermitage.

His companion is the ghost of the Marquis de Custine (played by Sergey Dreyden), a travelogue writer, much like a French mid 1800's Hemingway or an echo of Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley. The two meander through 33 rooms, watching vignettes from 200/300 years of history unfold before their eyes. The Ark is, of course, the museum, established in 1754 with around 300 paintings from Catherine the Great’s personally purchased collection, now a museum with over 3 million items. The Hermitage has housed and protected culture through the oceanic storms of time, ignorance, war and revolutions. For a glimpse of the inside of The Hermitage alone, not to mention a terrific sampling of its artistic denizens, the movie is worth the 96 minute commitment. Many items were removed in advance of the filming, however, and many costumed guards were present during the filming, under the guise of extras. Four years of preparation, two THOUSAND actors, 3 orchestras, hundreds and hundreds of specially made incredibly vivid and detailed costumes, a customized wearable Steadicam, dozens of electricians to hide the lighting equipment, and the music of Glinka were used to create this unique look at both one of the oldest museums in history and to reenact snippets of key historical moments: the presentation of the Shah of Iran to Tzar Nicolas the First, apologizing for the death of a Russian ambassador; the ceremonial changing of the palace guard; a play being directed by Catherine the Great; a man building his own coffin during World War II; a temper tantrum by Peter I; all culminating in the last Imperial ball to be held there in 1913.


And on December 23, 2001 this movie was made in ONE…UNCUT…CONTINUOUS…SHOT. Ergo the title to this review. Although they made 4 abortive 5 minute starts, as the natural light started to fade, batteries started to wan, and a once in a lifetime permit from the institute expiring at the end of the day, they dove into the fifth and last take knowing it was literally … now or never. Sokurov yelled “Action” for the one and only time during the final cut of this film – and they DID NOT STOP. Unlike Hitchcock’s Rope there were no cheats. I’ll be honest, I watched closely for them but during the passing of, say, a wall, it was clear there were no cuts. This has only rarely been done with a feature length movie, for obvious technical and pragmatic reasons. Andy Warhol made an “experimental” film, Empire, just showing 8 hours of real time footage of the Empire State Building but even it was busted up into 10 – 43 minute reels. Then there is Timecode, an improvisationally acted oddity which displays four 93 minute points of view, filmed and shown simultaeously. And PVC-1 is 84 uncut minutes of a Columbian made crime drama, mostly made in remote areas and with a small ensemble cast. But Russian Ark was carefully directed, rehearsed, filmed, and involved a massive cast – daunting even for a conventional film maker – and required immediate clean up in this venerated establishment even as they began filming in the next room. Director Sokurov walked behind and out of view yelling instructions, advice and guidance to the actors as they went. Sound was added afterwards in post-production.


I don’t often mention crew, but this film could not have been made without the heroic – not to mention athletic – contribution of director of photography, cinematopgrapher and Steadicam operator/wearer Tilman Buttner. During an interview, Buttner, who had to schlepp 83 pounds of equipment non-stop for the entire 96 minute shoot, admitted that when they got to the last scene, he did not think he could physically continue. He said he was hurting in muscles he didn't know he had and was genuinely concerned he might do himself permanent harm if he continued. So he turned to his assistant and confessed he did not think he could film the last scene. Fortunately, the assistant misunderstood, thought Buttner was referring to the mass of costumed and dancing people in the last major scene and encouraged him with concentrating on the beauty of the moment. Buttner had never seen the set before and said when he did he was overwhelmed by the beauty of the costumes and dancers so that this final rush of adrenaline gave him the strength to finish the filming. This gives an idea of the arduous task the cast and crew had set before them. Sokurov has played with this theme before in Francofonia, where the ghost of Napoleon wanders through the Louvre pointing out works of art. But that was only an overture to this extremely ambitious outing and not done in one cut. For the history and visual stun alone I would recommend this movie. But to get the full benefit I would read about the movie first and perhaps listen to the interview with Sokurov about the making of Russian Ark called In One Breath.