I can still hear it now, “Where are your 20 questions?”
That was the opening salvo to just about every assignment discussed by one of my journalism professors in college. For every story we wrote or topic we explored, she expected us to come up with at least 20 questions we would ask whoever we might be interviewing — no matter what.
In the years since I’ve graduated, I’ve remembered that prompt, often scrawling down lists of inquiries I have for my interviewees. I can’t help but think the list would far exceed 20 questions, though, if I had the chance to sit down for an interview with God.
Paul Asher, a fictional journalist portrayed by rising star Brenton Thwaites in the forthcoming movie “An Interview with God,” is faced with that exact opportunity: The chance — on three occasions — to ask anything of a man claiming to be the Almighty, played by actor David Strathairn.
Unlike many of its Christian counterparts to hit the box office in recent years, “An Interview with God” finds a home in the gray areas — the space where not every question is chased by a tweetable answer and not every situation is rectified a la a Disney fairytale.
The movie, a project developed by Astute Films and Giving Films, wrestles intense topics ranging from PTSD to marital infidelity to death and the meaning of life, and above all else, leaves the viewer with a flurry of questions.
And that’s exactly as Harrison Powell, co-producer with Giving Films, intended it.
“We feel like [the movie] is done in a way that’s — regardless of where a person is on the faith spectrum — I think they’ll enjoy it and hopefully be encouraged to put questions on the table,” Powell told Faithwire.
He went on to say Asher’s discussions with the man claiming to be God mimic viewers’ real life experiences. The beleaguered journalist often finds himself frustrated with the complexities of life and the nuances of walking by faith.
The man claiming to be God, Powell said, many times “answers questions with questions” and sometimes leaves Asher’s inquiries without clear responses.
“We were OK with [that],” he said, “if it encourages people when they leave the theater to continue to explore those questions. Our thought is, film is art and great art should ask questions, sometimes more than it gives answers.”
The movie’s ultimate message is unmistakable: No questions are off limits. In fact, Powell said he firmly believes God “invites us” to bring our most difficult inquiries to him and wants us to embark on quests to find answers, even if it takes our entire lives.
While the movie does seek to address some pretty heady topics, Powell praised the film’s writer for not being too preachy but still delving into “more theology than I’ve frankly seen in almost any other film.”
Inspired to tell stories that spark conversations about the nuances of life’s mosaic-like complexities, Powell joined Giving Films founder Rick Jackson about four years ago, when he was working on the movie adaptation of the popular Christian book, “90 Minutes in Heaven.”
For every project Giving Films produces, it gives all of its proceeds away to charity.
Jackson, who had a troubled childhood and spent about six years in the foster care system, where he ultimately encountered the Christian faith, decided to donate all of the proceeds from “An Interview with God” to a handful of faith-based foster care agencies.
“His heart is really for underserved children,” Powell said of Jackson. “[H]e’s had tremendous success in the corporate world, and right now, his purpose is around foster care and around helping children.”
Proceeds from the movie will be donated to FaithBridge Foster Care, which partners with local churches to support foster families, Sunshine on a Ranney Day, a husband and wife duo who specialize in home makeovers for families with children with special needs, and Christian Alliance for Orphans, an advocacy organization dedicated to the biblical call to care for orphaned and vulnerable children.
“An Interview with God” will be in select theaters Aug. 20 – 22.