As faith-based entertainment continues working its way into the entertainment world, one film director is predicting Christian art could experience a renaissance in the coming years.
Matt Chastain, the screenwriter, director, and star of the Christian movie “Small Group,” coming out Oct. 6 on digital via Amazon, iTunes, GooglePlay as well as on Blu-ray and DVD, told Faithwire this week he believes the next decade could be see the rebirth of great Christian art.
“I think that the next decade or two has the potential to set up as a revival of Christian art,” he said. “Not to say that Christian art has been bad or anything — there’s tons of great Christian art out there — [but] I don’t think it’s at the forefront in a lot of cases.”
Much of Chastain’s prediction is predicated on his belief that the Christian faith will be pushed further and further out of mainstream culture.
As faith becomes increasingly defined as “counter culture,” believers will have to resort to relying more heavily on subtext, a handicap Chastain said could produce higher caliber art.
“Counter culture tends to make better art,” the filmmaker explained. “Why? Because we kind of have to hide our art in subtext, in stories. And people are more attracted to something when they’re digging underneath the story to find what’s really going on.”
“That’s why in the ’60s, the counter culture, the sexual revolution, the drug revolution, that was very, very interesting to young people, because it was counter culture,” he continued. “Because Peter, Paul, and Mary weren’t singing up front and preaching about marijuana use. No, they were hiding in a cute little song called ‘Puff the Magic Dragon.'”
In the future, Chastain hopes Christians learn to “value subtext and story a lot more.”
That’s the goal of his latest endeavor, “Small Group,” which tells the story of a documentary filmmaker, R. Scott Cooper, hired to chronicle Christianity’s dwindling influence in society. The producer behind the documentary, though, wants a hit piece in which Scott deceptively infiltrates a church small group in Athens, Georgia. The documentarian moves forward with the project, but what he finds surprises him.
More than anything else, Chastain said, it’s important for films — whether faith-based or secular — to avoid being “preachy” or “heavy handed.”
“There’s definitely a reputation out there that Christian movies have for being kind of preachy,” he said. “But I think it’s inaccurate to limit that just to Christian movies. Have you ever seen a movie that’s all about climate change or some other activist movie that’s outside of the Christian worldview? Those movies feel just as preachy.”
“When you start off trying to persuade in a story, you’re gonna lose people,” he continued. “That’s why I think stories that are more of a discovery tend to make that connection [with audiences] way better.”
Up until the late 1990s and early 2000s, Christianity represented the “dominant culture” in the United States. As that changes, believers will have to adapt and create content that resonates with an entirely new society, Chastain explained.
The work that comes from that shift, he argued, has the potential to be great.
Chastain’s tip for his fellow Christian filmmakers? Use Scripture, “because the Bible just tells great stories.”