Sundance Epiphanies

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Sundance Epiphanies

PARK CITY, Utah (RNS)
The Sundance Film Festival facilitates epiphanies.

I know because I’ve been here only one day and I can already feel, in the words of Carole King, the earth move under my feet and the sky
tumbling down, all because of four simple little student films.

An epiphany is a sort of hit-you-over-the-head moment, a “sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning
of something,” is how the dictionary puts it. Usually it’s “initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience.” In each of these low-budget films, the central character faces a life-changing situation that triggers an epiphany.

“On the Road to Tel-Aviv,” by Israeli Khen Shalem, tells the true story of passengers boarding a bus to Tel-Aviv who balk at sharing the
ride with a Palestinian woman they believe may be a terrorist. If you were an Israeli Jew, would you board a bus with an Arab woman carrying a gym bag?

“Kavi,” by Gregg Helvey, tells the story of an Indian boy forced to work as a modern-day slave in a brick kiln. He must choose to either
accept what he’s always been told, or fight for a different life.

“Desert Wedding,” by Alexandra Fisher, tells the story of a pampered bride who is inconvenienced by tragedy on her perfectly planned wedding day. If you’ve ever been disturbed by the superficiality of reality TV shows featuring brides planning the perfect, extravagant, expensive wedding, this one’s for you.

Oscar Bucher’s “Waiting for a Train: The Toshio Hirano Story” is the engaging and heartfelt true story of Japanese emigrant, Toshio Hirano,
whose young life was transformed when he heard Jimmy Rodgers singing “Waiting for a Train.” He buys a guitar, travels to America, rides a bike through Appalachia and spends the rest of his life singing country music.

These may be low-budget student films, but they’re grabbing attention. If these four are any indications, it seems that many young
filmmakers are being pushed to focus their efforts on meaningful films with big themes of redemption, dignity, tolerance, equality, diversity,
hope and triumph of the human spirit.

All four films won laurels at the Angelus Film Festival, a student film festival that honors budding filmmakers who explore and respect the
dignity of the human person. The festival is part of Family Theater Productions led by Father Willy Raymond and is directed by Monika Moreno.

The Angelus awards are sponsored by Family Theater Productions in Hollywood an organization that knows talent when they see it: FTP gave James Dean his first acting credit (in 1951’s “Hill Number One”) and George Lucas his first crew job, in a 1963 film (“The Soldier”) that also starred a very young William Shatner.

Their more than 800 radio programs and 83 TV specials have featured the likes of Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Lucille
Ball, Henry Fonda, Rosalind Russell, Jack Benny, Barbara Stanwyck, Helen Hayes, Ronald Reagan and Shirley Temple.

Which Hollywood media mogul founded Family Theater Productions? It was actually a poor Irish Catholic priest, the Rev. Patrick Peyton, who came to the U.S. in 1928 and was ordained a Holy Cross priest in 1941. Even without any experience in show business, Peyton became a media pioneer by his vision — and by recruiting the best writers and actors in Hollywood to entertain, inspire and inform families with alternative, yet mainstream, programming.

The four films were shown this year at an “off-Sundance” (think “off-Broadway”) mini-festival called The Windrider Forum that brings together theology students and aspiring filmmakers. Windrider is sponsored by the The Priddy Brothers, who share the Angelus vision of creating artistically excellent films aimed at helping humans finding our common ground.

The four films all have something in common, but so do their viewers: they want to see films that inspire epiphanies. The appeal is
simple. They’re the kind of movies the world hungers for, because they encourage the human decency we so desperately need.

Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends for the benefit of the world, Dick Staub.

PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

Order one of Dick’s books from amazon: Christian Wisdom of the Jedi Masters
OR
The Culturally Savvy Christian: A Manifesto for Deepening Faith and Enriching Popular Culture in an Age of Christianity-Lite

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