August 3, 2010
Finding Faith in the 'Holy Wars'
Filmmaker moves from fear and frustration to faith in making religious documentary
Holy Wars, a compelling documentary now showing in Los Angeles and opening in New York this week, explores the spiritual journeys of a couple of religious fundamentalists -- one a Christian, one a Muslim -- and their views on the war on terror, global religion, and the end of the world.
I've seen the film and found it fascinating, especially an unexpected twist near the middle of the film where both main characters face a defining moment in their respective journeys. It's riveting to watch how their faith affects their actions throughout the rest of the film, but that's all I'll say for now. When the film becomes more available (either showing in wider theatrical release or coming to DVD), CT will post a full review.
But what's also fascinating is the journey behind those journeys -- for writer/director Stephen Marshall, an award-winning filmmaker who simply couldn't find a buyer or distributor for his movie. Some wrote it off as too "Christian," when it absolutely wasn't. Others shunned it for other reasons. But when it caught some good buzz at June's AFI/Silverdocs festival, others began to take note. Now that it's screening for the International Documentary Association's DocuWeeks, it might even end up getting some Oscar buzz.
Marshall wrote an interesting commentary for The Huffington Post the other day, chronicling his behind-the-scenes journey. He notes how he "conceived a film driven by fear and ended up with one grounded in faith. And, as the wise men like to say, it has made all the difference."
He concludes, "I wrote at the start that this became a film about faith, and that certainly is true for the two characters, Khalid Kelly and Aaron Taylor, whom I followed for four years. But it was also about my faith. I am always a little weary of describing my 'religious' beliefs. I have traveled all over this planet and seen so many forms of evidence for what I call God, an all-seeing force who helps shape the narratives of our lives so that we can learn and evolve as immortal souls. But no experience has been more challenging to this belief in a "God" than the making of this film. . . . I don't know what to call that thing that moves through us and makes us all characters in a wonderfully (or dare I say perfectly) crafted three-act drama, but I don't believe it's random. And I know it wasn't all to do with me -- because that is what I call 'God.'"
Watch the trailer here: