Arts and Culture

NET’s Reel Faith Delivers Movies with a Message

by Father Robert Lauder

I HAVE NO IDEA what the television viewing habits of readers of this column might be. It is no secret that there is an enormous amount of junk on television. The complaint, “There is nothing to watch,” is one I hear frequently. So when there is something good on television, I naturally want to spread the word.

Next Friday, May 24, the fourth season of Reel Faith will appear on New Evangelization Television (NET) at 8 p.m. The show may be seen on Channel 97 on Time Warner Cable; Channel 30 on Cablevision; or on the NET website, www.netny.net.

When Reel Faith first appeared a few years ago, I was very excited about the show. I thought it was one of the NET’s most important shows – and I still do. In fact, my enthusiasm for the show has only increased. As far as I know, there is nothing else like it on Catholic television. It reminds me of the Siskel & Ebert At the Movies show, except that Reel Faith is geared toward a Catholic audience.

The format of the show is simple. Two critics, David DiCerto and Steven Greydanus, sit in a theater and discuss new films that are showing in theaters or are about to begin appearing in theaters. Clips of each film they discuss are shown. For me, this is a real breakthrough. For years, I discussed films on Catholic television, and I was never permitted by the production companies to show film clips.

The absence of film clips really hampered any discussion of a film. I can recall a show that I did with a friend on the Swedish author/director Ingmar Bergman. We had to show photographs. The producers of the show came up with some good photographs, but no matter how good the photographs were, they were no substitute for actual excerpts from the film.

I thought that what my friend and I said about Bergman was pretty accurate and interesting, but even I had to admit that without film clips to illustrate what we were saying about Bergman’s style of filmmaking, the show suffered. If we could have shown snippets from some of his films, not only would our comments have been more clear, but viewers would have experienced firsthand something of the brilliance of the author/director. Without the clips, our discussion seemed abstract.

That NET now has access to excerpts from any newly released film that is discussed on Reel Faith is a big plus. In addition to hearing the comments of DiCerto and Greydanus, viewers can now have an experience of the film itself.

I have the utmost respect for both DiCerto and Greydanus. Both of them are very intelligent, express themselves very well, are familiar with the history of cinema, love movies and love talking about movies. Their enthusiastic approach to film is obvious.

DiCerto previously served as critic for the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Greydanus is the film critic for the National Catholic Register and also the founder of decentfilms.com. Both men believe in the importance of a show like Reel Faith. So do I.

Because I am promoting Reel Faith, I feel obliged to confess that I appear for about three minutes on every show. I do a segment called “Movies with a Message.” I pick some not-so-recent film, comment on its message and explain why I think the film is special. I have already commented on more than 30 films, including Chariots of Fire, On the Waterfront, Bicycle Thief, It’s a Wonderful Life and A Man for All Seasons. In spite of my three-minute segments, Reel Faith is a terrific show!

I am surprised when I meet people who still think of movies as a nothing more than a pleasant way of wasting time. I believe that film ranks as an important art form, equal in importance to music, theater, literature, sculpture and painting.

Of course, a number of poor films have been made, but a similar remark might be made of any of the arts. At their best, cinematic masterpieces, and there are a number of them, are just as beautiful and perhaps even as inspiring as other artistic masterpieces.

In terms of the history of cinema, we’re living in what might be described as a “golden moment.” Just about every film is now accessible in one way or another. Great films and the less-than-great films can now be viewed at home. If film is as important an art form as I am claiming, then the possibilities for education are enormous.

Films about the mystery of person, about the mystery of love, about the mystery of God, if well done, can have an enormous impact on viewers. Reel Faith can help viewers appreciate the potential of film.

 

Editor’s Note: Reel Faith’s first episode will offer reviews of Iron Man 3, The Great Gatsby and Star Trek Into Darkness.[hr] Father Robert Lauder, a priest of the Diocese of Brooklyn and philosophy professor at St. John’s University, Jamaica, writes a weekly column for the Catholic Press.

Share this article with a friend.