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THE FILMMAKER’S PRAYER: CINEMA & RELIGION by Philip J. Hohle, Ph.D.

Excerpt from THE FILMMAKER'S PRAYER

© Philip J. Hohle

     . . . According to Barna and Gallup polls, most of the residents in the U.S. are religious—or at least, we claim Christianity or some other mainstream faith-based worldview. Is it not strange then, that filmmakers often avoid addressing anything serious about religion in their movies?  At times, religion does play some positive minor role in the plot, but religiosity is more often the cause of the antagonist’s opposition to the less-religious protagonist than the reverse. It has become self-evident; religion is too complicated or fragmented for a scriptwriter to use as background for her characters. In making a character too religious, the writer runs the risk of losing some of the consubstantiation a viewer needs in order to like a character.

     In spite of filmmaker’s reluctance to make the celluloid sacred, I will argue in this book that films are full of religion. Both unconsciously and consciously, filmmakers infuse religion into the story in subtle ways, which can be missed unless the viewer is able to interpret the film on a less conventional level. Furthermore, I propose that if the viewer is not aware of the filmmaker’s religious sense-making within their created world, they are more subject to influence or even conversion. Considering the power of film, one can argue that the filmmaker is today’s tent-revival evangelist. But of course, most of this influence is worked in the unconscious and not always recognized in a conventional read of the film.

   In reading on, there will be some terms I use often that help shape the argument. As a matter of fact, Cinema & Religion is the sequel to Lenses, my previous book revealing ten perspectives one can use to interpret and make sense of movie narratives. . . .

[section omitted]

. . . This brings us back to the fundamental premise of this book. Films are full of ideology, and that ideology is often an identifiable worldview that is promoted as passionately as any religion. In these pages, we will compare the values, assumptions, and beliefs represented in films that, not only entertain us, but they comfort or disrupt us; they instruct and motivate us; they help us make sense of our lives. I hope that sounds like religion to you.

This book will:

  • Identify the key religious themes commonly found in narratives.
  • Show how these themes can be found and examined in a film.
  • Illustrate how the religious perspective will reinterpret the role and function of characters, the meaning of signs, and even the plot found in a movie.
  • Help the reader compare and contrast the ideological messages some popular movies to the divine story in Christianity.
  • Advance your emerging fluency as a lay critic, becoming more confident in recognizing the ideology and theology of a film.
  • Help you find a voice in communicating a case for its value or lack of value to our world. Ultimately, you can help shape the conversation over the film’s contribution to our culture’s grand narrative.
  • Motivate you to respond to an exigence (an urgent issue) raised by the film viewing experience.
  • Affirm and strengthen your appreciation for the power of film and the ability of the filmmaker to bring the viewer to experience transcendence in the story.

LENSES: Ten Ways to Interpret the Movies You Love (and some you hated) by Philip J. Hohle, Ph.D.

LENSES book cover man with film running in his head

Excerpt from the Introduction

© Philip J. Hohle

...This remarkable influence is why it is so vital that viewers learn to read film. It is not so we can all have the same interpretation. I think of the old school literature professor who refuses to recognize any alternative interpretation of a classic poem. Recall the first literature class John Keating has with his students in Dead Poet’s Society4. Keating has his students rip out pages in the textbook that proposed the goodness and truth of a poem could be measured scientifically—leading to a singular, objective interpretation.

Conversely, the lessons in this book serve more like a guide to make us more sensitive—more aware of both the effect proposed by the filmmaker (e.g., the film craft as a noun) as well as the affect film has on us (as in a verb). In becoming literate, we become aware of the power we give film. But do not worry that your nuanced sensitivity will spoil your enjoyment—not like how a backstage tour of Disneyland diminishes the magic. Instead, I argue our literacy makes film even more powerful. We become more aware of the subtleties most viewers miss. Knowing more about the craft makes one appreciate it so much more when the film is indeed well made.

     Becoming fluent means you can help others toward a higher appreciation of such well-made movies. Fluency for me means one can interpret film for the benefit of others—to heighten their own literacy. This increased competency can mean you will more fully love the good movies you love. Likewise, you will help open other’s eyes to seeing disruptive films for what they really are. To our friends, parents, children, and the stranger in line at the film festival— we are critics. And the more fluent we are, the more we provide useful lenses for others to use.

Lenses are what this book is finally all about—ten sets of glasses one can try on in order to make sense of a film. Metaphorically, this book is an exercise in showing the changes of hue and texture each lens affords. Thus, selecting an appropriate lens becomes critical to a fulfilling and helpful critique of a film. Not only will each lens reveal a different story in the same movie, each person also employs personal filters that may blur or sharpen what the filmmaker intended. Being aware of one’s filters can reveal something about us as they simultaneously serve to help illuminate the film...

4. Dead Poet’s Society, directed by Peter Weir (1989; Touchstone Home Entertainment, 2012), BluRay.

Find this book on AMAZON in both paperback and eReader editions.

LEADING FROM THE BOTTOM by Philip J. Hohle, Ph.D.

Book Cover bird pooping on another bird below.

Excerpt from Leading from the Bottom

© 2018 Philip J. Hohle

. . . I had to write this book because it is time to debunk four fundamental myths about organizations and leadership:

1. Leadership does not exist unless the organization bestows it.
2. Leadership is contained in the actions of those entitled to lead.
3. The qualities of the leader are more important than the qualities of the follower.
4. Thewilltoleadisstrongerthanthechoicetofollow.

In exploring these myths, I hope you will obtain a sense of catharsis and even liberation as you reflect on the relationship you had with those organizations that broke your heart.

Just so we are calibrated from the start, let me assure you this book will not become a self-indulgent exercise in whining or an incessant licking of old wounds. That being said, this book will be a sense-making exercise for anyone who risked their wellbeing in serving an organization and came away less than fulfilled. While that includes pretty much all of us, I wrote this book for those who are somewhat heartbroken from the experience—not because your résumé now has an indelible stain, but merely because you loved that organization and you desperately wanted to contribute to the mission and make it better. And you failed—or maybe, the organization failed you.

[Part omitted]

     It matters not if you are leading in such an organization now, or one who once led, or one who may someday lead to one degree or another—this book will speak to you. It is for anyone who really wants to know what combination of variables converged and interacted to disrupt the mission—even if you were one of those disruptions. After all, who of us is entirely innocent? This book is for you if:

  • You have served in an underperforming or dysfunctional organization.
  • You have found your own leadership efforts stymied.
  • You are living in the hell of having tons of responsibility without any concomitant authority. No one trusts you.
  • You find yourself being forced to serve an alternative mission, one quite strange and different from the explicit purpose that attracted you to the organization.
  • You have been discarded by an organization you wanted very much to serve.
  • Your beloved organization has broken your heart.

[Part omitted]

   Unless you are a star-crossed newbie, I expect you have sensed this paradox: Humans are so fundamentally flawed it is a wonder people can cooperate well enough to work on a shared mission goal, much less become successful at it. Divorce happens! Like realizing an idyllic marriage has gone wrong, from time to time many of us have come to the stark realization that we no longer are a good fit for our once-cherished store, restaurant, manufacturing plant, church, school, or community group. Perhaps you had an epiphany that they are no longer good for you. Whichever; you put on your big-kid pants and left, but the questions and regrets linger.

This book should help.

Find this book on AMAZON.