24/7 prayer and night club worship meets the world’s party capital

If you’ve read Pete Greig’s Red Moon Rising you would remember his descriptions of taking 24/7 Prayer Rooms to the clubbing districts of Europe to bring prayer, love and outreach to the thousands of young clubbers.

smh.tv has just released a documentary, God Bless Ibiza, which follows a group of young British Christians as they head to the Spanish clubbing hotspot of Ibiza. One website describes Ibiza as the ‘undisputed party capital of the world.’

The promo for the documentary reads: ‘Young, hip and radical, the team are a far cry from the sandaled missionaries of yester-year. They’re more at home in a club than a church, dance tracks are their hymns and they invoke the Holy Spirit in clubs with quasi-spiritual names like Godskitchen, Eden and Ascension. Whilst they have no problem hanging out with clubbers high on E, the team themselves have all sworn off drugs, alcohol and sex and say they get their kicks instead from supernatural experiences of God.’

If you are used to Christians copping it in the media, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by this documentary, not only for the in-depth and positive treatment the 24/7 outreach team is given, but by the groups faith and action. Prayer-walking, creative prayer spaces, worship in night clubs and genuine Christianity without a hint of religiosity.

Check out this nearly 40-minute online documentary and share it around.

John Cleese’s favourite joke

Monty Python‘s fish slapping skit (below) was described by John Cleese, speaking on Seven’s Sunday Night program, as the silliest skit the comedy group ever did.

But when it came to the funniest joke, he offered this, towards the end of the interview:

‘How do you make God laugh? You tell him your plans…’

He was commenting about whether he would be married for a fourth time. In context, the joke suggests that we know so little about what will actually happen in our lives that to tell God what we are planning is hilarious.

But I guess you got it.

Visualising God at 300km an hour: Senna

Watching cars go round and round has never been a favourite pastime – I get enough of that in Sydney traffic – but as in every facet of human existence, there are personal stories embedded that make even Formula 1 racing interesting.

Asif Kapadia’s new documentary, Senna, tells one of these stories and while there is a fair bit of round and round, there is also an interesting investigation into the life, talent and faith of one of the sport’s most revered figures, Ayrton Senna.

The Brazilian Senna was a superbly talented, and some would say, a dangerous risk taker who had 41 wins and three World Championships which earned him the reputation of being one of the greatest Formula One drivers of all times.

He was well-known for his religious convictions which seemed to heighten for him as he raced.

“Somehow I got closer to God and this was very important to me. I visualized and saw God who is a part of me,” Senna said after one race. When reflecting on his love of racing, Senna says, “I think God gave me this chance.”

Frenchman Alain Prost, one of Senna’s key rivals, held an equally strong belief: that Senna’s personal companionship with the Deity made him a hazard to other drivers.

In one confrontation between the two, Prost says, “Ayrton thinks he can’t get hurt.” Senna responds, “Just because I believe in God does not mean I’m immortal. I know I can get hurt.”

The documentary shows the fulfilment of these words when Senna is killed in a crash  in 1994 at the age of 34, while leading the field at the San Marino Grand Prix. The crash was caused by a mechanical fault and a camera strapped to his car continued to film throughout the tragedy.

Many people from all walks of life talk about the experience of feeling close to God when engaged in an activity that they sense to be their very specific calling and gifting. I once hear a rugby league winger say he felt he was born to score tries. As strange as it seems, maybe Senna was born to drive, and there was no other way to die.

Senna is showing now at Palace Leichhardt – check guides for other cinema times.

Sex, drugs and terribly dull…

‘Yes, even with a pretty, naked girl, full-frontal male nudity, prostitution, drugs and casual sex, Sleeping Beauty turns out to be very slow and a little dull.’

Sounds like a commentary of popular western culture really… but in fact is a review of Australian feature Sleeping Beauty which premiered at the opening night of Cannes Film festival this week.

The film, starring Emily Browning, is the work of Australian first-time director and novelist Julia Leigh and may well prove, yet again, that simply being willing to push the boundaries of what will be shown on-screen is not the same as making a good movie.

Or maybe it is a deliberately boring movie to show that the debauched lives it portrays are empty of anything vital and lively.

For more on Cannes, read the SMH report.

‘I’d have to say Jesus’

Sorry, this is a bite late, but in keeping with the hype about the latest Focker movie, a bit of God-spotting from the first movie in the franchise.

Kevin: [On who inspired him to be a wood worker] I’d have to say Jesus. He was a carpenter and I figured if you’re going to follow in somebody’s footsteps, why not the steps of our lord and savior?
Jack Byrnes: [Before Greg has a chance to respond] Greg’s Jewish.
Kevin: Really?
Greg Focker: Yeah.
[Jack smiles and nods]
Kevin: Well so was J.C….

Kevin (Owen Wilson) is back in Little Fockers but me fears he’s lost his way…

Finding faith in the deathly grip of AIDS

Being unable to sleep sometimes has its rewards such as seeing some extraordinary world cinema late at night (or early morning) on SBS.

Early Saturday morning as part of SOS (Shorts on Screen), SBS showed an 18 minute film by somewhat notorious French director Gaspar Noe called, Sida.

In Sida, Noe moves away from the explicit nature of his feature films such as Irreversible, and instead presents the story of an AIDS victim, Dieudonne Ilboudo, in Burkina Faso.

Dieudonne tells his story, withholding nothing, and as the story of his illness is portrayed, so to is his Christian faith, to the extent that the film ends with Dieudonne reciting the Lord’s Prayer.

Sida is part of a longer film titled 8 in which each segment promotes one of the eight Millennium Goals. Sida picks up the theme of Millennium Goal six which is ‘combating HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other diseases’.

Another of the films, The Water Dairy, is directed by Australian producer, Jane Campion.

Please take 20 minutes to listen to Dieudonne’s story – to honour his life, to remember the plight of AIDS victims worldwide and to be inspired by the power of faith even in the darkest hour. (The film is in French and if subtitles are not showing, click the CC button at the bottom of the YouTube screen.)

Cycling to revolutionise cinema

A friend from UTS, Greer Allen, is helping to put together the first Cycle in Cinema in Australia where you can not only ride your bike to see the film, you can ride it to run the equipment!

Magnificent Revolution (UK) has built quite a few bicycle powered cinemas over the years, from a single bike generator Mini Cycle Screen to a Magnificent Cycle Cinema system which uses up to eight bicycles (16 legs!)  to power 600 watts of audio-visual equipment for public film screenings or projections.

A group of motivated Australians have approached Magnificent Revolution in the UK to get cycle cinema happening here in Australia.

Magnificent Revolution Australia (MRA) will be able to set up in parks, on the beach, in your backyard – anywhere. Imagine an outdoor cinema without any cars, where audience members can ride their bike to the event and use them to power the system, completely off the grid.  

MRA will be a not-for-profit social enterprise with a mission to inspire and empower a wider understanding and uptake of renewable energy technologies and create a movement towards Australians reducing their energy consumptive habits.

The Cycle In Cinema is one part of the MRA project, which aims to launch pedal power sounds systems for event hire and pedal power workshops in Australia early next year.

Check out how you can support Cycle-in Cinema in Australia.

Worshipping at the altar of popular culture: Hollywood Jesus

Hollywood Jesus no doubt started out as a genuine attempt to engage with popular culture but is now dangerously close to blasphemy, certainly in regard to its Santa Paws at Your Church “sweepstake”.

A promotional email sent out by Hollywood Jesus, a US Christian movie website, invites readers to enter a ‘Santa’s BFF (best friends forever?) contest in which first prize is a visit by Santa Paws, a free screening of the movie and DVD give-aways. Check it out:

The church does need to engage with culture and to communicate in a language that touches the heart and souls of real people.

But there is a place for purposeful discernment – what are we trying to achieve and what do we risk losing by gaining some temporary popularity? And probably we should ask, who is making money out of it?

When I first saw this email I felt sure it was a hoax, with a virus hiding behind every link. Or perhaps the Chaser boys had sent it out to see how many tacky Christians they could snare.

But it’s real and sincere and obviously no one involved saw a problem with it. And unless you pull back and ask, who is meant to be influencing who at Christmas time, or anytime, it might just slip by as another great way to get lots of unchurched families dropping into the church building to have a great old time.

Except what kind of Jesus could really be communicated in the sickly-sweet company of Santa Claus (or Paws), Walt Disney, Hollywood and good old American (and Australian) consumerist tripe!Read More »

Can we save Letters to God?

A few weeks ago we highlighted the US cinema release of To Save  a Life on the basis that it contains realistic portrayals of Christians and might prove to be an encouraging film for Christians and thought-provoking for others.

Despite its clear Christian production values, the film only grossed $4 million in the land of the mega church, Moral Majority and Christian right.

Apparently it is one thing to demand more of Jesus in popular culture and another thing to actually vote with your ‘seat’. As a reuslt of its poor earning in America, we may not even see it in cinemas in Australia.

Postal worker Brady with cancer patient Tyler in Letters to God

Now Letters to God is out and again producers must be nervouslty waiting to see if they will earn their money back. 

Letters to God – a film directed by one of the producers of Fireproof –  is a family drama about Tyler, a young boy who literally writes, and mails, letters to God. In the letters, Tyler speaks to God as a close friend in a way that recognises that he may meet his Maker before too long. Tyler has cancer.

Read More »

Go and see The Blind Side

“A project for the projects,” jokes one of Leigh Anne Tuohy’s well-to do friends about her taking a poor, black American teenager into her home.

“Count me in”, she says. But want she doesn’t realise is that it isn’t a project, it’s personal.

When one human heart is moved by God and broken for another human being, projects, politics and political correctness go out the window.

As Shane Claiborne said in the Irresistible Revolution, it’s not that Christians don’t care for the poor, it’s that they don’t know the poor.

What  this true story shows is a wealthy middle American mum stepping out of her charity mentality and putting herself in another person’s world and allowing them into hers.

This will always create miracles, regardless of your politics, and your colour.

At the end, Sandra Bullock playing Leigh Anne Tuohy thanks God for the privilege of being able to share her life with Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron).

Well she might. Afterall, it was God who sent His Son to share his life not only with us, but as one of us, that we might live. PH

Life is like a short film

Scene 1: Filmic moment for Jo

We pulled into Civic video and Jo scurried out, barefoot, to deposit the slightly late return. Hopping back in the car, we headed up Norton St, past Bar Italia on one side and Mezzapica further up on the other.

We hit a red light next to the illuminated Leichhardt Town Hall, and the three of us (Rebekah in the back), sat there in the quiet evening, no traffic around, waiting for the lights to change.

“I feel like I’m in a short film,” said Josiah. “Whenever we just randomly pull up at a red light and there’s nothing around, it feels like a scene from a short film,” he elaborates.

We look at Jo. He turns his head and looks at me. The universe blinks. Our light turns green and we continue our journey home.

Scene 2: Sydney is the short film capital of the world

It’s no wonder people are having random short film epiphanies, after all Sydney is the home of Tropfest, the world’s largest short film festival.

Thanks to Josiah for providing a spontaneous and authentic introduction to a quick review of the 16 finalists from Tropest 2010.Read More »

Death to cheesy Christian movies

“The death of cheesy Christian movies” writes Greg Stier of Christianpost.com about new teen movie To Save A Life which has just opened in the US.

That’s got to be good news… Check out the official website and watch for release dates in Australia.

Contemporary Christian communicators, by and large, often try so hard to get their message articulated in triplicate that they lose all sense of storytelling. This applies equally to movies and novels, with some exceptions.

Apparently To Save A Life bucks this trend which can only be a good thing. Remember how good a storyteller Jesus was, and often he didn’t even bother to explain a parable because he knows we are wired to ponder and explore narrative. A truth we find for ourselves is doubly found. PH

Captain of my soul, but who is my God?

Clint Eastwood’s film Invictus features Nelson Mandela passing on the poem of the same name that steeled him against 27 years of incarceration to Francois Pienaar, captain of the World Cup winning South African rugby team.

The final two lines: ‘I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul’ echo through the movie emphasising that regardless of our circumstances we are still in control of how we respond, how we behave, how we think.

Invictus – William Ernest Henley (1849–1903).

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

It is unclear if this is strictly historical as other sources claim Mandela actually gave Pienaar a copy of Theodore Roosevelt’s speech, The Man in the Arena. The speech is notable for the extended passage:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Eastwood lays a lengthy historical foundation for the film’s climax being South Africa’s unlikely World Cup win in 1995, a powerful moment of unity for a country seeking to move past decades of apartheid. For just a few moments, Eastwood descends into the schmaltz of Hollywood style sporting movies as he tries to build tension and excitement on the rugby field.

But such is the grandeur of Mandela’s life and vision that anoints the film that most patrons will easily overlook these moments and soak in the beauty of belief.

English poet Henley was unsure what God he thanked for his ‘unconquerable soul’, and perhaps Mandela shares this uncertainty. The only black footballer in the winning rugby team, Chester Williams, claimed not to think too much as it spoiled his rugby but seemed much more certain about his faith in God when called on to pray after the South African team’s great victory.


The Maltese Falcon still the stuff of dreams

Just watched film noir classic The Maltese Falcon with Josiah. Still an excellent, face paced movie that keeps you in despite the lack of Avatar-like effects.

When Humphrey Bogart grimaces the line, “The stuff that dreams are made of” and stares longingly into the distance at the close of the movie, there is just a moment when we all look with him, and wonder.

Anyway, I’m still a sucker for a 1930s gangster movie. Must have been all that time watching movies while doing a Film Study major at UTS a million years ago…

Bogart’s line is a paraphrase of Shakespeare’s:

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d tow’rs, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on
; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.
The Tempest Act 4, scene 1, 148-158

I wonder if Prospero grimaced?

Speaking of grimacing, The Sydney Festival  has created a few (grimaces that is) with its inclusion of Hamlet in German this month. Many are wondering what good is an English classic in a foreign language?

Given that this most quoted of plays is set in Denmark, perhaps German is closer to reality. In any case the amazing set, mesmerising acting of lead actor Lars Eidinger and direction of Thomas Ostermeier has led to these exuberant reviews:

‘Hamlet rages and blows across the stage, a Gollum on ecstasy, a mama’s boy, spoiled brat, an exploding nerd, who takes his feigned madness so far that it becomes his undoing.’ – Süddeutsche Zeitung

‘Startlingly and shockingly replete with the issues of the here and now… It is a tour de force.’ – British Theatre Guide

And if all else fails, according to the Sydney Festival website, there are subtitles…

If that all is all too much, settle for 12 seconds of Bogart and sit back and contemplate, what are dreams made of?


PS What is the collective noun for grimaces?