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.

Of evangelistic atheists and an everlasting kingdom

Amazing Grace, First version, in "Olney H...

The religification (my word, I think) of atheism is proceeding at pace and is part of an increased push in the Western world to remove Christian belief from public life.

Stephen Fry tweeted today, “If Christians rose up for Passion of the Christ, so humanists, agnostics, atheists etc might RT [re-tweet] the new film The Ledge!”.

The associated website describes The Ledge as, “the Brokeback Mountain moment for atheists, our tipping point, when we finally get the attention we deserve. Although books have put atheists into the intellectual mainstream, The Ledge is the first Hollywood drama to target the broader movie-going public with an openly atheist hero in a production big enough to attract A-list stars. This is unprecedented.”

Christians will notice close parallels with campaigns circulated through churches to rally support for movies such as Passion of the Christ, Amazing Grace, Bella and various other movies that were seen to authentically present Christian ‘heroes’ and messages.

Meanwhile the Atheist Foundation of Australia is launching a campaign to urge Australians to mark their census, ‘No religion’ as a way of limiting the influence of Christian beliefs in politics.

Read More »

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…

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

Oscar puts Avatar in the Hurt Locker

It was hard to feel sorry for Avatar director, James Cameron, when his film missed out on all the major Academy Awards this week. After all, he does have billions at the box office for consolation.

Another reason is that the Oscars ceremony took so long it was hard to feel anything by the end of it. (I recommend that the Tropfest people take over the Academy Awards and then it will all be over in the roll of a dice!)

When you consider the sweep of movies to be nominated and to win,  some clear themes emerge.Read More »

Chuck Norris turns 70 and needs Jesus

Chuck Norris, who turns 70 today, is a world-wide phenomenon, less for his acting attributes in shows such as Walker, Texas Ranger, as for the humorous persona of invincibility that has grown up around him. is one site that carries on the great tradition of implausible Chuck Norris feats such as: ‘According to Einstein’s theory of relativity, Chuck Norris can actually roundhouse kick you yesterday’.

Just goes to show we really do want to have someone in our life who always gets the job done.

In fact, Norris has found that ‘Someone‘ for himself. He is a devout Christian and although, in typical American style, that has sometimes meant getting entangled in right-wing politics, he is a genuine man of faith.Read More »

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 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