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Why Hollywood Needs a Spirituality of Its Own

Barbara Nicolosi Looks Through a Window of Opportunity

VALENCIA, Spain, MAY 28, 2004 (Zenit) - Is there life for Christian cinema in the wake of "The Passion of the Christ"? Barbara Nicolosi thinks so.

The founder of Act One, a Christian scriptwriters group in Hollywood, gave an overview of the movie-and-television industry, and the hopes she sees for the Church in its mission of evangelization. Here is an excerpt of an address she gave at the Catholic University of Valencia in mid-May.

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Reasons For Hope From Hollywood
by Barbara Nicolosi

I do not often have the opportunity to speak to audiences that bring together both sides of my personal reality as both a Catholic and a filmmaker. Sadly, there have been far too few of this kind of discussions in the Catholic Church. For many reasons, including a kind of intellectual elitism, Catholic scholars have been slow to appreciate the power of cinema as both an art form and as a means of evangelization.

I will talk today about a few recent movements in the secular entertainment industry, and how these might be positive for the Church. I want to demonstrate why the Church should embrace this art form as a powerful gift of God, using as an example "The Passion of the Christ." Then, I will suggest some areas in which the Church can help mainstream cinema.

In January 2003, I got a call from a woman who was recently profiled in the Writers Guild of America magazine as one of the top 10 women in television. As the executive producer and head writer on a hit TV show, this woman belongs to an elite club of people on the whole planet. Her prime-time CBS show gets a weekly audience in the States of around 20 million people, and globally probably twice that many more.

The gist of her call to me was that after 20 years of a completely secular life in mainstream show business, she wanted somebody to talk to her about Jesus. She said to me in our first meeting, "Frankly, I'm just exhausted with unbelief. I just can't keep it up anymore."

The attack of 9/11 certainly played a role in this woman's search for meaning, as it has for countless others particularly in the American entertainment industry. But beyond the simple urge to seek answers to the murderous hatred of Islamic terrorists half a world away, this woman was reflecting a positive sea-change that is sweeping through the American baby-boomer generation in general, and the Hollywood entertainment industry in particular.

After 40 years of being ravaged by the license of the Sexual Revolution, and just as many years rejecting any and all connection to any authority -- whether it was the Church, state, or just the simple wisdom of the ages -- there is a growing exodus in search of rest. They are exhausted with unbelief and its ideological stepchildren: hedonism, cynicism, alienation, isolation.

This exhaustion is being manifest on the sound stages and in the executive offices of Hollywood as a new openness to spiritual themes. A friend of mine is the creator of this season's biggest new television hit "Joan of Arcadia." When she pitched the idea to CBS, she said to the network executives with some trepidation, "Now, there is a lot of God in this show." The executives shocked her by replying with enthusiasm, "God is good. We like God." Believe me, even just four years ago, God was not "good" at CBS or any other major network offices.

All of the major prime-time dramas have been exploring more and more overt religious themes. Any prime-time special that features any kind of religious angle is certain to garner good to great ratings.

The cinema side has also been experiencing a spiritual awakening. "Bruce Almighty" was one of the top five movies of 2003. "A Walk to Remember," a positive portrayal of a Christian teen-ager, brought in a huge profit at the box-office. And of course, the box-office success of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy and now "The Passion of the Christ" (which, in Hollywood, we all just call, "The Movie") are the stuff of industry legend. Other recent films while not being overtly religious, do demonstrate a profound rejection of the lies of postmodernism. Films like "In America," "Lost in Translation," "Changing Lanes," "In the Bedroom" -- are just a few examples of this new exhaustion with the legacy of unbelief.

From a creative standpoint, this is a happy trend for filmmakers like us who unite our passion for cinema with a passion for God. Any producer can get a hearing from Hollywood right now if they say, "I have a movie for the audience who loved 'The Passion.'"

Of course, part of this is because nobody in Hollywood understands who the audience for The Movie is, and what it was about The Movie that they so loved so much. One studio executive confessed his frustration about "The ...

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