Reflections For Movie-LoversReflections For Movie-Lovers
Matt Kinne
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Are you a movie buff who enjoys exploring the spiritual aspects of your favorite films? Grab some popcorn---this guide's for you! Grouped by theme, including "The Teen Scene," "Play Ball," and "In Praise of Women," Kinne's reviews/devotions will help you choose wisely and host film-fests that are both appropriate and thought-provoking. 418 pages, softcover from Living Ink.

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Matthew Kinne, a graduate of Wheaton College and Regent University, is a freelance writer and film/video producer. In the early 90's, he served as a development director for Messenger Films, and evangelistic film production company. From 1995-2000, he served as the East Coast editor of Movie Guide Magazine, a publication of the Christian Film and Television Commission.

Matthew Kinne has written several screenplays, interviewed Hollywood stars, and consulted for film production companies. His clients include CNN, CBN, C-SPAN, and Extra! He is currently residing in Williamsburg, Michigan. What inspired you to write Reflections for Movie Lovers?

Matthew Kinne: When I was a full time movie critic for MOVIEGUIDE Magazine C, I met, worked with and observed many movie lovers. I noticed that they all had one thing in common: a passion for emotionally moving stories. They all wanted to be taken into another world and they all wanted to feel emotions they wouldn't often feel in real life. I call this a yearning for transcendence. Reflections for Movie-Lovers is to my way of helping connect these movie fans to God. Movies stir passions and I want people to know that God their Creator is a passionate and creative God. Movie-lovers love to be emotionally, and sometimes spiritually, challenged. My book affirms those yearnings and reminds readers how they felt during a particular movie scene. Then, my book guides the reader to discover these same feelings and experiences as found in God's Word. My book encourages the reader to understand that the Bible is as exhilarating and challenging as any movie they could ever watch. The Bible is even better than movies because it has the power to change their lives. Finally, my book encourages the reader to seek God through prayer for personal change to more Christ-likeness. Reflections for Movie Lovers provides 365 devotionals, reflecting upon a different film for each day. How did you determine which films you would include for this devotional? Are there some films you would have liked to include?

Matthew Kinne: Since I had to watch and write on 365 movies, I decided I wanted to include movies that I had either seen or enjoyed, or movies that I wanted to see but hadn't seen already. I started by taking an old calendar and just starting writing in movie titles, one for every day of the year. Then I started organizing the movies according to genre. I decided to include movies from every era and every genre. I jotted down movies that had plots or scenes that could be linked, compared or contrasted to Scripture. I did make a conscious decision to not include some movies, which I knew were controversial and might not be the best choice out of which to make a devotional. Such an example is "Pulp Fiction".

Whenever I hear a pastor use a movie plot or theme to illustrate a sermon, and it's about a movie I didn't include in the book, I try to remember it and write it down. I heard a spiritual point made on the movie "City Slickers" recently, and I said to myself, "Oh, That's good" I do want to write "More Reflections for Movie Lovers" and am doing the research on it right now. You must have done some extensive research in order to compile 365 films into Reflections for Movie Lovers. What is your background with the film industry, and how were you able to come up with such a lengthy list of films?

Matthew Kinne: I've always loved the movies, and my grandfather ran a movie theater in the late 1950s. But in the early 1990s, I attended grad school at Regent University in Virginia Beach, VA at their College of Communications and specialized in film/video production and screenwriting. After graduation in 1995, I began work as the East Coast Editor of MOVIEGUIDE Magazine C, where I wrote movie reviews from a Christian perspective, interviewed Hollywood stars and dabbled in screenwriting. At MOVIEGUIDE C, I estimate that I saw and reviewed over 500 films. Many of these movies have ended up as devotions in my book. Other movies that made it into my book were favorites I saw while attending film school. Others were favorites from childhood. My local public library has an extensive DVD collection, and I found some titles there too. The Motion Picture Association of America has rated a small number of the films you’ve chosen to include in this devotional, "R." To some this might seem disconcerting. What would you say to those who consider rated R films unedifying or unbecoming of the Christian life?

Matthew Kinne: I read a writer once that said; "I'd rather see an R-rated truth than a G-rated lie." The Christian worldview movie, The Passion of the Christ", and the neo-pagan New Age, revisionist history kiddie movie "Pocahontas", are good examples of an R-rated truth and a G-rated lie. Others have said that if you were honest and made the Bible into a movie, it too would be R-rated with all its murders and adultery in it. I don't think all movies point to God. There are lots of awful movies that have clear and present goal of nothing more than to turn you to sin. Pornography is such an example. Many mainstream, multi-plex movies glamorize sin and try to make it attractive. These should also be avoided. There are lots of awful things done in many nationally released movies. But, I do believe that every time a person goes to see a movie, even a bad movie, with a certain expectation for amazement, he is trying to discover more about himself and what it means to be a human. I think such a pursuit is the first step in our search for God. Even the adulterous woman at the well (compare to today's pornography addicts) was given "living water" by Christ.

God's word says, "If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out." (Mark 9:47) If a movie causes you to lust or think murderous thoughts or sin in any way, it should be avoided for you. Ask God to help you make right movie choices. You should also only see movies that are age appropriate. Children haven't fully developed their capacity to understand reality and non-reality and they should avoid movies that have a more adult approach in depicting the realities of the world created within the movie. Philippians 4:8 says, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true ,whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things." I don't think this Bible verse is telling us to avoid any movie that depicts anything ugly or sinful. The reason I believe this is that the Bible itself tells us stories of ugly sin. Wars, adultery, lying, cheating, doubt, drunkenness and almost every sort of vice and transgression are on virtually every page of the Bible. If it's good enough for the Bible to talk about these things in its stories, it's good enough for movies. I think Philippians 4:8 means that the goals and context and themes of our stories should be noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable. I'm talking about deliberately placing moral, Biblical and Christian worldviews in movies and that should be the objective of every Christian filmmaker and the hope of every movie fan. Throughout, Reflections for Movie Lovers we find the devotional entries are grouped into weekly themes that are called "Film Fests." Can you briefly explain why you chose to emphasize these particular "film fests" or themes, and how you chose to organize the films into these categories?

Matthew Kinne: There is no genre of movies that has a lock of conveying truth. I love every genre of movie and I wanted to make a book that fully explored the different types of genres that over 100 years of movie making have produced. The "Film Fests" are a celebration of the different genres and they are also seasonal. "The 12 Days of Christmas" is a "Film Fest" about Christmas. "Our Country Tis of Thee" is a "Film Fest" about patriotic movies and is listed during the first week of July. Other "Film Fests" celebrate some of my favorite director's, like Alfred Hitchcock, or a favorite actor like Humphrey Bogart. I thought these "Film Fests" would make the book a more enjoyable read and also give the reader time to do some extended reflecting over time. I appreciated your discussion on the October 15th entry for the film "Contact," starring Jodie Foster. You note, "How ironic that Ellie denies a faith in God and yet asks the world to place faith in her when the evidence suggests that she has no out-of-this-world experience!" For many Christians, the message of faith is seldom found in secular culture. Would you say that the message of faith in the movie "Contact" is more of an exception to the rule or are there a number of faith expressions in films that we are not looking for and are not aware of?

Matthew Kinne: The concept of faith in the unseen is not often explored in movies. Right now, "The Polar Express explores themes of faith with regards to Santa Claus, as did the classic Christmas story "Miracle on 34th Street" Other movies like "The Prince of Egypt" touched on faith with songs like "There Can be Miracles." In "Contact," Ellie is asking for a "blind" faith because she really has no evidence for what she believes. Christian writers Josh McDowell (Evidence that Demands a Verdict) and Lee Strobel (The Case for Faith) have shown us that there is ample, credible evidence for the validity and truth of Biblical Christianity. Because we are all made in the image of God (even Hollywood filmmakers), our stories frequently carry an "echo" of God's divine touch. Matter's of faith can spring up in books, songs, movies and in unlikely places because everyone (if we are honest) is trying to figure out what our purpose under Heaven is. Would you recommend we re-think or even change the expectations we, as Christians, bring to our viewing of non-Christian films?

Matthew Kinne: I would just encourage everybody to be open and receptive to God, who can use an infinite number of creative ways to communicate his love to you - even through movies. Author John Eldridge says in his book The Journey of Desire, "Every story or movie or song or poem that has ever stirred your soul is telling you something you need to know about the Sacred Romance." God uses story to communicate love and truth. He can even use movies. They aren't just entertainment or show business. They are popular because they movie us at our very core. They can speak to us about the important things in life. Just be willing to hear from God anywhere and always go back to Scripture to verify what he's telling you. Would you list for us some films you consider to be among your all time favorites?

Matthew Kinne: I tell people my favorite film of all time is BEN-HUR starring Charlton Heston. This movie has it all, except Comedy. It has action, romance, epic battles, history, and of course, salvation through Christ. It is a very moving motion picture. My favorite comedy of all time is "Young Frankenstein, directed by Mel Brooks. Very zany, it cracks me up every time. Here is a list of some other favorites (in no particular order). The Wizard of Oz, Jaws, Schindler's List, Wings of Desire, Emma, Metropolis, and The Horse Whisperer. Can we look forward to further projects from you anytime soon?

Matthew Kinne: Yes, you can. I have a coming of age novel that takes place in 1976 called "How I Bit it Like Evel Knievel". I'm working on another movie-theme, non-fiction book called "Movie Plot or Bible Scene: You Decide!". It's a game book, which gives you a vague scenario, and you have to decide if it came from a movie or from the Bible. It's meant to encourage people to discover that the Bible has as amazing stories in it as do the movies. I'm also making some short Christian comedy films called Wisecracker Shorts C." Plus, I'm always working on the great American screenplay. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Matthew Kinne: If we could fix a camera on people's faces when they watch a good movie, we could see their emotions register on their faces-smiles, laughs, frowns, tears and screams. A person watching a good movie is transported into that world and feels what the filmmaker wants them to feel. A great movie will challenge the viewer, through words, images and emotional situations, to change their behavior or belief on a particular issue. The challenged viewer will look at the screen and say," I wish I could be that courageous or be that much in love, etc."

Similarly, the Bible is made up of stories-stories about people relating to each other and to God. Like movies, all of these Bible stories display and carry universal emotions and themes like love, relationships, broken relationships, fear, anger, friendship, sin, murder, sex, intrigue, suspense, and redemption. When we hear or read a Bible story, it has the potential to live inside us. (The Bible calls itself, "The Living Word.") All of these stories can and should evoke an emotional and spiritual response within us. I think we should all read the Bible with the same hope and expectation for excitement that we expect from the movies.

When you read the stories of the Bible with an open mind to be challenged and moved, God reaches out from the pages and grabs a hold of your heart and soul and molds it. These stories aren't meant to just entertain but to challenge you to die to your old self and be transformed to a new person. The Bible should challenge and convict us of sin and bring us to repentance and a living, active faith in the one true God. Stories and the emotional responses are a tool that God can use to influence us to make a choice of our will towards Godliness and holiness. The Bible says, "For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12) Thank you for taking the time to participate in this interview, Matthew. We wish you the best and are looking forward to your upcoming projects.