Reel Religion to bring films’ spiritual aspects to open forum

Red carpet, glitz and glamour are all a part of a Hollywood film festival.

Movies, popcorn and a platform for discussion will be a part of the fifth annual REEL Religion film festival this weekend at University Christian Church.

A joint effort by University Christian Church, Broadway Baptist Church, the radio-TV-film department and Faith and Life Program, REEL Religion is a film festival with spiritual and ethical aspects that creates an opportunity for conversation, said Karen Parker, an alumna and chair of the event.

“It gives us an opportunity to talk what we experience in our lives,” she said.

David Grebel, director of Extended Education and representative for Life and Faith, said all movies in the festival have a religious, spiritual and ethical emphasis and an aspect that creates a forum for discussion.

“They teach us about ourselves – the world around us,” he said.

This year’s event focuses on themes of education, marriage and relationships, and the death penalty. Senior ministers from both churches, professors and people from different fields in the community are leading the discussions, Parker said.

Grebel said films are a “third-way approach” to discuss some of the questions that help to create deeper understanding of social issues and each other that people would not discuss otherwise. He is leading a discussion on the film “Being John Malkovich,” through which he wants to “raise questions about what it means to be a human being – what it means to be uniquely me,” he said.

Ken Loomis, an assistant radio-TV-film professor, said the festival is a mix of popular movies and those that some people haven’t seen.

Claudine Marion, an alumna and minister of hospitality and arts at Broadway Baptist Church, said organizers of the festival want people to discuss their real life situations during film discussions.

“All of the movies have life situations that are worth discussing,” she said. “They are contemporary issues that need thoughtful discussions.”

Loomis said the festival is a safe way to share and listen to diverse opinions.

“It’s good to see diversity of interpretations through films,” he said.

Jim Riddlesperger, a political science professor who is leading a discussion on the movie “Good Night, and Good Luck,” said he wants to have a productive discussion on public affairs and the importance of civil liberties in the United States.

A 15-member committee composed of church members and TCU associates chose the films for this year’s event. The films represent diverse points of view, Grebel said.

He said students could benefit from the event by participating in thoughtful discussions about the movie amid a diverse audience in terms of race, gender, age and profession. It also helps people engage with other community members and learn how to work effectively and stay positively connected, Grebel said.

REEL Religion started in 2004 under the initiation of Ken Lawrence, former chairman of the religion department and professor emeritus, and Marion with a motive to show movies that have religious implications.

“We believe that any film showing joy, despair, hope or love is a religious film,” Marion said.

Grebel said a good film always draws a conversation and he hopes the festival will unite the community through entertainment and considerate conversations about films.