3 Thought-Provoking New Christian Documentaries byfor The Gospel Coalition
In recent years we have seen the growth of a genre I might call “theological documentary.” As faith-oriented films go, this genre has become somewhat of a bright spot in an otherwise uninspiring “Christian movie” landscape. Documentaries can get away with being didactic and apologetics-oriented in ways fiction films can’t, which is why they’re often well-suited for theological content. Last year’s For the Love of God documentary, for example, was a far more effective defense of Christianity than any of the God’s Not Dead films, in my view. The potency of American Gospel as an exposé of the prosperity gospel derived in large part from the interviews with real people it featured.
With an ever-broadening array of streaming platforms and direct-to-consumer distribution options, Christian documentary filmmakers have an easier time getting their films to audiences. All of this adds up to an exciting time for faith-oriented documentary filmmaking—and I hope it’s only the beginning.
Just in the first few months of 2020, I’ve seen three new, noteworthy Christian documentaries that I commend to you. They’re about different subject matters—sea creatures, the spiritual realm, and serving in war zones—but all three are great for church or small-group discussion. Check them out.
The Riot and the Dance: Water
The second film in the Riot and the Dance franchise—a more whimsical, faith-infused Planet Earth—releases March 6. Like its predecessor, Riot and the Dance: Earth (TGC review), this is a “supernatural nature documentary” that explores the mind-boggling diversity of life, in a variety of locations and ecosystems, but through a lens of seeing nature as God’s creation, his living museum that reveals his artistic brilliance. Written by N. D. Wilson and starring biologist Gordon Wilson, this installment focuses on creatures in watery environs—frog-eating bugs in muddy ponds, humpback whales in Monterey Bay, snakes and salamanders in the Everglades, and so forth. It’s a fascinating, family-friendly film that highlights the wonders of our watery world, even as it ponders the meaning of water in theological terms. Early in the film the narrator observes that, at this moment somewhere in this world, the molecules of water that were used in Christ’s baptism “are still at work, floating in clouds, falling on windshields, heaving in the tidal seas. . . . It might be in baptism that we see water as its truest self. It is death. It is life. Destruction. Resurrection.”