Exploring Sundance: crossroads of faith and creativity

Film student and third-time attendee of Sundance Film Festival, Andrew Motz discusses his impressions of this year’s movie selection.


A full house at the Egyptian Theatre had the privilege of seeing “Cutie and the Boxer” for the final time at #sundance The doc is a heartfelt depiction of an artistic couple who experience the ups and downs of the art world together. | Instagram

Andrew Motz, Writer

The sun shines brightly over the sleek white mountains covered in pure snow. The air is fresh and brisk but painfully icy. Wrapped in layers, thousands descend upon the small picturesque mountain town in Utah named Park City. For a week and a half the town is converted into a film-centric frenzy. Libraries, school auditoriums, racket clubs and even Jewish temples are converted into movie theaters, where a variety of the human experience will be projected onto the screen.

Whether good or bad (and there are plenty of both), the films at Sundance come from a place of passion. Most of these films are not made to make money but to tell a story or express a struggle. Sundance Film Festival is the perfect example of art as self-expression and all the diverse ways that it can look.

This year was my third year going to Sundance. While enjoyable, the films I saw were not quite up to par compared to previous years’ entries such “Tyrannosaur,” “Higher Ground,” or “Wuthering Heights.” Nothing blew me away. This doesn’t mean there weren’t good, life-changing movies or moments though. I was impressed by “Upstream Color’s” ability to tell a complex science fiction tale primarily through imagery, opposed to exposition-heavy dialogue. In “Fruitvale,” I was thankful for the human depiction of those who are often viewed by society as menaces or less than human. I was challenged by “Interior.Leather Bar’s” exploration of how sexuality should be portrayed and perceived in film. I was inspired by the three brave women who were the subjects of the well-done documentary “Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer.”

But “God Loves Uganda” broke me.

Many know of the sickening anti-gay bill governmental officials are trying to pass in Uganda that requires the death penalty to repeating “homosexual offenders.” The unsettling documentary “God Loves Uganda” tactfully articulates how this hatred towards those who are LGBT in Uganda sprouted from western Christian fundamentalists’ influence, the devastating effects of the hatred and even how a twisted view of the “good news” can end up caring more about numbers than people. The documentary covers a vast array of topics from the ethics behind modern-day missionaries to shocking homophobia spread to Ugandan churches by fundamentalist Christians who no longer had audiences in the states. Yet “God Loves Uganda” fits its title — for while discovering the origin of this hate in Christianity, it also features some truly inspiring Christians reaching out to those being rejected by everyone else. They preach love, while the others preach hate.

I was blessed enough to be able to meet one of those Christians: Ugandan bishop Christopher Senyonjo. He, along with filmmaker Roger Ross Williams, came to speak to Biola and Fuller Theological Seminary students at the Windrider Forum (a daily Q&A session with different filmmakers at a church in Park City). I was able to meet and talk to both of them after the Q&A. Senyonjo was kind, loving, and intelligent. He is an inspiration not only to me, but also for Christians everywhere, for he fights for the oppressed — not with violence or with hatred — but with love.

There were many more experiences this year and many films I didn’t have the chance to see. Still, the Sundance Film Festival remains one of my favorite events of the year. It is a snow-laden week where both my faith and my creativity are challenged, inspired and energized for the year to come.

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