Faith and Film Festival

Due to concerns about the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, the 2021 Faith and Film Festival will be held online Jan. 28-29, 2021. We hope to be back on the Concordia Seminary campus Jan. 27-29, 2022. Thank you for your understanding.

Jan. 28-29, 2021

Concordia Seminary’s annual Faith and Film Festival is a gathering to screen and ponder Christian themes in contemporary cinema. Geared toward people interested in film and theology, the festival serves as an opportunity for participants to explore Christian themes in movies and develop eyes to see film in new ways. Participants will view all chosen films on their own in advance of the festival. During the festival, participants will discuss films together during online sessions; hear from theologians, pastors and film critics; and engage in challenging discussions about the ways in which the themes of redemption, reconciliation, mercy, grace and more are embedded in film.

Movies are the vernacular of our time. This gives Christians a unique opportunity to love our neighbors by applying our knowledge of the narrative of God to these popular modern stories — film.

Unfortunately, many Christians opt out and reject all but the most simplistic, church-sanctioned titles. This creates an even greater divide between the sinners inside the church and those outside of the church — a divide we can begin to bridge by learning to see film through a new lens.

New to the 2021 festival — a short film session. During this session, participants will view several short films together online and engage in compelling, moderated discussions. This session will serve as a precursor to the festival’s first short film contest in 2022 where the winning films will be viewed on the auditorium big screen during the festival.

Continuing Education credits are available.

Registration: $20
Registration deadline: Jan. 11, 2021
Disclaimer: This festival is for adults only.
 
Register


Schedule

All films should be watched BEFORE the festival except the short films scheduled for 3 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 28, and 12:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 29.

Thursday, Jan. 28

Time Event
Noon-12:30 p.m.
Virtual Greeting

Erika Bennett, Heather Choate Davis and Rev. Jake Wampfler

12:30-1:30 p.m.
Bill and Ted Watch Movies: Viewing Film through the Lens of Faith

Rev. Bill Cwirla and Rev. Ted Giese

1:45-2:45 p.m.
Feature Length Films (pick one)

Logan - Dr. David Lewis
A River Runs Through It - Dr. Timothy Saleska and Dr. Travis Scholl
Eighth Grade - Abby Olcese
True Grit (2010) - Rev. Ted Giese

3-4:15 p.m.
Short Length Films (pick one)

My Neighbor’s Window - Dr. Michael Zeigler
Late Afternoon - Josh Salzberg
Ten Meter Tower - Heather Choate Davis

4:30-5:30 p.m.
Feature Length Films (pick one)

Stranger than Fiction - Heather Choate Davis
Age Out - Dr. Phil Hohle
Annihilation - Rev. Jake Wampfler
Hugo - Dr. David Lewis and George Denholm

5:30-6:45 p.m.
Dinner Break
6:45-7:45 p.m.
Backstage Interview

Paul Walter Hauser

7:45-8:15 p.m.
“Best Movie Memory/Experience” Contest
8:30-11 p.m.
After Hours Viewing Party & Discussion

The Witch
Rev. Jake Wampfler, Abby Olcese, Rev. Bill Cwirla and Rev. Ted Giese


Noon-12:30 p.m.

Virtual Greeting

with Erika Bennett, Heather Choate Davis and Rev. Jake Wampfler


12:30-1:30 p.m.

Bill and Ted Watch Movies: Viewing Film through the Lens of Faith

Rev. Bill Cwirla and Rev.Ted Giese


1:45-2:45 p.m.

Feature Length Films (pick one)

Logan - Dr. David Lewis
A River Runs Through It - Dr. Timothy Saleska and Dr. Travis Scholl
Eighth Grade - Abby Olcese
True Grit (2010) - Rev. Ted Giese


3-4:15 p.m.

Short Length Films (pick one)

My Neighbor’s Window - Dr. Michael Zeigler
Late Afternoon - Josh Salzberg
Ten Meter Tower - Heather Choate Davis


4:30-5:30 p.m.

Feature Length Films (pick one)

Stranger than Fiction - Heather Choate Davis
Age Out - Dr. Phil Hohle
Annihilation - Rev. Jake Wampfler
Hugo - Dr. David Lewis and George Denholm


5:30-6:45 p.m.

Dinner Break

6:45-7:45 p.m.

Backstage Interview

Paul Walter Hauser


7:45-8:15 p.m.

“Best Movie Memory/Experience” Contest

8:30-11 p.m.

After Hours Viewing Party & Discussion

The Witch
Rev. Jake Wampfler, Abby Olcese, Rev. Bill Cwirla and Rev. Ted Giese


Friday, Jan. 29

Time Event
9:30-10 a.m.
Morning Devotions

Heather Choate Davis

10-11:00 a.m.
Feature Length Films (pick one)

Stranger than Fiction - Heather Choate Davis
Captain Fantastic - Jake Youmans
There Will Be Blood - Josh Salzberg
A River Runs Through It - Dr. Timothy Saleska and Dr. Travis Scholl

11:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m.
Best Documentary Short Subject (pick one)

The White Helmets - Harrison Parker
Period. End of Sentence. - Heather Choate Davis and Dr. Gillian Bond
St. Louis Superman - Rev. Jake Wampfler
Heroin(e) - Dr. Timothy Saleska

12:30-1:30 p.m.
Featured Short Film with Director

Change for a Dollar
Dale Ward, Sharon Wright
 

Backstage Interview (repeat session)

Paul Walter Hauser

1:45-2:45 p.m.
Feature Length Films (pick one)

Eighth Grade - Abby Olcese
Hugo - Dr. David Lewis and George Denholm
Age Out - Dr. Phil Hohle
Annihilation - Rev. Jake Wampfler

3-4 p.m.
Features and Documentaries (pick one)

Heroin(e) - Dr. Timothy Saleska
The White Helmets - Harrison Parker
Dick Johnson is Dead - Abby Olcese
Waves - Rev. Jake Wampfler

4:30-5:30 p.m.
Feature Length Films (pick one)

True Grit (2010) - Rev. Ted Giese
There Will Be Blood - Josh Salzberg
Logan - Dr. David Lewis
Whiplash - Heather Choate Davis

5:30-6:30 p.m.
Dinner Break
6:30-7:45 p.m.
Featured Short Film with Director (repeat session)

Change for a Dollar
Dale Ward, Sharon Wright

7:45-8 p.m.
2022 Short Film Competition Announcement
8 p.m.
Closing Thoughts and Doxology

9:30-10 a.m.

Morning Devotions

Heather Choate Davis


10-11:00 a.m.

Feature Length Films (pick one)

Stranger than Fiction - Heather Choate Davis
Captain Fantastic - Jake Youmans
There Will Be Blood - Josh Salzberg
A River Runs Through It - Dr. Timothy Saleska and Dr. Travis Scholl


11:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m.

Best Documentary Short Subject (pick one)

The White Helmets - Harrison Parker
Period. End of Sentence. - Heather Choate Davis and Dr. Gillian Bond
St. Louis Superman - Rev. Jake Wampfler
Heroin(e) - Dr. Timothy Saleska


12:30-1:30 p.m.

Featured Short Film with Director

Change for a Dollar
Dale Ward, Sharon Wright
 

Backstage Interview (repeat session)

Paul Walter Hauser


1:45-2:45 p.m.

Feature Length Films (pick one)

Eighth Grade - Abby Olcese
Hugo - Dr. David Lewis and George Denholm
Age Out - Dr. Phil Hohle
Annihilation - Rev. Jake Wampfler


3-4 p.m.

Features and Documentaries (pick one)

Heroin(e) - Dr. Timothy Saleska
The White Helmets - Harrison Parker
Dick Johnson is Dead - Abby Olcese
Waves - Rev. Jake Wampfler


4:30-5:30 p.m.

Feature Length Films (pick one)

True Grit (2010) - Rev. Ted Giese
There Will Be Blood - Josh Salzberg
Logan - Dr. David Lewis
Whiplash - Heather Choate Davis


5:30-6:30 p.m.

Dinner Break

6:30-7:45 p.m.

Featured Short Film with Director (repeat session)

Change for a Dollar
Dale Ward, Sharon Wright


7:45-8 p.m.

2022 Short Film Competition Announcement

8 p.m.

Closing Thoughts and Doxology

Presenters/Moderators

Erika Bennett is director of Continuing Education at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. She has been making things happen in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod entities — at Lutheran Hour Ministries, Concordia Publishing House and now Concordia Seminary — for more than 16 years. Although the idea of Christian themes in non-Christian movies was new to her, her passion for lifelong learning led her to “greenlight” the inaugural Faith and Film Festival in 2020.

Dr. Gillian Bond photoDr. Gillian Bond is the director of Deaconess Studies at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. She grew up in England watching biblical epics, James Bond and “Star Trek.” She is fascinated by the common themes of deliverance and redemption in action movies and science fiction, whether they contain Christ figures or point to common cultural misperceptions of salvation.

Rev. William Cwirla photoRev. William “Bill” Cwirla is the senior pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Hacienda Heights, Calif., and co-host of the podcast “Bill and Ted Watch Movies,” a conversation on movie making and watching. He is a featured writer for Higher Things Magazine, a contributing editor of Logia, an avid gardener, artisan bread maker, musician, wood worker, lover of fine food and drink, and movie novice.

Heather Choate Davis is a Los Angeles-based author, speaker, composer, creative director and co-creator of the Faith and Film Festival. She wrote screenplays long before she read Scripture or earned her Master of Arts in theology from Concordia University, Irvine, Calif. Coming full circle, her vocation now includes tearing down walls between the church and the culture with projects like these, as well as her newly released album, “Life in the Key of God.”

George Denholm photoGeorge “Geordie” Denholm is a Master of Sacred Theology student at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. A theater major from Concordia Univesity Chicago, River Forest, Ill., he grew up on “Star Wars” (original and prequel: Don't hate!), Harry Potter (the books are better and proud Hufflepuff) and Marvel Cinematic Universe (X-Men first, but then Team Stark). Geordie loves discussing Christ imagery in film, often including it in his preaching and teaching, and introducing friends to his favorite film, “The Silence of the Lambs.”

Rev. Ted Giese is lead pastor of Mount Olive Lutheran Church in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada; co-host of “Bill and Ted Watch Movies” with Rev. William Cwirla; film reviewer for “The Canadian Lutheran” (LCC); and regular guest on the syndicated radio talk show and podcast “Issues Etc.” He teaches a short-term course for Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary, St. Catharines, Ontario, called “A Lutheran Approach to Art, Media and Film.” His lifelong love of film has been honed by theology and the fine arts.

Paul Walter Hauser photoPaul Walter Hauser began his career in the Midwest, performing standup comedy, which led him to Los Angeles to pursue comedic acting and writing. In his first few years, he booked roles in the popular comedies “Community,” “Key & Peele” and “It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” But Paul is equally passionate about drama, having worked opposite a range of dramatic actors including Adam Driver, Margot Robbie and Sam Rockwell. Paul was last seen in the Oscar-winning films “I, Tonya,” “BlacKkKlansman” and as the titular character in Clint Eastwood's “Richard Jewell.” He can currently be seen on Netflix in the series “Kingdom” and “Cobra Kai” as well as Spike Lee's latest “Da 5 Bloods.”

Seth Hinz photoSeth Hinz lives in St. Louis. For 12-plus years, he’s worked in communications within The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod for churches, schools, universities, districts and national ministries. As a StoryBrand Certified Guide, he works with nonprofits and entrepreneurs to develop narrative-based messaging and marketing strategies that move people to take action. He grew up on movies, video games and frozen pizza. Wes Anderson is his favorite director.

Dr. Philip Hohle is the author of The Filmmaker’s Prayer and Lenses, and a member of the Society for the Cognitive Study of the Moving Image. He created the course “Cinema and Religion” (with Jacob Youmans) at Concordia University Texas, Austin, which he now co-leads at the movie-theater-based ACTS Church Lakeline. He is a professor at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor.

Dr. David Lewis is assistant professor of Exegetical Theology at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. His passion for films is captured in the essay, “Cinema and the American Mind,” (The American Mind Meets the Mind of Christ). Having a film festival on campus has long been a dream of his.

Abby Olcese photoAbby Olcese is the film editor at The Pitch magazine, co-host of the “Cinemaholics” podcast and a contributor to the “Think Christian” website and podcast. She also is a freelance writer on faith, culture and film, with bylines at Sojourners Magazine, Rogerebert.com and /Film. She lives in Kansas City.

Rev. Harrison Parker photoRev. Harrison Parker lives in Whitmore Lake, Mich., and has served as a pastor in Alaska and Michigan. As a kid, he wore out his Betamax by incessantly re-watching “Star Wars” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” He is passionate about the intersections of pop culture, justice and theology, and loves being surprised by glimpses of Jesus and His kingdom in the cracks of the silver screen.

Dr. Timothy Saleska is a professor of Exegetical Theology and the dean of Ministerial Formation at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. He thinks of watching movies as a moral activity that helps us empathize with others, and has a deep appreciation for films that stir us to contemplate the mysteries of grace and redemption at work in the world.

Joshua Salzberg, a St. Louis native, got his start as a filmmaker by working for Oscar-winning directors Ridley Scott and Alexander Payne. He went on to work in editing for film and television with credits that include Will Ferrell’s “Step Brothers,” Adam Sandler’s “Funny People” and Kristen Wiig’s “Welcome to Me” (National Board of Review Nominee). In addition to editing, Salzberg co-produced Demetri Martin’s “Dean” (Tribeca Jury Prize) and directed the feature documentary, “Walking Man” (Palm Beach Jury Prize, SLIFF Audience Award). Currently, Josh is editing the forthcoming Fox comedy “This Country” and has several original film and TV writing projects in development.

Dr. Travis Scholl is managing editor of theological publications at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis and the author of Walking the Labyrinth. He sometimes wonders if he will ever again witness a film as beautiful as “A River Runs Through It,” which also happens to be, in his opinion, the only movie that is just slightly better than its marvelous book.

Rev. Jacob Wampfler is an associate pastor of Shepherd of the Desert in Scottsdale, Ariz., a co-host of the “Cinema Bros” podcast, an Army veteran, a practitioner of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and the co-creator of the Faith and Film Festival. His love for film began as a young movie theater projectionist. He believes that we can see Jesus everywhere, especially in film.

Dale Ward photoDale Ward began making short films in middle school and continues his passion for movie making. He was the producer and executive producer for the Emmy-winning national talk show “On Main Street,” and currently is the senior media producer at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in video/film at Webster University in St. Louis. His other films include “Ragman,” “Walther,” “500: The Impact of the Reformation Today,” “There’s Something in the Basement” and “The 2 Sons and Their Crogzookles.”

Sharon Wright photoSharon Wright doesn’t consider herself a writer — or a director for that matter — just a person who had a story to tell, which she told through “Change For A Dollar.” The short film was shot in Osawatomie, Kan., for $5,000. Within a few weeks the film surpassed 2 million views, one of them being from iconic film critic Roger Ebert who said the film touched him. “Sharon Wright. Remember that name,” Ebert said. It was one of the best moments of her life.

Jacob Youmans photoJacob Youmans is the director of the director of Christian education (DCE) program at Concordia University Texas, Austin. He created, with Dr. Phil Hohle, the “Cinema and Religion” course almost a decade ago. Jake is a gifted teacher, speaker, missionary team leader (he has led and served on mission teams to every continent except Antarctica) and author of Talking Pictures: How to Turn a Trip to the Movies into a Mission Trip.

Dr. Michael Zeigler is the 10th Speaker of The Lutheran Hour, the world's longest running Christ-centered radio broadcast, and co-hosts "Speaking of Jesus," a conversational podcast about life centered on the story of Jesus. His book, Christian Hope Among Rivals (2017), explores the power of story to set up, upset and set in hope. He enjoys watching this power on display in film.

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