Recent Grove City College graduate Joshua Kuipers ’18 won the feature documentary prize in the Moon Community Access (MCA) TV Kenny Ross Toyota Film Festival.
Kuiper’s film, “False Reality: Generalizing the Characters,” presents a critical analysis of some contemporary Christian films, including the popular “God is Not Dead” series.
“We wanted to create a video essay trying to answer one basic question: Why do Christian films have a reputation of being poor quality? We could have easily done a cinematic analysis on the problem. But we discovered there is a deeper problem no video essay has ever analyzed – theology in cinema,” Kuipers said of his work with co-director Dan Willingmyre, a student at Kutztown University.
The challenge, he said, was to analyze and critique the theology of the films while being grounded in scripture. In the process, Kuipers said “we discovered a higher calling of art that Christian films need to meet if they want to authentically glorify God.”
A panel of western Pennsylvania film experts evaluated “False Reality” and the competition on “originality, creativity, strength of plot, story structure, characters, cinematography direction, entertainment value, dialogue (character interaction) and overall quality,” according to the festival’s website.
Kuipers’ film was initially intended to fulfill a requirement for Communication and Visual Arts Professor Dr. Kimberly M. Miller‘s Christian Faith and Cinema course. Students typically write a research paper for the class, but Kuipers approached Miller about making a documentary instead, and she approved.
“It was a teachable moment,” Miller said. “Josh worked incredibly hard on this film, keeping me in the loop at every turn. He applied feedback effectively and produced an excellent project.”
As part of Kuipers’ research, Miller connected him with Grove City College alum Spencer Folmar ’10, who now works in Hollywood, writing, producing, and directing his own films for his Hard Faith Films production company. Folmar’s third feature film, “Generational Sins,” was released to good reviews in October 2017.
“It was a joy to see Josh’s passion in crafting and researching this documentary,” Folmar said. “He has touched on a discord in religious art and cinema that many of us in the film industry resonate with in Hollywood. I’m thankful for minds like Josh’s and institutions like Grove City College that encourage this critical thinking.”
Dr. Paul Kemeny, professor of Biblical and Religious Studies and Humanities at Grove City College, agreed. “I thought the documentary was incredibly well done. Kuipers is remarkably thoughtful in his analysis. It is also a testimony to Dr. Miller’s effectiveness as a professor.”
The influence of Grove City College alumni on this project doesn’t end there. MCA TV Director of Community Programming and Communication Allison Eastham, a 2012 Grove City College graduate, contacted Miller in hopes of finding students interested in submitting films to their festival. Miller passed this information along to Kuipers, who managed to finish the film just in time.
“The Kenny Ross film festival is a great opportunity for local artists to showcase their work. With the extensive educational opportunities in our region, our community is booming with talented and artistic individuals and we want to not only recognize their talent, but also to be an outlet for their creativity.” Eastham said.
Kuipers graduated in May with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, but he isn’t done with documentary filmmaking. “We plan to continue the ‘False Reality’ series, but our goal is to make the next two videos shorter in length. After the series is over, I hope to create another videos essay series explaining worldviews in cinema and how Christians should respond,” he said.
Watch “False Reality: Generalizing the Characters” on YouTube.