Films have a way of eliciting questions and revealing doubts buried beneath the surface; things we wouldn't typically vocalize amidst our daily dialogs of sports, celebrities and the weather. What we fear to speak aloud, topics that are quickly dodged in conversation, seem to be eagerly recieved on the big screen. The Sundance Film festivals are often a forecast of, not only themes in the film industry, but topics that strike a chord with the current concerns of our culture. This year there seems to be a common theme that take a deeper look into faith, religion, and moreso our desire for purpose in this life. While these films don't ultimately answer the question at hand, the directors clearly strive to address it.
A directorial debut for Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air, Departed,) "High Ground" is based on Carolyn S. Briggs’ memoir “This Dark World: A Memoir of Salvation Found and Lost.” The film is a story of woman's search for faith and meaning as her family submerges into a fundamentalist Christian community. Spanning over 20 years, from accepting Jesus into her life as a young girl and over to the complexities of adulthood, "Higher Ground" exposes the doubts of evangelical faith. Though I've yet to see this film, I get the sense that Corrine's struggle as a "believer" begins as the expected Sunday warm-fuzzies dwindle down when the struggles and hard times rise.
Words from the director, Vera Farmiga:
“As a community we’ve lost faith in government, politics, pastors, you name it,” she says. “We all feel out of control.” Higher Ground neither promotes faith nor condemns it, but rather aims to serve as a clear-eyed reflection of why people both find and lose their way through spiritual quests. - Sundance Film Festival review
"Martha Marcy May Marlene," which stars Elizabeth Olsen (yes, younger and likely more talented sister to the Olsen twins) in this disturbing portrait of young woman's escape from a cult. The grueling aftermath of the cult's effect on Martha are described as too uncomfortable to sit through. Still the inspiration from the director echo this search for meaning:
“Everyone’s looking for an answer to questions,” Durkin says. “Looking for a larger purpose for themselves, for the earth, for existence. It goes from the smallest to the largest idea.” - Sean Durkin