The ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike gives us a chance to reassess or re-examine the tenets of spiritual cinema and the human soul in general. What is the connection between cinema and the soul? We affirm a belief that moving pictures should uplift, edify, and teach – even as it may present images of the unsavory, adverse, and challenging. It should tell us that, “Although you may be experiencing the dark night of the human soul, all is well, there is nothing ‘to fix,’ nothing to buy, nothing to really worry about”.
So, how can we reconcile the principals of spiritually-edifying cinematic art with the kind of world we live in? There are pronounced diminishing returns in this area of reckoning: As our world falls to pieces all around us, and is evermore in need of the healing arts, the more the healing arts as readily-available and applicable tool eludes us. Where are the Shawshank Redemptions and Field of Dreams in 2023? It seems that, even when something like those moving pictures come along, the renderings have a more ersatz or artificial, derivative quality to them.
What can really touch our emotional intelligence seems evermore remote. So, what can we as filmmakers and film aficionados do to evince or summon what is most meaningful in the realm of filmed art?
The standard-bearers seem to be slipping away. But, for those of us dedicated what touches and fortifies the human soul where pertains to films, the standard-bearers stand-out and gain refinement and clarity with each passing year. This principle fuels dedication to film (film stock) preservation and to specialized acting and directing workshops.
But, if the center doesn’t hold, what is the future of spiritual cinema? It appears to be coterminous with the destiny of humans and the collective human soul itself. What kind of spiritually-expressive films can we possibly hope to enjoy in the future as artificial intelligence gains ascendancy, including, ironically, in the realm of screenwriting – (See Paul Schrader’s short interview on artificial intelligence in filmmaking and related videos on the subject here.)
Our projects are a direct challenge to the tendency towards the artificial, while at the same time celebrating the opportunities to weigh all sides of the debate. The great importance of positive human development goes on, of course, as long as humans are born, ask the deep questions, live lives of “quiet desperation,” and face existential crises as we figure out who we are — and who we may become.