Conversations After Church is a 38-minute documentary by Bevan Klassen (co-directed by Mark Humphries) that explores the faith journeys of six Winnipeggers, each of whom has faced personal challenges which have impacted their attitudes toward God and the church over the years.
Walter and I had the privilege of viewing and critiquing earlier drafts of the film (since the spring of 2012), giving us a unique insight into the challenges and accomplishments of the editing process (the first draft was about 100 minutes long). The result is a very tight set of interviews that capture, in remarkably few words, the essence of the faith struggles of the six individuals (two of whom are a couple, though interviewed separately).
Conversations After Church begins by giving us an opportunity to hear these individuals describe the faith that initially shaped them. As they discuss the questions that begin to arise in early adulthood, we learn that each of the interviewees has faced challenges which have impacted their faith and attitudes toward the church; challenges like depression, sexual orientation, marital issues and deaths in the family.
The result is a set of stories which are remarkably honest, calm, eloquent, brave, easy to listen to and easy to relate to, full of profound questions and observations which can open up thoughtful discussions among viewers. “I don’t believe in the God I was raised with,” says Allen. Many viewers will resonate with that statement and hopefully engage each other with what that means for them. For me, none of the six stories resembles my own, and yet they all do.
Framing the interviews are scenes of Klassen at Winnipeg’s The Forks (the forks of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers), beginning in winter (in black and white) and then moving to spring (and colour). This framing is of course subject to interpretation but it provides a unique contemplative way of helping us reflect on different types of faith and the different seasons of faith.
If I have a complaint about Conversations After Church, it’s that I want to hear more from the interviewees and get to know them better. This is no doubt because I had the opportunity to view longer drafts of the film. The fact is that the shorter timeframe makes Conversations After Church the ideal length for church and small groups.
At a time when people are leaving traditional forms of church in record numbers, Conversations After Church provides examples of why this is happening and why this is not a cause for despair. People are resilient and, to me, the film is full of hope for the future of Christianity. Highly recommended for groups of all kinds!