Jamie Moffett, a member of Shane Claiborne’s Simple Way community, recently finished a documentary entitled The Ordinary Radicals. The film examines the way people of faith are impacting society in profound ways. RELEVANT talked to Jamie about his experience making the film.
Your new film, The Ordinary Radicals, examines how ordinary people of faith are changing society. What prompted you to explore that subject?
Well, the term that best my faith perspective is a “Recovering Catholic” agnostic: I feel I know that I don’t know, but I’m excited about people who do and want to learn more from them. Having so many Christian and non-Christian friends, I noticed how often talking to one side seemed like talking to one side of a bad break-up. Both sides were truly hurt by the other, but no one wanted to talk about it.
My goal with this movie is to show this kind of Christianity has a lot in common with the secular community in regards to social justice, racial reconciliation, environmental justice and more. Not to forget, this movement is huge. It has the potential to be the largest social movement in the United States! It completely transcends political party affiliation and denominational boundaries. Secular folks are waking up to see Christians actually live this way; the movement completely defies traditional media stereotypes of Christians living in America.
Who were some of the people you talked to in the making of the film, and why did you choose to get their insight?
As a co-founder of The Simple Way community, I had an unusual amount of access to a lot of authors and speakers in these circles. For me, the movie’s really about the regular folks whose names you won’t see on a bookshelf or on Jon Stewart.
Mark Weaver: College student who read Shane’s first book The Irresistible Revolution one day, got to go on The Price is Right the next day. He won nearly $60,000 in prizes! He decided his faith compelled him to sell his winnings, fly to Uganda and live and work with children in an AIDS orphanage. He gave them all the money.
John Perkins of CCDA: I flew to Jackson, Miss., for an interivew with him and left feeling I’d just had a master class with a luminary. There were concepts he presented I’d simply never ever thought of in my little world. He’s pretty well known, but I had to tell you how fantastic it was to get to interview him.
Brooke Sexton: She’s a co-founder of The Simple Way, and her day to day life is featured in the film. I’ve known her since I was a teenager and I’m still inspired by how she’s chosen to live her life for what she believes in.
Jay Beck and Scott Krueger from Psalters: I had so much freaking fun with them. We’d find somewhere to hang out and talk till we were exhausted. Scott and I went to Eastern University together and Jay’s a person about as close to Aslan as I think I’ll ever meet. I learned tons about Christian Anarchism from them, something I hope to address more in-depth when we release The Ordinary Radicals: Special Topics DVD’s.
How did you get into documentary filmmaking?
In 1999, I marched 400 miles with homeless families (now long-time friends) from the Kensington Welfare Rights Union to protest economic human rights violations happening in the United States. They had a camera donated, and I picked it up. I’ve never put it down.
How has the film been received?
So far, brilliantly! Sold out shows all over the United States, hour-plus long talk back sessions after the movie. People really seem attracted to the characters and stories in this little movie and they want to talk about them. The Orlando screening was great! We had atheists, anarchists, capitalists and Christians all in the theater together. When the lights came on, they just started talking to each other about their perspectives on the film. The organizer of the event said, “You can be sure these groups have never been in the same room together, let alone listening and sharing about such potentially polarizing topics.”
I’m hoping this movie lives in comparison and contrast to Bill Maher’s movie Religulous. We both come from non-Christian backgrounds and address similar topics. In a lot of cases, I really think Bill Maher is right to poke fun at pieces of American Christianity. I don’t think, however, he had the chance to meet the people I got to interview. People who use faith as their fuel to live in ways anyone of any faith perspective would be inspired by. Some of the best compliments on the film have been from atheists! I got a bit choked up when an atheist girl from Kansas City told me she felt the movie “disarmed” her.
Can you tell us about the experience of making the film?
I don’t actually remember sleeping since about June. We followed up a six week, 11,000 mile trip with a five week, 60 hours a week post-production schedule. Now, I’m on the road screening the film in theaters and sleeping on friends’ couches. It’s really tiring, but I freaking love it. I’m having the time of my life.
What advice do you have for aspiring filmmakers?
Do it! Don’t just talk about “Wouldn’t it be great if…” Fund raise, have a bake sale, sell pre-orders of the DVD then make it—and send me a copy. I’d love to see your film!