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Culture Documentary

Martin Kemp

David Suchet and archaeologist Kurt Raveh in reconstruction of 1st century fishing boat on the Sea of Galilee.
Martin Kemp

Documentary

A delightful journey

David Suchet’s In the Footsteps of St. Peter is a hidden streaming gem

Think of actor David Suchet as a sort of Christian Rick Steves. With his 2015 documentary In the Footsteps of St. Peter, he guides us cheerily along the highways of the apostle’s life. He hits major points of the New Testament and heads down intriguing byways, based more on tradition and theory. Along the way, he may stop now and then to sample a local delicacy, like fried tilapia sold in Galilean ports as “Peter’s fish,” or to admire a lovely 11th-century fresco. 

It’s a lot more fun than your average take-your-medicine educational documentary (and a lot more likely to leave you with an urge to book plane tickets). 

Suchet is best known for playing Agatha Christie’s Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. So he can’t resist hamming it up in high thespian style now and then. But that’s all part of the charm. We not only hear from experts on the theological significance of certain details of Peter’s life, we experience Suchet’s childlike delight at casting nets with Galilean fishermen and examining a boat similar to what the disciples would have used.

Like its predecessor, In the Footsteps of St. Paul, this film is a mainstream BBC production, so it doesn’t proselytize. As Suchet wrote in The Telegraph, “I’m not trying to evangelise. I’m just trying to bring to people one of the most extraordinary men that ever lived.” Yet his faith shines through: When he visits Mount Tabor, he muses in awed tones that he could be standing on the ground where Jesus was transfigured. Later he exclaims how different scholarly Jewish debates are from the kinds of Bible studies he attends.

Even more impressive are the experts he consults. None actively undermine Biblical narratives as in similar documentaries. A few, like King’s College London history professor Joan Taylor, even subtly bolster it. Taylor explains she doesn’t believe Christianity would have been possible without miracles: “We know that the Messiah was expected to do extraordinary things because of one particular Dead Sea Scroll. It says that among the works of the Messiah, [He] would heal the blind, raise up those who were bowed down, raise the dead, and preach the good news. So Jesus was doing this, proving that He had the power that was expected of the Messiah.”

Longtime believers will likely find the second episode more engaging than the first. It leaves the well-worn particulars of Peter’s life, described in the New Testament, and moves into cautious speculation, like where and when he might have traveled in Turkey to new churches.

Some Christians may take issue with a few moments, as when Suchet asserts that the Cappadocian mountains were formed over 10 million years. But overall, he makes such an amiable guide in a good-faith effort to shed light on the Apostle Peter’s life, even young-earth viewers aren’t likely to regret taking the journey with him. The documentary is streaming on Amazon Prime.

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Apple TV+


Apple TV+

Documentary

Dads is an unexpected Hollywood statement

Amid serious flaws, new documentary extols the wonders of fatherhood

At their finest, dads provide, protect, play, and model pious behavior. And then there are those moments when even the best fathers prove they’re oh-so-fallen. 

The same goes for Dads, a new documentary directed by Bryce Dallas Howard, daughter of one of Hollywood’s favorite sons, director Ron Howard. Dads delights in the joys and challenges of fatherhood, and addresses a man’s responsibility to mother and child. It’s an unexpected—almost radical—statement from Hollywood.

But Dads avoids all talk of God and religion, champions un-Biblical relationships, and delivers a puzzling volume of expletives. Churches won’t be using this documentary as a teaching tool anytime soon, but neither will Planned Parenthood be looping Dads on TVs in its waiting rooms.

Besides her father, Howard mainly interviews comedy-minded celebrities: Conan O’Brien, Will Smith, Jimmy Kimmel, and others. Smith finds incredulous having a “thousand-page manual” for his television while being “sent home [from the hospital] with a baby—and nothing!”

Dads also drops in on noncelebrity fathers around the world doing their thing. These dads steal the show. A fed-up father in Japan wordlessly takes a sledgehammer to his son’s video game console as the tall, bleached-blond teen shrieks in horror.

Robert Selby of Virginia bitterly regrets the anger he initially felt at his girlfriend’s pregnancy. But recounting the birth of his son, who immediately underwent a heart procedure, Selby says, “I knew forever I’d be his protector.” When little RJ wraps his arms around his dad’s neck and tells him, “I love you with all my fixed heart,” I had to pause the film until I composed myself. Yet Selby and his girlfriend dismiss marriage: “We decided you don’t have to be married to be great parents.”

Two gay white partners live on a farm with their four adopted African American children, one of whom still suffers the effects of fetal alcohol syndrome. These big-hearted dads bear the image of the Father, but will they ever teach their children about Him?

Warm parenting anecdotes from Ron Howard and Kimmel stand in contrast to their myopic abortion advocacy. Last year, Kimmel mocked pro-lifers, and Howard said he’d boycott Georgia if the state’s heartbeat law went into effect. Apparently, they can’t see beyond their own dining room tables how abortion destroys other men’s children and opportunities to experience fatherhood—biological or adoptive.

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CFC Short & Doc


CFC Short & Doc

Documentary

No safe harbor

Greenland seems a world away, but its people’s miseries reinforce Solomon’s lament that “there’s nothing new under the sun.” Anywhere. 

The new documentary The Fight for Greenland focuses on political and social struggles unsettling Earth’s largest island. Should Greenland break from the Kingdom of Denmark? Can Greenlanders halt alcoholism, sexual abuse, drug addiction, and suicide?

The film follows four young Greenlanders with different ideas. Tillie Martinussen and Kaaleraq Andersen are running for parliament seats. Martinussen co-founds the Cooperation Party, whose members want Denmark to help Greenland become more self-sustaining while remaining united. Andersen campaigns for total independence.

Josef Tarrak-Petrussen and Paninnguaq Heilmann have two children. Tarrak-Petrussen’s rap-infused dramatic performances highlight Greenland’s proud past but also its high suicide rate. He and Heilmann, both pro-independence, vow not to repeat their parents’ sins: alcoholism and child abandonment.

The film is peaceful and beautifully shot (unrated, with a few subtitled expletives and brief nude illustrations). 

Political independence is a noble goal. But as America has demonstrated, it doesn’t bring freedom from sin and misery.

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