In 2007 Darren Wilson released Finger of God, a documentary exploring modern-day miracles. 2010’s Furious Love resumed his spiritual investigation, this time into war between the darkness of the world and the light and love of God.
Father of Lights, his third and final installment in his documentary trilogy,is a collection of unexpected moments revealing the character and nature of God.
I believe a synopsis of the film or even highlights from it would lessen the impact of these moments as you come upon them. Instead I’ll focus this review on the thread that runs throughout the film.
Most of us are familiar with the Prodigal Son story. The two sons in the story understand their father in two distinct ways. The older brother’s perspective is based on the work and rules he’s convinced are his father’s priorities. His mindset imprisons him in offense and discontentment.
On the other hand, the younger brother has experiencedhis father’s extreme forgivenessand thus sees his father’s priority as enjoying his children, relationally focused. I came to Christ because I identified with the younger brother;a decade-plus later I humblyrelate with the older brother.
This film is for those of us in the Churchwho are like the older brother, those who view God as a boss rather than a father, who feel slighted by Him because the wages for our work are the same as, or seemingly less than, recent additions (“sinners”) to the family. The film suggests there’s hope for us and that on that side of freedom awaits a dynamic life for the Kingdom.
The filmmaker interviews people like Bill Johnson and Andrew Wommack, theologians, pastors, evangelists, and missionaries, in search of insight and clarity into the heart of God, into the meaning of grace, and the root of the Older Brother Syndrome, the religious spirit. He travels to California, Chicago, India, and China to witness the power of the Father in action, those unexpected moments I spoke of earlier.
Wilson acts as the narrator, weaving together the film, which I felt was the weakest element. He doesn’t allow the interviews and stories to speak for themselves.
That surprises me because, in explaining the meaning behind his production company’s name, Wanderlust,he’s quoted as saying, “As an artist, I have always been more interested in questions than in answers.
Answers never inspired me, nor did they move me” yet his narration is just that – his answers to the things on the screen. If instead it was him wrestling with these issues then I would’ve felt more like I was on the journey with him and allowed to arrive at my own conclusions as he came to his.
Still, the film is powerful. It communicates a Father who delights in His children. It does what art is supposed to do, challenge the viewer’s worldview. I recommend watching in a group setting.
I found myself wanting to discuss the film and work through my own misconceptions of the Father. It illuminated the ways I strive to earn my Father’s love and how that leads me to live in fear, at times expecting those closest to me to earn my love. I found myself at the foot of the Cross seeking freedom from this spiritual prison.
A filmmaker for the Kingdom should not be concerned with box office returns or accolades but with encouraging the audience to fix their gaze on their loving Creator and taking one step closer to Him. Do that and you have true success, treasure in Heaven. Father of Lights does just that.
Biblical Worldview -
I wouldn’t suggest showing the film to young children. A portion of the film deals with the persecuted church, including a brief description of one man’s torture and images of his scars.
There’s also a scene in a nightclub, where a woman wears a tight outfit and hangs from a trapeze. And although the beginning is dense with theology and may be lost on some junior high and high school-aged youth, the movie would be an excellent conversation starter with them.
Biblical Discussion -
The film deals with the difference between grace and the religious spirit. You can be physically in bondage but spiritually free and that freedom permeating from you into the people and environment around you, like Paul and Silas in Acts 16:22-39. Or, you can be physically free but spiritually bound, bringing oppression wherever you go. Which description resonates with you?
To learn more about Father of Lights, visit ChristianFilmDatabase
Kerwin Kuniyoshi is a filmmaker and cultural critic based in the San Francisco Bay Area. His work can be viewed at Kerwin Kuniyoshi.