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Thursday, September 29, 2016

Movie Preview: "Let Hope Rise" - A Hillsong Documentary

TITLE: Let Hope Rise
DIRECTOR: Michael John Warren
PRODUCER: Grace Hill Media, and others

Many of us have heard the songs on radio. A lot of people have also heard their songs belted out on popular reality shows like American Idol or the Voice. Over 50 million people all over the world sing their songs each Sunday. These staggering figures are testimony of how influential and popular the Australian group Hillsong United has become. This music group is an offshoot from Hillsong Church, which started off as a small gathering of less than 100 people. It has since grown to become a megachurch with 30000 people gathering for worship each Sunday. Their global influence continue to rise as the talented musicians write songs for the wider Christian community.

As the music group increases in fame and popularity, critics too. I have heard many criticisms about how closely the singing group resembled a rock band. They blamed the group for introducing the ways of the world into the Church. Some even said that the group is satanic or evil, and have embarked on a campaign to dumb down or fight against them. Whatever their motives, I believe we need to hear both sides of the story before making any appropriate interpretation or conclusion. For those of us who have never been to Australia, Hillsong Church, or any of their concerts, this movie is a good way for us to hear their story. Comprising interviews with individual worship leaders, musicians, writers, band members, and the pastors in charge, we get an insight look at how the whole group worked together, laughed, sang, and traveled together. Instead of the normal glitzy images we watch on TV or in concerts, the movie presents a very human and humble side of what it means to be a traveling band of Christians sharing their love and passion for music and worship.

There are many interviews and clips both on and offstage. Viewers get an inside look at the personal lives of individuals and the impact of the ministry on their own family life. They learn to support one another and see the ministry more as a calling rather than a rock band. While the rest of the world see the glittering images of standing onstage, few would know about the sacrifices and the struggles they all put into the ministry of songwriting, worship leading, and sharing their love for God through music. The pressures are immense. This movie gives an inside look into all of these to dispel armchair critics from judging them merely from an external point of view.

Let me offer some thoughts about the target audience of the movie. First, those who loved all things Hillsong will be enthused about the whole idea of their favourite Christian music group being made into a movie. There is a good chance that they would be buying up tickets and inviting their friends to go see the movie. This group does not need to be convinced to go watch this movie. In fact, they will probably be the ones who would urge others to go.

The second group are the critics. Success can sometimes be cruel. The more popular a group becomes, the more the critics. Indeed, some of the harshest words come from fellow Christians themselves targeting the Hillsong group for all kinds of things. Whenever the word "Hillsong" pops up, they would link it to some worldly rock stars and pop scenes. It will be hard to sway such people from changing their view. Perhaps, this film can give them an opportunity to see things from a different perspective. For this group, before you judge, watch this movie.

The third group would be the people who just wanted to know more about the stories behind the songs they sing so often. This movie has lots of clips on some of the most popular songs we sing. Some examples include "Oceans," "Relentless," "This I Believe," "Hosanna," "Break Free," Mighty to Save," "Broken Vessels," "No Other Name," "Aftermath," "Touch the Sky," "With Everything," "Empires," and others.

The most powerful part of the video for me was the singing of "Mighty to Save" which interlaces singing groups from all over the world singing a part of the song in each video frame. For me, one of the biggest reasons to see this film is to learn more about the background, the story, and the people behind the songs. In seeing how passionate they are for God, for people, and for the music they love, it is most gratifying. Repeatedly, the participants had stated that it was not about them but more about God. This is most powerful.

There are moments in which I feel the most appropriate response is worship. May this movie move people to worship both during and after the movie. I've watched it once and would watch it again.

This movie releases in Canada for 1-day on October 3rd across selected theatres across the country.

Rating: 5 stars of 5.


This film preview was provided to me courtesy of Pure Flix and Graf-Martin Communications in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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