Best of 2013

Posted on December 19, 2013 · Posted in Blue Banner Media

For at least the past three years, Google has put out a series of year-end videos, summing up the events of the year. While much of what they highlight – both in terms of noteworthy political events and cultural phenomenon – reveals a worldview different then that of a Christian, the videos certainly give one a good look at all that transpired over the past 365 days. I thought it would be good for Christians in the world of media and film to do likewise, especially since Scripture constantly tells us to remember and give thanks. I haven’t put together a tribute video like Google, however I have put together a list of videos that comprise some of the year’s highlights – a Best of 2013 list, you could say. Not every video listed is Christian or independently produced, but all of them are excellent for what they are. I hope that you enjoy this, that it encourages and edifies you, and that we would all give grateful praise to God during this Advent season.

Best Feature Films

The independent film industry had some wonderful moments in 2013, starting out in February with the San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival (SAICFF) and Filmmakers Academy, when filmmakers and artists from all around the globe – perhaps for the last time – gathered at that event for one unforgettable week. Feature films have typically been (until recent years) an under-represented genre for Christians, but this year there have some incredible films!

1. Return to the Hiding Place

This motion picture tells the story of the Ten Boom family – well-known from Corrie Ten Boom’s biographical book The Hiding Place – and their resistance movement in Holland during the Nazi occupation of WWII, as seen through the eyes of young Hans Poley. The film is notable, not only for it’s beautiful cinematography, it’s action-packed and suspenseful storyline, and stellar cast of actors (including the much-beloved John Rhys-Davies) but also, because the film’s director, Peter Spencer, was actually friends with Hans Poley (see: here) and made this film to honor him and his legacy. Also from the director, to the producer (Petra Spencer Pearce) to supporting actress (Rachel Spencer Hewitt, who plays the role of Aty van Woerden) this feature film was a family endeavor. The film, though seeing a limited release this year, has yet to have a widespread theatrical run.

2. Unstoppable

Even in the face of obstacles, such as getting blocked repeatedly on Facebook and YouTube, veteran actor Kirk Cameron’s newest film proved to be unstoppable. Cameron teamed-up with the film department at Liberty University to chronicle his struggles with the presence of sin, suffering, and death in this world, and how Christianity relates in the midst of tragedy. The one-night-only live event opened to sold-out audiences across the nation on Sept. 24th and garnered such high demand that they had to create another showing so that more people could see the film! Unstoppable will be out on DVD January 28, 2014.

3. Alone Yet Not Alone

Though it won’t officially be released in theaters until March of 2014, this film, based on the novel by Tracy Leininger Craven, premiered at the 2013 SAICFF and so I’ll count it. Produced by Enthuse Entertainment, Alone Yet Not Alone is about an immigrant family on the early frontier of 1700s America during the French and Indian War, whose two young daughters are kidnapped by a tribe of Indians. The movie’s title song “Alone Yet Not Alone” (performed by Joni Eareckson Tada – see: here) is even contending against 75 other songs this year to be nominated for the Academy Award for “Best Original Song”.

4. The Lost Medallion

The Lost Medallion – which follows the adventures of young Billy Stone and his friends – is one wild ride! Full of fun and excitement, the film sends you racing through jungles, jumping down waterfalls and even traveling through time. The cast includes well-known actors like James Wong (Kung Fu Panda) and Alex Kendrick (Courageous, Fireproof).

Notable omissions to this list would be The Drop Box – since the status of that film is unclear – EchoLight Studios’ 2013 theatrical release The Christmas Candle – because we haven’t seen it yet (though we plan to) – How to Answer the Fool the crash-course in presuppositional apologetics produced by American Vision and Crown Rights Media – and even a few well-made Hollywood films are worth mentioning, such as 42: The Jackie Robinson Story, which did a good job capturing the struggles of the first African-American to play Major League Baseball and portrayed Bible-believing character Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) as a strong hero; also, the highly-anticipated Saving Mr. Banks (which was not released at the time of writing.)

Best Shorts

Sometimes dramatic, oftentimes humorous, short films – especially in the age of social media – have the ability to have a big impact. They can move, entertain, inspire and inform. 2013 saw a lot of short films, but here are a few of the best.

1. The Calvinist

This video from John Piper’s ministry Desiring God is stunning, both for its moving poetic words, but also the captivating and gorgeous video that undergirds it. Piper writes: “I wrote this poem called ‘The Calvinist’ to capture a glimpse of God’s sovereign intersection with the life of a sinful man. There is no part of life where the greatness of God does not penetrate deeply. I want to help you feel that… My prayer is that this great and glorious sovereign God will stand forth from his word and from our lives with such compelling force, that sooner rather than later, the kingdoms of the earth will become the kingdom of our God through Jesus Christ.” The video includes the voices of well-known Calvinist theologians, including Piper, D.A. Carson, R.C. Sproul, Alistair Begg, Thabiti Anyabwile, Matt Chandler, and Sinclair Ferguson.

2. Chipotle’s “The Scarecrow”

It might seem odd to include an advertisement for food on this list, but this next short demonstrates such excellent storytelling that it was worth listing. Popular Mexican restaurant Chipotle is not just about promoting their food, but also about promoting “food with integrity” (i.e. more organic, less chemicals and GMOs, more family farms and less factory farms, etc…) This message is clear to see in their recent advertisement/short film The Scarecrow, which tells the story of a dystopian future and an animate Scarecrow that wants to “cultivate a better world.” The video has over 11 million views on YouTube.

3. Jostie Flicks – iChaperone

This humorous short from the consistently funny family of filmmakers at Jostie Flicks pokes fun at modern technology, particularly the smartphone phenomenon of “There’s an app for that!” You can find out more about Jostie Flicks at their website: here.

4. The Bear & The Hare

This video came to our attention through our friends at Reelcast Productions and it was too good not to include – but to understand why the video is significant (besides being a self-evidently beautiful work of art) you need to see how it was made. This is not just a traditionally animated or stop-motion video, nor is it merely a composite of the two – it is a traditionally-animated-stop-motion hybrid! The innovative technique and the artistry of this short earn it’s place on this list. The Bear & the Hare tells the story of two woodland creatures, the bear and hare, and how one of them gets to celebrate Christmas for the first time, thanks to help of his friend.

Notable Omissions: It’s Not About the Nail a humorous piece about the differences between men and women, and What kind of Asian are you? a short film about an oblivious questioner and multi-ethnic confusion.

Best Music Videos

It’s been said that people make feature films for fame, commercials for money, and music videos for fun! This year, Christian musicians have produced some excellent work, but having a good music video is almost as important as having a good sound. Enjoy these picks for the best music videos of 2013:

1. Pilot Me – Josh Garrels

Last year, Portland, OR. musician Josh Garrels teamed-up with the Brooklyn-based creatives at Mason Jar Music to create great music. The result was a trip to a gorgeous island off of British Columbia, where the small group of artists went to work filming music videos. They released this video early in 2013. Pilot Me is perhaps the pinnacle of their work, which ultimately became The Sea In Between: a feature-length film chronicling their experience. Garrels’ Christianity resonates throughout this whimsical piece.

2. It’s Not Enough – Dustin Kensrue

Dustin Kensrue, worship director at Mars Hill Church brings an intensity and a sorrow to this song, capturing a haunting and tragic truth that without Christ’s love, grace, and truth in our lives, nothing that we do will be enough to satisfy and bring peace. Just as the writer of Ecclesiastes was forced to confront the vanity of the unbeliever’s existence, so too this song makes us confront the emptiness of a life apart from our Savior. The song is part of Kensrue’s album The Water & the Blood.

3. Mediator – Ghost Ship

This energetic tune performed by Ghost Ship – also part of Mars Hill Music – boldly proclaims the truth that there is only one God, the God of Christianity. This is a concept that modern man is fleeing from, but Ghost Ship celebrates it, shouting from the rooftops the good news of the Gospel!

4. Little Drummer Boy (Cover) – Pentatonix

Released just before Thanksgiving, this cover of the well-known Christmas carol “Little Drummer Boy” is impeccable – earning it over 21 million views on YouTube. This music video, by the hip a cappella quintet Pentatonix will give you chills!

Notable Omissions include the music video for Mumford & Sons’ hit song Babel that was released this year, Dust to Dust by The Civil Wars as well as Phillip Phillips – Home (Piano/Cello Cover) by The Piano Guys.

Best Television

It almost seems like a contraction in terms to be listing the “best” of TV, yet while most television programing isn’t worth mentioning (let alone watching) there have been some noteworthy developments on TV over this year.

1. Duck Dynasty

While the “Dynasty” has been going since last year, the Robertson clan, a family of Louisiana rednecks who became wealthy through selling duck calls, really came kicking-and-screaming into the public’s attention in 2013. Merchandise is everywhere. The premiere of their 4th season this August broke cable records with 11.8 million viewers – that’s more than the numbers who tuned in to watch the season premiere of Breaking Bad and the finale of Downtown Abbey – combined! The Robertsons have been using their new-found fame to speak about their Christian faith. The above video is a moving testimony from three generations of the Robertson family. Despite the recent controversy, and perhaps some theological differences, I am grateful for what the Robertson clan has done, even through a show as wild and zany as Duck Dynasty!

2. The Bible Miniseries

Though depictions of Biblical narratives – especially when they deal with the gospel narratives and depictions of Christ – are always problematic, the fact that TV veterans, and husband and wife team, Mark Burnett and Roma Downey were able to create a miniseries based on the Bible, get it aired on The History Channel and go on to become the #1 best-selling miniseries DVD/Blu-ray of all time is pretty amazing! The series was inspired by Burnett and Downey’s desire to see increased Biblical-literacy in our society, and that – even in spite of other issues that one could take with the series – is a worthy goal.

Best Book Trailers

Creating trailers for books is a fairly recent thing, but already there have been some excellent ones produced. These are not only captivating videos in themselves, but also drive us to want to read the books they promote. Check out some of 2013’s best.

1. Death By Living – N.D. Wilson

I haven’t read N.D. Wilson’s newest work of non-fiction yet, but from the trailer you can tell that the content of Death By Living is profound, deeply personal for Wilson, and thought-provoking. This video was moving and beautiful – it definitely made me made me want to read it!

2. Apostate – Kevin Swanson

Kevin Swanson has been a leading proponent of reformation for years. His radio show at Generations With Vision reaches homeschool families and Christians all across the nation and world. His newest book Apostate: The Men who Destroyed the Christian West is a collection of dossiers, detailing the lives and legacy of rogues and villains throughout the past 1,000 years who rejected their Christian heritage and helped lead the Western world into its current widespread apostasy. Given it subject matter, it won’t be the most “enjoyable” read, but it’s definitely one that needs to read (Eph. 5:10-17). The trailer is superb – it imagines Swanson in prison as a martyr sometime in the near future, sending an urgent message to the faithful remnant. Thankfully, that time has not yet come, by the grace of God, and you can hear Swanson’s message by getting his book!

3. Baptism Is Not Enough – John Crawford

Don’t be fooled by the title, this book isn’t attacking baptism, rather the subject matter can be deduced from it’s subtitle: “How Understanding God’s Covenant Explains Everything.” So, essentially, there will be no progress made in the theological debates over baptism until we properly understand the idea of covenant. This book was released last month by American Vision in conjunction with Crown Rights Media (who created the trailer as well as the book’s companion movie) but already Baptism Is Not Enough looks intriguing.

These were just some of the noteworthy videos and films made during 2013. Some of them were extremely important, others just made us laugh; however, all of them represent excellence in their craft, and many of them are examples of Christians seeking to apply themselves to their vocation. This past year was an extremely difficult one for many people and for innumerable reasons, yet thanks be to God it was also one full of blessing. May we trust in Him as we enter the New Year!