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Seminary students descend on Sundance, find meaning in independent films

Published: Thursday, Jan. 23 2014 3:45 p.m. MST

Stoller-Lee said when he reached out a few years ago to the community for help in hosting students, the Park City Utah Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints responded. LDS Church members house most of the forum's students and faculty during the festival.

And this year, the forum scheduled a screening of the upcoming feature film "Son of God" at the Park City Utah Stake center on Friday. Producer and Christian Mark Burnett will attend and discuss the film that depicts the life of Jesus Christ and is set to open in theaters nationwide on Feb. 28.

"It should be a wonderful evangelical-Mormon conversation surrounding a Hollywood-produced Jesus movie," Callaway said.

Arts and faith

Because of the close proximity of Fuller's Pasadena, Calif., campus to Hollywood, the seminary has long fostered a relationship with the entertainment industry, in particular with writers, directors, producers and actors who have an interest in incorporating religion into what they produce. The seminary uses those connections in its courses and degrees in theology and culture, which was a draw for students like Mel Chambers, who is an actor.

"I want to use the arts as a means of reconciliation between Muslims and Hindus in India," said Chambers, a 27-year-old graduate student in intercultural studies at Fuller.

Among the films she hopes to see at Sundance are feature films "Liar's Dice," an Indian film about a woman searching for her husband, and "Fishing Without Nets," which tells a story of modern-day piracy from the Somalian pirates' point of view.

"We talk a lot about understanding the other, so we can reach out and help them," Chambers said, explaining her interest in the Somalian piracy flim.

Another Fuller student and forum participant, Pete Sung, a 40-year-old former college math teacher who received his calling to the ministry later in life, said he sees film as a medium that can complement his work as a pastor.

"I feel the call to be a preacher and a filmmaker," said Sung, who studies the short documentary genre as a way to help believers share their personal stories that would otherwise go unnoticed or unheard.

He said that pastors must use other media, in addition to preaching from the pulpit, to connect with younger generations.

"This is a different age — the information age — but it goes beyond text," Sung said. "This is also the visual age and to at least have an appreciation of the visual medium is a mandatory requirement."

Email: mbrown@deseretnews.com, Twitter: deseretbrown

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