Blue Like Jazz: A Night with the Director

“Buckel Up- We’re Going to Austin!”

For those of you who didn’t know (like me), the movie “Blue Like Jazz” came out a while back, in April. It had been a sensation in the bookstores (which surprised me)- but even more surprising to me was the fact that this whole movie was funded almost completely by Kickstarter. You can read a good review of the movie here, if you’d rather hear more about that. Otherwise, Im just gonna lay down the events of a night that was bigger than just a movie viewing.

“Hashtag college life” is what I feel like saying as I write this post: it all started with a simple Facebook event and the urgent desire to want to go see the screening of Blue Like Jazz on a Monday night in Austin, TX. With a spontaneous gleam in my eye, I set out to see who would be along for the adventure. Because of the last minute nature of the endeavor, only one person could come along with me for the ride. Someone God knew needed to be the one to go with me. Had this person not have gone, we both might have missed something BIG God was doing that night. Enter Naomi Flores, a one-of-a-kind woman of God who loves film.

Anyways, that’s just the prequel. We got there a bit late at the SAC due to horrible parking options and careless University students haphazardly walking in front of all the cars like they were merely imaginary creatures, such as narwhals or jackalopes. But I digress. When we finally had enough of those shenanigans, we cried out to God (sort of just in a joking way, at first) to help us find a parking spot. Finally we did- and it was perfect. We just saw a glimpse of His humor then- wait til you hear what happens later!

Enter the Hero: Don Miller’s Story Unfolds

Upon arriving 15 minutes into the movie, we finally found Tim Stewart (a friend we were going to meet), in the dark, somehow. He promptly filled us in. The effect of the movie was gradual, but poignant.

For those of you who have not seen it (or read it – or kindled it – or whatever), here’s a bit of an overview: Its pretty much the cinematic memoir of a young Don Miller as he left his comfortable life in Texas as a Southern Baptist Christian to party it up at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. The story continues. Without revealing too much of the plot, I noticed that the director was not afraid to be really real, honest, and open about what really happens in the world. It was totally not what I expected.

Most of Don’s friends in the movie ranged from a fiery Lesbian to a misanthropic Pope (you just have to watch the movie and see what I mean! ) to a girl who was just trying to figure things out, make a difference in the world, and just so happens to have found a home in the church. Inevitably all of the characters play significant roles in aiding Don (or rather, egging him on) to reveal who he really is, and what he stood for. The end of the movie is such a good representation of redemption and restoration…it is the perfect climax of the movie.

The Astronaut: blue like jazz

As I watched the movie, I noticed there was not a lot of “noise” to the story- it was straightforward and each scene was critical or beneficial in some way to the storyline. The characters were relatable. And then, it was stirring- it raised a lot of questions about the Church and Christianity. It was a movie of controversial appeal, and I could tell why.

After Everything, More Became Clear

To continue at this point, I’ll have to back up a bit and start from there. At the entrance of the viewing room there was a Clear Water campaign station; they gave me an “X” on my hand– every 8th person to walk into the room would receive one. At the end of the movie, everyone with the X stood up to symbolize how 12.5% of the world’s population dies needlessly due to unclean water- a problem that can be prevented. The proceeds of going to see this movie would be to help fund building a clean water well in Rwanda.

Soon after that, director Steve Taylor took his stand. I was amazed at how humble and genuine he came across. He told the crowd that this was a Christian movie of a different kind- it wasn’t a family movie, or anything like the movies that roll out of Georgia, he joked. Oh we could tell. He later discussed the difference between being a Christian who makes films and just making Christian films.

The Best Part

We got to talk to him at the end- but talking with other people is what really sparked things up. Hearing people’s reactions and opinions on the movie was pretty neat, especially when people asked questions like “What were people’s responses to the church as they first saw this?” and stuff like that. Steve said it was mixed and believed it was a good segue to open the topic up to discussion between people.

In line for him to sign our copies of Relevant magazine (complementary issues featuring Don Miller’s interview), we met these people who had a connection to people I knew in Austin, as well as to UMHB of all places! Naomi even got to meet the father of one of her friends for the first time- apparently he had been involved in this screening!

So many other small and big things happened that night- so many connections and laughs and mysteries. Overall, we saw the beauty of God in this movie and how He redeems us even when we feel abandoned by the church. He is always bringing us back to Him in ways that might not make sense until we really “get it”. Don’s story may not be as unique as you think. My prayer is that you will see this movie and see how God is chasing after you, desperately.

The following quote pretty much sums up the book, the movie, and life. Don himself says it best:

“There is something beautiful about a billion stars held steady by a God who knows what He is doing. (They hang there, the stars, like notes on a page of music, free-form verse, silent mysteries swirling in the blue like jazz.) And as I lay there, it occurred to me that God is up there somewhere. Of course, I had always known He was, but this time I felt it, I realized it, the way a person realizes they are hungry or thirsty. The knowledge of God seeped out of my brain and into my heart. I imagined Him looking down on this earth, half angry because His beloved mankind had cheated on Him, had committed adultery, and yet hopelessly in love with her, drunk with love for her.”
― Donald Miller

Also, let me know if you’d like to watch the movie with me! I bought it from them there and, in haste to take a picture, forgot to get it signed. Thats okay though, as there will be an opportunity for that when they screen it again at UMHB in February 2013! Hope to see ya then!

photo credit: erichood via photopin cc

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