WILMORE — Just in time for Friday's release of the third Narnia movie, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, some Asbury University faculty members and students have made a documentary about the life of the saga's creator, Christian scholar and author C.S. Lewis.
C.S. Lewis: Why He Matters Today is a 25-minute film that can be seen at Narniafaith.com, a Web site devoted to The Chronicles of Narnia fantasies and Lewis. The documentary was directed and narrated by Greg Bandy, an associate professor of media communications, and researched and co-written by Devin Brown, an English professor and C.S. Lewis scholar.
The movie interviews various Christian authors, such as Chuck Colson (founder of Prison Fellowship), Doug Gresham (Lewis' stepson) and Eric Metaxas (author of a critically acclaimed new biography of Dietrich Bon hoeffer, a German pastor who opposed Hitler). Those interviewed speak about the influence Lewis has had on their lives and on others.
"Everything was produced using Asbury students or Asbury graduates," Bandy said. "We went all over the country, from Los Angeles to New York, to get these interviews."
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For example, Asbury senior Austin Berry and Asbury alumnus Ben Rogers worked as cinematographers. Asbury alumnus Seth Parker and Berry were editors, and Parker did visual effects. Asbury philosophy professor Michael Peterson, who was executive producer of the documentary, also is interviewed, as is Brown.
The documentary, funded through a private grant, is divided into five segments of three to five minutes each. They can be downloaded for free from Narniafaith.com.
The documentary explores why Lewis, who died in 1963 at age 64, "is still a major force today," Brown said. "He was the most influential Christian writer of the 20th century and is on his way of being the most influential Christian writer of the 21st century."
Said Bandy: "He has this unique ability to logically unpack the big questions for a broad audience."
The Chronicles of Narnia, a series of seven fantasies that Lewis wrote in the 1950s, explores themes such as temptation, renewal and sacrifice.
On Dec. 3, the Lewis documentary debuted at the third "Narnia Night" at Asbury University in Wilmore. The hundreds of students who attended saw the different segments and heard discussions about Lewis. Similar "Narnia Nights" are being held all over the United States and world, and Brown and Bandy hope the documentary will spark more discussions.
Bandy and Brown had done two shorter documentaries that looked at the back stories of previous Narnia novels that became movies, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005) and Prince Caspian (2008). There wasn't as much of a back story with The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, so Bandy and Brown decided to do something with a broader scope that would be of interest to churches, schools and others in the faith community.
Brown already has seen and is well pleased with Dawn Treader, directed by Michael Apted, who also directed Sissy Spacek as singer Loretta Lynn in 1980's Coal Miner's Daughter and Sigourney Weaver as zoologist Dian Fossey in 1988's Gorillas in the Mist.
Actor Liam Neeson, who provides the voice of the animated lion Aslan in the Narnia movies, said at a news conference that Queen Elizabeth reportedly shed tears at the movie's conclusion when it had a royal world premiere in London last week.
Bandy and Brown also produced an educational resource DVD for the 2007 movie Amazing Grace, which was about British idealist William Wilberforce's effort to end slave trade.
Brown has written, taught and lectured on Lewis for more than 15 years. He also has written companion books to the three movies that provide supplemental information about Lewis' life and other books.
Brown was an adviser and contributor to the C.S. Lewis Bible, published in November. The study Bible contains essays, letters, poetry and meditations Lewis wrote and pairs them with relevant passages.
Some might be surprised to know Lewis espoused atheism before he converted to Christianity.
"When he was a boy, he said he had some bad Sunday school and mandatory chapel experiences that caused his own faith to become paralyzed," Brown said. "He was quite a serious atheist from the time he was 14 or 15 until the time he was 30. Well, later on he discovered that that bad religion thing isn't the Christian faith."
"This was a guy who was a staunch atheist, and he really examined everything, and in the end he found Christ," Bandy said.