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Deep Focus

Film and Theology in Dialogue

series: Engaging Culture

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Three media experts guide the Christian moviegoer into a theological conversation with movies in this up-to-date, readable introduction to Christian theology and film. Building on the success of Robert Johnston's Reel Spirituality, the leading textbook in the field for the past 17 years, Deep Focus helps film lovers not only watch movies critically and theologically but also see beneath the surface of their moving images. The book discusses a wide variety of classic and contemporary films and is illustrated with film stills from favorite movies.


Introduction: A Phoropter for Film
Coming Attractions
1. The Power of Film
2. The Church and Hollywood: A Historical Lens
Act I: Film
3. Fade In: A Narrative Lens
4. Sights and Sounds: An Audiovisual Lens
5. Where Form Meets Feeling: A Critical Lens
Act II: Theology
6. A Diverse Church Responds: An Ecclesial Lens
7. Discerning Mystery: A Theological Lens
8. Expanding Our Field of Vision: An Ethical Lens
Act III: Dialogue
9. Encountering the Other: A Cultural Lens
10. The Trauma of Love in the Films of Christopher Nolan: Converging Lenses
Epilogue: A Deeper Focus


"Three ophthalmologists of the cinema explore how we see and understand the visual parables of our age. Film professors Rob Johnston, Craig Detweiler, and Kutter Callaway provide lenses that enable us not only to see the fleeting images on the screen but to see into our own myopic souls. They provide piercing deep focus in articulating the profound and relevant questions posed by contemporary films, and they enable us to comprehend how those questions point us back to biblical themes, answers, and even more questions. This stellar work invites readers to join an ongoing conversation among some of the most cinematically literate companions one can find, covering film history, aesthetics and techniques, phases of production, theological interpretations, and personal significance."

Terry Lindvall, C. S. Lewis Endowed Chair of Communication and Christian Thought, Virginia Wesleyan University

"Deep Focus is a brilliant contribution to the growing canon of books on the intersection of theology and film. The authors know and love their territory and plumb the depths of cinema's historical and cultural landscape to break open films to find what is divine and authentically human. They explore a wide range of films from the silent era to the most current box-office hits and flow through diverse genres. The text is accessible and a pleasure to read."

Rose Pacatte, FSP, Pauline Center for Media Studies; film critic, National Catholic Reporter

"Deep Focus is an engaging, fluent, and timely book that goes beneath the surface of many recent and classic films. Three leading scholar-teachers offer readers different kinds of lenses through which to look at movies in fresh and imaginative ways. Drawing upon a wide range of popular films, they show how these historical, narrative, audiovisual, critical, ecclesial, theological, ethical, and cultural lenses can provide original, rich, and creative insights. Deep Focus is a must-read for anyone interested in the relation between theology and film."

Jolyon Mitchell, professor and director, Centre for Theology and Public Issues, University of Edinburgh

"Great movie choices, insightful analysis, wonderful prose, rich knowledge about film and theology--this book has it all. It's a great read for all who are interested in the field of film and theology and offers the necessary tools to engage in this conversation in a knowledgeable, substantial way. To read this volume is like going to the movies with the authors and afterward having deep conversations about cinema, faith, and life. Highly recommended!"

Stefanie Knauss, associate professor, Villanova University; author of More Than a Provocation: Sexuality, Media, and Theology

"Deep Focus is a worthy successor to Robert K. Johnston's seminal book Reel Spirituality. Rather than merely revising his nearly twenty-year-old classic, Johnston and collaborators Craig Detweiler and Kutter Callaway scrutinize the central premise of film and theology in dialogue by incorporating numerous case studies which range from recent Oscar winners Moonlight and Get Out to box-office hits like Mad Max: Fury Road and Wonder Woman. The authors provide an overview of Hollywood history, cinema aesthetics, production elements, and types of criticism, culminating with deep dives into the relationship between faith and film. Their discussion on the theologian's posture toward film--starting with avoidance, moving through caution, dialogue, appropriation, and ultimately, the possibility of divine encounter--proves invaluable. Likewise, their candid analysis of faith-based films' evolution during the past decades provides cogent insight. Another standout chapter examines the trauma of love in the work of Christopher Nolan. Deep Focus is essential reading not only for students but also for clergy and laity. Film's role in sustaining and transforming culture cannot be overstated. Americans' media consumption continues to rise while church attendance declines; people engaged in ministry must be media literate in order to communicate effectively to their congregants."

Thomas Parham, professor and executive director of screenwriting, Azusa Pacific University

The Authors

  1. Robert K. Johnston

    Robert K. Johnston

    Robert K. Johnston (PhD, Duke University) is professor of theology and culture at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, and codirector of Fuller's Reel Spirituality Institute. He is the coeditor of both the Engaging Culture and the Cultural...

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  2. Craig Detweiler

    Craig Detweiler

    Craig Detweiler (PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary) is an author, award-winning filmmaker, and cultural commentator who has been featured in the New York Times and on CNN, NPR, Fox News, and ABC's Nightline. He formerly served...

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  3. Kutter Callaway
    Jonathan Stoner

    Kutter Callaway

    Kutter Callaway (PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary) is associate professor of theology and culture at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. He is the author or coauthor of five books, including Deep Focus: Film and Theology in Dialogue.

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