By Mary Cass
PARK CITY — Mostly hidden from the general public at the Sundance Film Festival, students and professors of film from Christian colleges and seminaries across the country will explore some of humanity’s most disturbing questions.
The founders of this weeklong ecumenical seminar, called Windrider Forum, are Peabody award-winning film producers John and Ed Priddy. The Priddy brothers created this platform to equip Christian leaders in their calling as redemptive storytellers and creative catalysts, encouraging them to pursue excellence in their vocations and work as filmmakers, clergy and ministry leaders.
The Windrider Forum’s theme is “framing the art of spiritual conversation in a changing culture.” In its 14th year, Windrider anticipates 200 participants from more than 20 Christian universities and seminaries, all which offer full course credit for the forum. Members of the Park City faith community, including St. Mary of the Assumption Parish, offer housing to participants. Also, Family Theater Productions, part of Holy Cross Ministries of Utah, has been a partner and sponsor of Windrider Forum at Sundance for many years.
“It’s been an amazing 14 years from how we originally envisioned Windrider,” John Priddy said. “We always saw it as an ecumenical gathering, leadership forum and classroom, but the forum has become a place where the power of story is explored in its potential to create bridges and open conversation within the broader culture.”
Many of the Windrider Forum staff are professionals in the film industry or professors of the craft who organize the morning sessions and open dialogues with Sundance filmmakers.
“I believe that God can speak through whomever and however He wants,” said Craig Detweiler, filmmaker and professor, during a panel comprised of Windrider’s professional staff. “What we have at Sundance are filmmakers who are troubled by society’s broken parts. We at Windrider, instead, come here as a people driven by hope, saying ‘Yes, there is great pain in this world but there are also enduring and transcendent promises.’ In the Gospel of Luke Jesus said, ‘If they remain silent, even the very stones will cry out,’ (Lk19:40) and I believe those stones could include filmmakers, songwriters, artists and storytellers. The heart of God is being expressed today in variable ways. Here we are trying to cultivate a new generation of students who have eyes to see and ears to hear and express God’s presence in the world. As a film professor I hope I can empower them to tell post-modern parables.”
Cathy Barsotto, author and professor of theology and culture, has been bringing students to Windrider since its onset.
“So often as Christians we live in a bubble,” she said. “What this experience exposes the students to is what I call public theology. When these students go out from the morning sessions with their fellow Christians and staff, they ride the buses, stand in the lines, take part in the Q and A’s, and get into conversations. They are having to learn how to engage with people that may be very different from themselves, who see the world in a different way. They are challenged to listen and open their hearts as well as their minds and say, ‘Might I learn something from someone who doesn’t think the way I do?’ It is this interaction that helps them learn, become better listeners, and venture out of their bubble of like mindedness to discover new ways to make the Gospel known in word and deed.”
The opening night of the Windrider Forum will include a buffet dinner followed by public program of selected shorts and a presentation of the Spirit of Windrider Award.
WHAT: Windrider Forum Opening Night
WHEN: Monday, Jan. 22, 5-9 p.m.
WHERE: Park City Stake Center, 2300 Monitor Dr., Park City
Free and open to the public. The opening night includes a buffet dinner and a program of selected shorts and presentation of the Spirit of Windrider Award. For information, contact Mary V. Cass, firstname.lastname@example.org.