When seminary student Macky Alston’s close friend and fellow minister-in-training dies of AIDS, Macky suffers a crisis of faith. When one of Alston’s seminary professors, Dr. James Cone, questions how the students in his class can develop a theology “that is credible in the face of 16 million dead” from AIDS and challenges the classroom with the question:”What kind of sermon are you going to preach?” Alston does not know. And so he sets out to discover how everyone and anyone, from atheists to Buddhists to Orthodox Jews, find meaning in a life that can seem so senseless.
Alston’s search takes the form of a feature documentary, for Macky Alston is also an award-winning filmmaker. This seminarian, while completing a graduate degree in theology and working as a hospital chaplain, tackles the big questions. Why do some find religion and others lose it? How can anyone believe in a loving and powerful God in the face of so much suffering?
Alston, who is also a board member of Hartley Film Foundation, considers the making of documentaries his ministry. In the spring 2004 issue of Cross Currents, he writes: “Making and presenting a documentary is, in my experience, a religious experience. At a screening last week at Harvard Divinity School … a woman in the audience asked if documentary filmmaking is a spiritual practice. I had never called it such, but as I began to reflect on the process of making a documentary film-of tracking down the sacred in everyday life, sifting through hours of footage for truth and meaning, and then holding it up for the world to appreciate-I knew it to be so.
In Questioning Faith, I explore how people reconcile faith with suffering and, in the course of the film, as I witness the heroic power of people to choose life in the face of death, I move in my own beliefs from great doubt to deep faith.”
Questioning Faith premiered at Full Frame Documentary Film Festival and HotDocs and was broadcast on HBO in 2002.
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