A film inspired by a true story often has a good chance of receiving positive reviews and winning viewers’ hearts—along with high profits. But a film based on a true story often also engenders a great deal of controversy. There are the connotations of the term true that are at stake. What does it mean to tell a true story? Is it about achieving complete historical accuracy, or it is about conveying a message the truth of which is tied to historical events?
In a film based on a true story, the primary message is about a happening: something or someone happened at some point in history and left a traceable mark that’s worth telling about. The film uses fiction to deliver this message. In this case, fiction is neither lying nor denying the truth. Using the power of imagination, fiction creates infinite options for grasping the message conveyed by historical figures and events. It involves imagination about the possible meanings and the outcomes of that happening, not about the historical facts themselves; it is imagination in the sense of exploring possibilities, not in the sense of inventing realities. It is imagination in the sense that all viewers can find themselves in the story, can become the heroes they want to be. It is the kind of imagination proposed by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in The Little Prince, or by Martin Luther King, Jr. in his “I have a Dream” speech, or by John Lennon in his song Imagine.
What if the Bible were “viewed” as a film based on a true story?
After struggling for years longing for the ultimate way of understanding the Bible, I finally concluded that my struggling would have no end. I understood also that there was no ultimate way, but just away.
Watching television testimonies today often means hearing how people feel in different situations of life. Breaking news about a catastrophe is basically a report about what and how someone felt at the moment of that tragedy. And frequently, it is about what and how they felt in the aftermath of the event. Usually, the reporter tries to be empathetic regarding the subjects of his or her story. Actually, the simple fact of being at that place, on that spot, involves empathy. The same applies to happy events like sport, shows, or documentaries involving victory, accomplishment, celebration or astonishment.
The question “how did you feel?” is the verbal outcome of an everyday experience studied and described by psychologists as being the basis of life at its first undeveloped and uncomplicated emotional level. Once this question of feelings is addressed, the newsperson invites people to develop their story or their version of the event. As for the one watching TV at home, that person sees the whole thing throughout his or her feelings, and the simple fact of watching implies emotional involvement. I’ve had the opportunity to compare this media pattern in different countries on different continents while watching TV, and it is always the same.
This question is of paramount importance with respect to the study of the Bible. Continue reading →