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Filmmaker, scholar James Ault to present new documentary on growth of Christianity in Africa

by Louisville Seminary | Mar 09, 2011
Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary will host filmmaker, scholar, and author James Ault for a screening and discussion of his new documentary, African Christianity Rising: Stories from Ghana, which addresses the question, What does Christianity’s explosive growth in Africa mean for Africa and the world?

The campus community and the public are invited to attend March 17, 7—9 p.m., in Nelson Hall (Room 118) at Louisville Seminary (1044 Alta Vista Road).

“At Louisville Seminary we have launched the Doors to Dialogue (D2D) program to help prepare our graduates for ministry and leadership in a world of increasing religious pluralism. Our program is simultaneously cognitive, vocational, and experiential as we participate in the formation of the church’s next leaders who have the capacity to engage and participate in interreligious and interfaith dialogue with respect, compassion, and thoughtfulness. Dr. Ault’s program is highly complementary to those commitments,” said Seminary Dean David C. Hester. “We are very fortunate to have him screening his film on our campus.”

Andrew Walls, founder of The Journal of Religion in Africa and the Centre for the Study of Global Christianity at the University of Edinburgh, has called these films “striking, powerful and clarifying—they pack more information and present it more tellingly than would vast areas of print.” Terence Ranger, Professor of African History at Oxford, called his early roughcuts "The most penetrating and informative material I have ever seen on African Christianity, bringing out its vitality and variety without ever sensationalizing or exoticising."

Ault is an award–winning filmmaker and scholar educated at Harvard and Brandeis (Ph.D. in Sociology). As a student of African politics and culture, he lived and worked in Zambia. His first film, Born Again: Life in a Fundamentalist Baptist Church, won a Blue Ribbon at the American Film Festival, and his book on the same project, Spirit and Flesh (Knopf, 2004), was named one of the best non-fiction books of the year. With funding from the Pew Charitable Trusts and the John Templeton Foundation, he is completing a documentary series on African Christianity from more than 300 hours of videography in a variety of Christian communities in Ghana, Zimbabwe, and the United States.

In working on his documentary, Ault has also considered the power of video in today’s YouTube society, and says he “has a passion for trying to help educators for the church capitalize on what digital video now makes possible.” He has taught sociology, ethnographic film and documentary filmmaking at Smith College, the University of California, and, as Spoelhof Chair, at Calvin College. Currently, he is writing a book on this project that will have links to video embedded in the text and has begun posting some of these materials online at www.vimeo.com/channels/57182

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