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Aronofsky’s ”Noah” treads water among evangelical groups

This image released by Paramount Pictures shows Jennifer Connelly, left, and Russell Crowe in a scene from "Noah." (AP Photo/Paramount Pictures, Niko Tavernise)

This image released by Paramount Pictures shows Jennifer Connelly, left, and Russell Crowe in a scene from “Noah.” (AP Photo/Paramount Pictures, Niko Tavernise)

HOST INTRO: An art exhibition curated by film director Darren Aronofsky opens today in Soho. Aronofsky generated controversy with films like Black Swan and Requiem for a Dream. This exhibition is filled with art inspired by the same story as his latest film. Noah, once again generating controversy. Caroline Ballard reports.

Film director Darren Aronofsky is known for provocative small films with small budgets. His new movie Noah cost $130 million to make. That’s a million dollars for every minute of screen time. It’s billed as an action adventure movie and stars Russell Crowe as Noah.

Fade up sound from Noah trailer. (0:08)

Film critic Leonard Maltin says Aronofsky is coming into a long tradition of storytellers.

MALTIN: Aronofsky is a very provocative filmmaker and though I don’t think they’ll ever be another time when I’ll mention him in the same breath as Cecil B Demill.

Demill was a huge director during the silent era. In the 1950s he made the classic The Ten Commandments, starring Charlton Heston.

MALTIN: Demill was a very populist storyteller and that was the key to his success and the key to the enduring success of that movie.

Aronofsky isn’t a populist director but he’s attempting to capture this same success. Protestant Evangelicals constitute about six percent of the total US population. Hollywood is already trying to get them in Noah’s theaters.

Thomas McKenzie is a pastor of a church in Nashville, Tennessee. He gets emails all the time about movies he should endorse.

MCKENZIE: An example would be Man of Steel. You know the superman movie that came out a little while ago. I got this thing that was like hey Man of Steel has all this Christian content and here we’ll send you a free guide in leading your congregation in watching Man of Steel and talking about it for six weeks. (0:25)

Hollywood thinks that could ensure good box office. Take the movie Son of God. It opened last Friday and got terrible reviews. But it was endorsed by Christian groups. So far it’s grossed over $30 million. Jerry A. Johnson is the CEO and President of National Religious Broadcasters. He isn’t crazy about Crowe’s portrayal of Noah.

JOHNSON: I don’t like this guy I’m not rooting for this guy he’s not a hero. (0:10)

Johnson and other leaders at the organization got to see the movie. He said Noah was aggressive and angry. In the Bible he’s described as righteous. Johnson sees the need for drama but says it just doesn’t jibe with his reading of the story.

JOHNSON: I think Aronofsky pushes this to a point that actually undermines the biography we do have of Noah in the text. And I just think people should be aware of that. That’s his interpretation. That’s not really the biblical spin on Noah. (0:11)

National Religious Broadcasters wrote a disclaimer for the film that will accompany all future promotional materials. It essentially says that the film is inspired the story of Noah. It’s not a line-by-line retelling.

One theologian at Eastern University says the criticism of this complaint about literalism isn’t the real issue.

ENNS: I think the real issue here isn’t taking artistic license, the real issue is who’s producing the movie. (0:05)

Peter Enns studies the Old Testament and wrote the book Genesis for Normal People. He says that Evangelicals are turned off by the fact that the director and producers aren’t Evangelicals themselves.

ENNS: You have liberal Hollywood destroying Christianity once again in a movie that’s only going to distort blah blah blah. It’s the other propaganda machine. Issues of artistic license and what not they tend to be obscured I think by those larger let’s call them political or ideological motives. (0:18)

Aronofsky’s film will have some competition when it opens. One Evangelical leader will release his own movie about Noah on Youtube.

Both films come out March 28th

Caroline Ballard, Columbia Radio News.

CORRECTION: The piece says that 6% of the U.S. population is Evangelical. According to the Pew Research forum it is closer to 26%.


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