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INTERFAITH ALLIANCE STATE OF BELIEF RADIO APRIL 5, 2014 RUSH TRANSCRIPT: Ari Handel Click here for video

Click here for audio [REV. DR. C. WELTON GADDY, HOST]: Perhaps surprising in an age of Muppets Most Wanted and The Lego Movie, an epic drama that draws its inspiration from the Hebrew Scriptures opened in the top spot last weekend. Noah is not the first in the recent spate of religiously-themed films, but its certainly the biggest so far. And Im very pleased to be able to welcome Noah cowriter and co-executive producer Ari Handel to State of Belief Radio! [ARI HANDEL, GUEST]: Hi, Reverend, how are you? [WG]: Im doing well. I appreciate your presence very much. When did you first start thinking about bringing the Noah story back to the big screen? [AH]: Well, it was over ten years ago. Weve even been writing it since 2003, so I think we were thinking about it even earlier than that. [WG]: Im curious, to work on it that long and to spend as much money as you spent did this story have some personal attraction for you? [AH]: Yeah I mean, look: I think everyone is drawn to this story. Its an extremely powerful story. Theres a reason why its one of the best-known names from the bible. And theres a reason why every kid on the planet knows about it, whether theyre religious or non-religious. In China and India and everywhere, the Noah character is incredibly well-known. So theres something fundamentally powerful about this story. [WG]: Right. Let me ask you and I may be splitting hairs, here, but was it important to you and attractive to you because it was a great story, or because it was a great bible story? [AH]: Both. [WG]: Both. [AH]: Both. And thats not splitting hairs, because look: as a filmmaker and a writer, Im drawn to great stories, right? But because this was a bible story, not only was it a great story, but the depth of the questions and the themes that it

allows you to wrestle with and think about and explore was that much richer. And so that was just a very unique opportunity to be able to take a story like this and really get deep into it because it rewards that kind of attention. [WG]: Yeah. I know that there has been a lot made of the fact that Hollywood is really committed to making a lot of religiously-themed films in 2014. Are there any particular challenges in making a religiously-themed film? [AH]: Sure. Theres various kinds of challenges: first theres the challenge of translating a story from one medium to another, and trying to remain faithful to it when you, at the same time, are making it work dramatically in another medium, and trying to mine it for You know, a lot of these stories - especially in early Genesis theyre not told in a traditional way we expect in this kind of a modern story, or a story thats not from the bible. They have a parable nature to them. They reward questions. Theyre something that you interact with dynamically; you dont just tell the story, you talk about the story, you think about the story, you debate about the story. And scenes and questions come out of that, that living interaction with a biblical story. So, how do you do that in a film? How do you create that kind of dynamic? Well, what you end up doing is creating conversations around the film, and posing questions, and answering those questions in one way that leaves room for other ways to present it. So it is quite challenging to do. [WG]: Im sure! When you saw the film the first time, did you say, We nailed it. We got it right. Did you feel really good about it? [AH]: Yes, although We nailed it it becomes complicated at that point, because we had a script at some point, and then we went to shoot the script, and then we went to edit what was shot and so then you come back with your final product, and you say, okay, theres always going to be differences between what you have at that time, and what you set out to do. Because the actors come and bring something; the vagaries of the realities of shooting on the set; the weather everything the set designers; the propsmen; the costumes Everything brings something to it that changes it; sometimes in ways that are great, sometimes in ways that are unexpected, but you end up with something that is different. So then at the end, when you put all that together, the question you then have is, does this capture the essence and heart of what it is that you set out to do in the first place. And Im thankful to say that I felt like it did. [WG]: Well, I know that youre not surprised that youre getting criticism. I think that a lot of the criticism that Ive heard is either naive or its borderline offensive. We are taping this interview today in Macon, Georgia. It is very different for a crowd in the theater in Macon to watch this film, and a crowd in New York City to

watch this film. And so youre getting charged with being not biblical enough, and also too biblical! How are you responding to that? [AH]: Well, look: all we could do, and what we did, is to look at the Genesis story, honestly ask ourselves, What is this story making me think about? What questions is it raising for me? What hard problems is it putting forward that I have to grapple with? What emotions is it pulling up in me? And then how do I be true to those feelings and questions and thoughts and emotions, dramatize those, put those on the screen, and hope to make other people feel some of those same things? And do that in a way which does not contradict anything in Genesis but at the same time, upset expectations enough that people can let go of their preconceived notions of what the story is, exactly, in order to come to it fresh and exposed and raw a little bit; so they can really engage. Thats all we can do. I feel like we did that; we tried to do that. And then if that leads to controversy you know, controversys okay if what it is is people talking, and thinking, and dialoguing and debating. Once it becomes people yelling at each other then its not really that constructive anymore. So hopefully most of the controversy about this film, especially once people start to see it, and to see it open-mindedly, will become debate and dialogue and less of it will be about name-calling and people getting mad at each other. [WG]: That is so well said. And Ari, I dont have to tell you, but if people are reading the bible and its not controversial theyre not reading it very well! [AH]: Thats kind of what Im saying. These are stories that need to be engaged with actively. Theyre presented to us in ways, like I said, theyre parabalistic; theyre presented in a way that were supposed to be asking questions. They reward asking questions; there are contradictions in them and confusions in them at first glance, that its only by thinking about them more strongly and more carefully that you start to get into some of the deeper and second-layer meaning. [WG]: Ari, Im interested Im sorry, I know were limited in time, and theres something personal I want to ask you, and that is: what, if anything, did doing this project mean to you, personally? [AH]: Well, its funny. When I started working on this, I was a single man; and during the process of writing this film, I had two children, and I have been raising those children theyre now 4 and 7. And so I started to see this movie and this story a lot through the eyes of family, and of children and father. And you know, the Noah story starts with a genealogy: Adam begat; and it ends with a genealogy, as it tells us what happened to Noahs sons children. And theres a lot here about the responsibilities of parenting, and if you can think of God in the story, really, as a parent to humanity, and he has to figure out, a little bit, whether to treat their transgressions with justice or with mercy. And I saw a big parallel with that of how I try and raise my children, and what is the right pathway to taking care of your children. So I found a lot of deep import in it. I guess the

biggest thing is the more you look at this story, the deeper you get into the story, the more it tells you. [WG]: Well, thats a brilliant statement, and I understand what wisdom you brought to this. Just one more question: when people leave the theater, if you had your way, what would they be thinking or feeling? [AH]: You know, I hope that people will come out and they will have been knocked on their heels a little bit because it wasnt what they thought they were going to see, and that there was something different there than what they expected, and that they felt something. And then I hope that theyre going to come out with a strong drive to turn to the person next to them maybe not right away, maybe in two hours and want to talk about what they saw, and think about it, and discuss it, because hopefully it didnt just lay out answers, but posed a lot of questions that are worth discussing. So if that happens, I would be very happy. [WG]: Ari Handel is co-writer, with director Darren Aronofsky, of the #1 film in this country, Noah. Mr. Handel, I really do appreciate not only your time, but you certainly have given us a good insight into the question-raising kind of stimulating of the brain that ought to happen in a film like this. You did it well, and were very grateful for an interview with you. [AH]: Well thank you for saying so. [WG]: Take care of yourself. [AH]: All right. Bye-bye.

State of Belief is based on the proposition that religion has a positive and healing role to play in the life of the nation. The show explains and explores that role by illustrating the vast diversity of beliefs in America the most religiously diverse country in the world while exposing and critiquing both the political manipulation of religion for partisan purposes and the religious manipulation of government for sectarian purposes. Each week, the Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy offers listeners critical analysis of the news of religion and politics, and seeks to provide listeners with an understanding and appreciation of religious liberty. Rev. Gaddy tackles politics with the firm belief that the best way to secure freedom for religion in America is

to secure freedom from religion. State of Belief illustrates how the Religious Right is wrong wrong for America and bad for religion. Through interviews with celebrities and newsmakers and field reports from around the country, State of Belief explores the intersection of religion with politics, culture, media, and activism, and promotes diverse religious voices in a religiously pluralistic world. Author of more than 20 books, including First Freedom First: A Citizens Guide to Protecting Religious Liberty and the Separation of Church and State, the Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy leads the national non-partisan grassroots and educational organization Interfaith Alliance and serves as Pastor for Preaching and Worship at Northminster (Baptist) Church in Monroe, Louisiana. In addition to being a prolific writer, Dr. Gaddy hosts the weekly State of Belief radio program, where he explores the role of religion in the life of the nation by illustrating the vast diversity of beliefs in America, while exposing and critiquing both the political manipulation of religion for partisan purposes and the religious manipulation of government for sectarian purposes. Dr. Gaddy provides regular commentary to the national media on issues relating to religion and politics. He has appeared on MSNBCs The Rachel Maddow Show and Hardball, NBCs Nightly News and Dateline, PBSs Religion and Ethics Newsweekly and The Newshour with Jim Lehrer, C-SPANs Washington Journal, ABCs World News, and CNNs American Morning. Former host of Morally Speaking on NBC affiliate KTVE in Monroe, Louisiana, Dr. Gaddy is a regular contributor to mainstream and religious news outlets. While ministering to churches with a message of inclusion, Dr. Gaddy emerged as a leader among progressive and moderate Baptists. Among his many leadership roles, he is a past president of the Alliance of Baptists and has been a 20-year member of the Commission of Christian Ethics of the Baptist World Alliance. His past leadership roles include serving as a member of the General Council of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, President of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Chair of the Pastoral Leadership Commission of the Baptist World Alliance and member of the World Economic Forums Council of 100. Rev. Gaddy currently serves on the White House task force on the reform of the Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Prior to the fundamentalist takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), Dr. Gaddy served in many SBC leadership roles including as a member of the

conventions Executive Committee from 1980-84 and Director of Christian Citizenship Development of the Christian Life Commission from 1973-77. Dr. Gaddy received his undergraduate degree from Union University in Jackson, Tennessee and his doctoral degree and divinity training from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.