Originally published in Charisma News
If you want to see what the Holy Spirit is doing worldwide, you do not want to miss these four movies—Almost Holy, Mully, Free Burma Rangers and Emanuel.
Each one is unique in its relevance for today and an inspiration to believers worldwide.
With the world’s focus on Ukraine, this film is more relevant today than when it was released in 2015. Steve Hoover’s documentary ruthlessly paints the city of Mariupol, Ukraine, as it was in the early 2000s post-communist aftermath of the Soviet Union’s fall. The lens of the story centers on Pentecostal pastor-turned-vigilante Gennadiy Mokhnenko. He kidnaps street kids and adopts them, forces kids into drug rehabilitation, punches pedophiles and shuts down drug-dealing pharmacists.
Mokhnenko’s critics in Ukraine call him a vigilante, arguing that his “actions can end badly.” When he’s accused of taking the law into his own hands, he simply replies, “I do,” and adds, “And despite that, God strengthened my fist in the process.”
While exposing a cesspool of corruption in Ukraine’s institutions and mourning an inevitable war with Russia, Almost Holy honestly blends the hope and heartbreak of a pastor who cares about Ukrainian street kids.
IMDB gives the film a 7.5 out of 10. I give it a 10.
It’s hard to write a review of a film whose story seems so impossible only God could write it. For me it’s a little like reviewing the Bible. While I’m not comparing this film to Scripture, I am saying that if you want to believe nothing is impossible with God, watch this movie!
As a young Kenyan boy, Charles Mully woke up in his hut to find that his family had abandoned him. For 10 years, he begged on the streets to survive. “I became hard,” Mully says. “I became full of hatred. I became a street boy.” He hated his life and wanted to commit suicide.
At Mully’s lowest point, a young man invited him to a church for prayer and fellowship. During the service, he heard the preacher say, “Work hard, and by faith, there is nothing impossible before God.”
And that’s where the story begins. It would be easy to recount every twisting detail and every miracle that happened along the way, but I want you to see this documentary for yourself.
IMDB gives it an 8.1 I give it a 10.
‘Free Burma Rangers‘
“Pray with faith. Act with courage. Never surrender.” This motto drives a team of rangers who provide medical assistance to and document the stories of indigenous people targeted by the Burmese government for genocide. Led by David Eubank, a former US Army Special Forces officer, the Free Burma Rangers are not pacifists. Many of them carry medicine, video cameras and guns.
Because of their constant documentation of war and genocide, the raw grit of this film punched me in the gut with real footage that I will never forget. A man runs behind a tank through gunfire, smoke and the rubble of a city to save a girl who’s hiding under her dead mother’s clothing. A woman wraps an electrical line around her wrist and is dragged over rocks to avoid being shot by ISIS. And a man is shot six times including once in the throat in a rain of enemy bullets. None of it is reenacted.
While the jarring battle and rescue scenes could make Eubank and his team seem like unadulterated heroes, the filmmakers are careful not to make Eubank a cheesy, glorified caricature of himself. Instead, they document the battle raging within him and other members of his team.
Eubank honestly admits in one scene, “I want to kill every Burmese soldier. That’s how I feel.” In another scene, after a little girl is murdered in front of him, he vows to hunt down every member of ISIS, but then he recants his vow after God teaches him the difference between vengeance and justice.
“You know, it would be really simple if the world was just like ‘Lord of the Rings.’ Here’s the humans, and the elves, and the dwarves, and the hobbits, and we’re pretty good. And there’s the evil orcs, and they’re all terrible,” says Eubank. “But in real life, the line of good and evil isn’t between us and other people. As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said … ‘The line is in our hearts—each human’s heart. This is the first battle.'”
Eubank and his team struggle with praying for and forgiving their enemies, but they choose to do it out of submission to God.
Eliya, a medic and one of the rangers, says, “Loving your enemy and praying for your enemy is not easy, but I have to try.” He continues, “That is not easy. Pray for your enemy. Love your enemy. But your enemy will become your friend someday.”
Throughout the movie, I realised when the Free Burma Rangers repeat their motto, it’s not just a motivational axiom. They pray with faith for their friends and enemies. They act with courage in the face of danger. And they never surrender to the enemy or their own hatred.
IMDB gives it a 7.7. I give it a 10.
When Dylann Roof, a white male, entered Mother Emanuel AME Church, the members of the Bible study, all of whom were black, invited him to join. After he sat with them for 30 minutes, the group bowed their heads to pray. When they did, Roof opened fire and killed nine members of the Bible study. Instead of calling for his death sentence, the victims’ family members who spoke to him in court forgave him.
Emanuel pays appropriate respect to the victims by giving detailed accounts of how the shooting impacted family members. “I break down and cry—started screaming. I said this can’t be for real. This can’t be,” says Nadine, whose mother, Ethel W. Lance, was shot to death.
Other family members, journalists and city officials emphasize the terror, grief and confusion with stories. Without depending on heavy-handed dramatization, director Brian Ivie skillfully weaves many of their sobering stories, views and experiences into one cohesive narrative.
He allows room for dissenting voices of BLM activists and other family members to criticize the forgiveness. He also lets the backdrop of Charleston’s racist past speak for itself without politicizing it.
The film will surprise you with the spontaneity of the unplanned statements of forgiveness for Dylann Roof. It’s almost like the same person was working behind the scenes to bring forgiveness and unity to the Charleston community.
IMDB gives it a 7.5. I give it a 9.
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