Chasing God.

Narrated by Dawn French. Directed by Lenny de Vries.
Running Time: 52 mins.
Rated: Rated G
Chasing God is playing to selected cinemas through Australia. It's a documentary about the big questions: Does God exist? What is God like? Can we trust religious experience? Does God send evil things? Director Lenny de Vries canvases various answers to these questions. We hear from Cardinal Arinze in the Vatican, and officials from other Christian denominations, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Judaism. Australian's most famous atheist, Philip Adams also gets a run.

Chasing God is well named. For a film lasting 52 minutes, it bites off far more than it can chew, and never settles for long in the exploration of the answers to the question it proposes. The film seems breathless in its pursuit of the truth it is seeking. Worried that the material may be too heavy or boring there are a barrage of images and interviews cut together. Not all of the film marries neatly.

For instance given that all the major religions of the world have mystical elements within them, one of the fascinating questions Chasing God asks is what do these respective mystics encounter? Are these experiences of God related, mutually exclusive or a projection of psychological need? Like every other topic it covers, this film races around the world for a quick sound bite from Rome to Rajasthan, providing only the most superficial of responses to a profound enquiry.

The well-known UK comic Dawn French, the Vicar of Dibley, provides the narration. Whatever of her fine voice and appeal to a younger audience, her narration brings too light a touch to the important issues the film opens up.

As a primer for a discussion about the nature of God, religious truth and interreligious dialogue, Chasing God has some merit, but don't see it if you want anything substantial to reflect upon. All the positions presented in this film, including our own, are much richer and more nuanced than we find presented here.

Fr Richard Leonard is the director of the Australian Catholic Film Office.

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