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Far From the Tree (2017)

Directed, produced and written by John Wright

After Thanksgiving dinner, Bart Campolo asked his dad, the well-known preacher Tony Campolo, to sit down to talk. Bart wanted to give his father some unsettling news: that after a lifetime of work as a prominent minister himself, he was no longer a believer in the Christian faith. It was the beginning of a painful but meaningful exchange between a father and his son about belief, storytelling and the power of our relationships.

The year before, Bart had had a bicycle accident which left him severely concussed and in recovery, a process which served to make him feel the fragility of life and its preciousness. It was also the final stage in what Bart has called the ‘death by a thousand cuts’ of his faith in God.

The film revolves around a central dialogue between the two subjects, arcing through obvious delight and joy in each others’ company, tense discussions of theology, sadness and disappointment as they contemplate their differences, and support of each others’ respective positions and commitments. This is used to tell a story: of Bart growing up as the son of a famous Christian leader, emerging into full-time ministry himself, and losing faith over time. The audience is caused to ponder what he thinks, and what his father thinks, would have happened to him had he not survived the accident. We hear about the conversations between Bart and his wife Marty during his recovery, and about the decision to accept his new thinking and embrace a post-Christian life. We see Bart in his new life in secular ministry, which started with Bart as the Humanist Chaplain of the University of Southern California, building a community of people who, like him, want to figure out how to live a good, fulfilling and ethical life without faith. Tony comes to visit, and we join them in Los Angeles as they embark upon co-authoring a book about their experiences.

Tony Campolo is a Christian author, speaker and activist whom the New York Times describes as “one of the most important evangelical Christian preachers of the last 50 years.” Bart Campolo is a Humanist leader, author and public speaker whom the New York Times describes as “a rising star of atheism.”

Website at campolofilm.com.

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