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Film Collection Featured at Launch Celebration

By Rachel Judy

April 19, 2012

Librarian Robert Sivigny leads a tour through Regent's film collection.

Librarian Robert Sivigny leads a tour through Regent's film collection.

As one of the earliest buildings completed on the Regent University campus, the University Library holds a special place in Regent's history. Its historical value, however, is greater than just the building itself. The University Library is also the home of a large collection of Christian filmspast and presentwhich numbers more than 3,500 films.

Items from Regent's film collection were recently featured in Celluloid Sermons: The Emergence of the Christian Film Industry, 1930-1986, written by School of Communication & the Arts Professor Andrew Quicke and Dr. Terry Lindvall, the C.S. Lewis Professor of Communication and Christian Thought at Virginia Wesleyan College.

The book was introduced at a launch celebration hosted by the University Library on Tuesday, April 17. The launch featured clips from some of Regent's 16mm films and a display of several antique projectors. The library also offered tours of the fourth floor, which houses Regent's film collection. Tours were led by Don Gantz, special collections supervisor, and librarian Robert Sivigny.

Dr. Sara Baron, dean of the University Library, offered welcoming remarks; Dr. Paul Bonicelli, executive vice president, opened the celebration with prayer and reflection; and Dr. Mitch Land, dean of the School of Communication & the Arts, introduced the authors.

Quicke and Lindvall shared stories of finding and "harvesting" film collections for research, many of which are now housed in Regent's library. "We began to find people behind the films," Lindvall said. "We realized that no matter how poorly they've been made, these films have had a tremendous impact on innumerable people."

Quicke and Lindvall had easy access to several of the films that made their way into the book, thanks to Regent's collection, which numbers more than 3,500 films.

The book is a culmination of 20 years of research, and is the second installment of a three part series on Christian film. The first was written by Lindvall, Sanctuary Cinema: The Origins of the Christian Film Industry. The third is currently being written by Quicke about contemporary Christian film-makers, provisionally titled Christian Box Office: 1986-2010.

Celluloid Sermons is "a book that could only be written at Regent University," Quicke explained during an earlier interview. "No one has written much about Christian filmmaking."

While movies like Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, Fireproof and, more recently, Courageous, are films with Christian principles, the films Quicke focused on are ones that were professionally made for use in preaching and teaching by churches. "It's a fascinating sociological look at, say, what a Lutheran church thought about dating," he said.

"Although suspicion toward the film industry marked many conservatives during the early 1930s, many Christian leaders came to believe in the power of technology to convert or to morally instruct people," the book's Amazon description reads. "Thus the growth of a Christian film industry was an extension of the Protestant tradition of preaching."

The book looks at key films and individuals during the 50-year timeframe, from films produced by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association to apocalyptic "end-time" films and Focus on the Family's instructional videos.

Quicke, who has been on the Regent faculty since 1986, was instrumental in obtaining many of these films for the library's special collections. He currently teaches in the Cinema-Television Department.

The University Library houses two collections of Christian films. The first is the Christian Film Collection, which includes works from production companies such as Cathedral Films, Moody Bible Institute, Johnson-Nyquist, Mars Hill, Concordia, Ken Anderson Films, and World-Wide Pictures. The second is the C. O. Baptista Film Collection and Archives, which represents the work of the C.O. Baptista Film Mission of Wheaton, Ill. The core of the collection consists of 89 original 16mm film titlesboth live and animated motion picturesdating from the 1940s.

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