The Riot and the Dance Film Review
Words by Brian Sauvé
There is a riot seething on the other side of your front door—a conflagration of cawing, screeching, bellowing, singing life. The world, indeed, red in tooth and claw. There is also a great dance transpiring—every molecule and hummingbird and pine needle and solar flare and prairie vole keeping step. This riot and dance is as intricate as it is ancient, and you are a participant in it, whether or not you are aware of it.
That’s a sampling of the thoughts I wrestled with as I walked out of The Riot and the Dance, an adventurous new nature documentary. The film, featuring Dr. Gordon Wilson, is a different kind of nature movie. In a genre crammed with visual feasts (think Planet Earth), story is firmly in command here. “The Word of God is not just written in black and red letters on onion-skin pages, it’s living and breathing in the mountains and the deserts and the trees,” Wilson pronounces. The rest of the film aims to unfold this great claim in word and picture.
The script, written by author N.D. Wilson, evokes the wonder and the horror of a world made by God, yet deformed by sin. Therein lies the aim of the film, to unveil the improbable glory of this created world we inhabit, as well as the fallenness evident in everything from the sexual practices of elephant seals to the venom of the King Cobra. The film was, in my estimation, successful in this aim, pairing beautiful footage with well-paced and quality narration.
The Riot and the Dance is a good model for Christians who would engage the world with art, story, and science. It’s not a debate movie; neither the age of the earth nor arguments about evolution are in focus, necessarily. It’s also not the kind of Christian film where the art itself is nothing more than a flimsy receptacle for an evangelistic presentation. No, this film is more about telling the story of the world in such a way as to move and shock you, in the process revealing the absurdity of believing our world to be accidental and meaningless.
I can envision a secular humanist leaving the theater with a slightly unsettled feeling lodged in his gut. Redwood trees really are pretty improbable things, come to think of it. A four-million-pound, self-replicating, solar-powered organism that lives on sunlight captured through millions of … tiny needles?
Story is sneakier than syllogism when it comes to penetrating hardened hearts, no doubt. The Riot and the Dance is all about that kind of keen anthropological insight, leveraging the powerfully explanatory story of the cosmos contained in the Scriptures held up against the living testimony of God’s grandeur we call nature. This translates into a film that engages without feeling preachy, but also without sacrificing joyful, bold proclamation of the Christian faith.
“Part I: Earth,” which initially ran for one day only, will be returning to theaters for an encore on April 19th (tickets go on sale on April 6th). “Part II: Water” is scheduled for release in 2019.