We, Catholic creatives of every discipline and every profession, are answering the call to beauty: the call to reveal the mystery of God’s love to the modern heart. We are gathering around one powerful idea — that the 8 beatitudes are some of the most subversive teachings in human history. They carry within them a depth of meaning which atheist, agnostic, humanist or Christian can encounter. That’s why we — Catholic filmmakers, designers, artists, marketeers from all over the world — are teaming up to create 8beats, a feature-length anthology of short films on the 8 beatitudes.
It sounded interesting. So I tracked down Dallas-based filmmaker Anthony D’Ambrosio, founder of 8beats, and asked him what this is all about.
So what is 8beats?
8beats is a film about the beatitudes, split into eight short films by eight directors. It’s a collaboration by Catholic creatives, rallying over 75 filmmakers, designers, marketing professionals and artists from across North America. It has been divided into eight regional teams. Each team will produce and distribute a 5-to-12-minute short film inspired by the themes of the eight beatitudes. Each film will be done to the highest standard possible.
What are you hoping to achieve?
Catholic media has been known for being melodramatic or lacking in artistic care. As a Church, and as Catholics, we have not lived up to John Paul II’s call for artists to tell truth through beauty, or Pope Benedict’s call to bring the Gospel to the “Digital Continent.” The Catholic creatives community has set out to change that.
We want to create eight dynamic “icons” that transcend conventional barriers through inspired storytelling. These stories will not shy away from the darker and more difficult matters of life. In doing so, we hope to give other Catholic artists permission to make art that can speak about sin, darkness, hope and love in ways that dialogue with modern culture.
The 8beats film collaboration marks a sea change in how our generation of Catholic artists will create new works through collaboration.
Who is your audience?
We are mainly creating these for de-churched or un-churched young adults, or for Christian young adults who are grappling with questions of faith.
Why does God allow suffering? Does God exist? What do we do with grief? What is the meaning of sexuality? What hope is there for those of us who experience poverty or weakness? Those who earnestly wrestle with these questions, in the way that Israel wrestled with God, are the people we want to reach with these films.
How did you manage to find so many filmmakers who are also Catholic?
There is an unbelievable amount of untapped talent in the Church. We simply don’t know how to communicate or discover each other. A few years ago, a community called Catholic Creatives began, and through it, many filmmakers and artists were able to discover each other and begin talking online.
Okay, so define a “Catholic creative.”
The term is, in some ways, a misnomer — or is, at best, redundant. Creativity is a foundational part of what it means to be made in the image and likeness of God. Every person shares in God’s creative nature in some way. We bring about new life where there is none, we build systems, we decorate homes, we communicate and build relationships — all this is creative work. We have a call, then, as we draw closer to God and grow in holiness, to hone our creativity, to hone our ability to problem solve, to see solutions where others can’t even see problems. We Catholics created the university system; we created modern beer; we created the scientific method and discovered the “Big Bang” theory, to name only a few things. We are called to continue to partner with God in the creation of his kingdom.
Everyone is called to be a creative Catholic. If they are serious about growing their creative faculties, then they are welcome to participate in our movement.
If this is a movement, where are you hoping to take us?
We want to see a “New Renaissance” happen in this generation. During the Italian Renaissance, a flood of innovation and creativity sprang from the Church, and it impacted all arenas of life: education, philosophy, art, culture, politics and business. Catholics led the world and made countless innovations that shifted the course of history. One cannot study that time in history without studying the Gospel. We believe that Catholics are poised once more to be leaders in this, but only if we continue to come together and commit to creative excellence.
What’s next for you?
Probably a day off!
Sounds like you’re going to need it. Tell me, who inspires you in the world of film?
I am probably not the best person to ask about that. There are many others in the project who are better versed in the world of cinema. I will answer for myself and not the whole team in saying that Krzysztof Kieślowski’s acclaimed 10-part anthology Dekalog was seminal inspiration for the project.
I love the work of Salomon Ligthelm; his Anomaly short film was amazing. The Cage by Ricky Staub was also an amazing work.
In terms of feature-length films, The Tree of Life by Terrence Malick was also deeply formative. I’ve also always found Mel Gibson’s work in The Passion of the Christ (and his other films) to be inspiring.
Instead of current feature films as inspiration, I’d pick long-form high-production television shows. I have loved The Walking Dead and Stranger Things — and probably more than I have liked any movie.
Who inspires you spiritually?
I am writing a short film on St. Maximilian Kolbe. I am very inspired by him at the moment.
Who is the patron saint of 8beats?
Ha. This has actually been a great point of contention for us. We have gone between St. Maximilian Kolbe, Our Lady of Guadalupe and Pope John Paul the Great. Out of all the creative conflicts involved in this project, I would have to say that this happened to be the most insoluble. In the end, we have settled on all three.
8beats comes at a time when, as a cultural force, Hollywood is in decline. To many, it looks as if it is losing its once-powerful grip on the film industry. Perhaps this is not such a bad thing. And, if this is indeed the case, it is from the ruins of that modern-day “Babylon” that a “New Jerusalem” will be built, and, seemingly, “eight beats” at a time.
K.V. Turley writes from London.