WEST VANCOUVER—Priest and filmmaker Father Larry Lynn sees a night at the movies as another way to boost faith formation at his parish.

“Alpha, Discovery, Source, and other ways of trying to engage parishioners are great, and things are doing well in that regard. I thought: why not do something fun, too? It’s a different way of learning,” explained Father Lynn.

The cinematographer, who worked on 90s TV shows Breaker High and Are You Afraid of the Dark? before he became a priest, has launched monthly movie nights at St. Anthony’s in West Vancouver.

He opened the series of events Sept. 29 with The Way, starring Martin Sheen. The adventure-comedy follows a 40-year-old man who dies while hiking the Camino and his grieving father who decides to finish the pilgrimage for him.

“It’s a road trip where you meet a lot of characters along the way,” said Father Lynn. After the film, he asked the roughly 35 viewers: “What about that movie can we draw lessons about the faith?”

All good stories have themes of redemption and salvation, said Father Lynn, who created Kids in Jail, a documentary about at-risk youth, in 2013.

Any good film has, if you will, a Christ figure in it. What we’re talking about in any good film is redemption.
Father Larry Lynn

“Any good film has, if you will, a Christ figure in it. What we’re talking about in any good film is redemption,” he told The B.C. Catholic.

“For drama to be good, it has to take the character, run him or her through a bunch of challenges, and as the screenwriter Robert McKee said: ‘You send the protagonist up the tree and then you keep throwing rocks at him.’ Just when you think things can’t get any worse, they get worse, but eventually something happens. The person changes, and there is transformation.”

That transformation, plus some finer points about Catholic teaching (in this case, what the Church says about scattering ashes of the deceased), is what Father Lynn is interested in.

He said he won’t show strictly “Catholic” films, though movies such as Man for All Seasons (about St. Thomas More) and Dead Man Walking (inspired by the true story of a nun who befriended men on death row) are on his list for future movie nights.

His criteria are far broader: if the movie has an opening to talk about faith, redemption, or transformation, he may just feature it. Thanks to a suggestion from a parishioner, the next movie night, Oct. 27, will feature La La Land and conversations about love.

“If I was just programming the whole thing all by myself, it would satisfy very few people, I’m afraid. I like very difficult films,” said Father Lynn, who counts the dramatic and heartbreaking French films Diary of a Country Priest and Au Hasard Balthazar among his favourites.

“I like very difficult films, but (these movie nights) are not for me. I want people to come. I want women to feel like there’s something for them. I want young people to come.”

Father Lynn on the set of Kids in Jail. (Photo courtesy Jeff Vinnick / National Film Board of Canada)

Father Lynn hopes members of St. Anthony’s and nearby parishes will come with movie suggestions and even offer to lead the discussions. “I’m trying to build it so people from outside of the parish come. It is movies and it’s fun, but it’s also faith-based.”

His priestly ordination in 2015 didn’t put an end Father Lynn’s filmmaking career. He has just finished In the Spirit of Reconciliation, a documentary about Aboriginal people, residential schools, and forgiveness.

“I went out there and met all these Aboriginal people in Yellowknife, Behchoko, and Fort Providence who had been in residential schools. One guy is a mayor of Fort Providence, another is the commissioner of the Northwest Territories,” he said.

“These people tell their stories about their lives in residential schools. Some go deeper than others. They went through it, they struggled in their lives after that, and they looked at what the sources of the problems were. They dealt with it, worked on it, and moved on. Their path is what this film is about.”

He hopes In the Spirit of Reconciliation will be released this November. “This film is timely. It’s a really important film.”

The filmmaking priest hosts movie nights at St. Anthony’s Parish on the last Friday of each month. More information is available by phoning the parish.