by James Ault
4-DVD set, color, 151 min with 225 min of extras, 2013
in English, Twi and Shona
with English subtitles
Christianity’s explosive growth in Africa was totally unexpected at the dawn of independence from colonial rule and is part of a startling reversal in world history. Christianity is no longer the religion of the West. Over two-thirds of the world’s Christians now live in the global South — with Africa growing the fastest.
With guidance from leading scholars, these films document the vitality and changing nature of Christianity in Africa. They explore the ways in which it is has become increasingly popular by becoming increasingly African — that is, by becoming rooted more authentically in local cultures. In Ghana and Zimbabwe, where we did our principal filming, we saw that this means emphasizing healing, for instance, or dancing as spiritual discipline, or addressing the multiplicity of spirits that are part and parcel of the world most Africans know.
We filmed stories that bring viewers into this world through the personal dramas of ordinary people wrestling with unmistakable, and at times gripping, human problems: for example, a young Pentecostal woman struggling to overcome bitterness toward her mother, or a teenager wracked by poverty, depression and guilt, who has been persuaded by a traditional healer that hateful relatives have placed a curse on her life. Her Methodist pastor brings in the church’s “prayer group” to pray against any spiritual powers that she, and they, suspect might be at work.
Such stories are illuminated by leading thinkers on the subject, like Archbishop Peter Sarpong of Ghana, a pioneer in introducing African cultures into Christian worship, and Kwame Bediako, one of Africa’s leading theologians. Furthermore, filming characters on routine “missions” to North America points to the impact African Christianity is having in the West, at a time when African congregations are taking over old churches in Holland, Norway and Sweden, for example, and the ten largest churches in Britain are African.
The films Complete Educational Edition includes 23 Educational Extras providing biographical sketches of key commentators, more detailed portraits of specific church communities, and the daily work of a traditional obosum priestess in Ghana competing for business with a prophet-founded church nearby.