A new documentary focused on the Adventist medical mission is being released on DVD April 15. The ADVENTISTS 2, created by filmmaker Martin Doblmeier, is a sequel to his film The ADVENTISTS.
Spectrum asked Doblmeier what the film is about and what sparked his interest in the Adventist church and mission.
Question: In 2010 you released a documentary film called The ADVENTISTS, about the history of the Seventh-day Adventist faith, and the church's message of health and its successes in medicine and promoting wellness. Now you have produced The ADVENTISTS 2. What is your new film about, and why did you feel the need to direct a sequel?
Answer: The first film, The ADVENTISTS, was created to introduce a general audience to Seventh-day Adventists and I chose to do it through the lens of health care and the impact Adventists have on the landscape of American healthcare.
But even as we were finishing production on The ADVENTISTS the idea of doing a second film focused on international medical missions was in my mind. And as I traveled the country doing special events with the first film, night after night people asked me to consider doing a second, more international film. That confirmed it for me. In speaking with Adventists all across the country I recognized their deep appreciation for both the history and the contemporary work of their medical missionaries.
I think theologically there is a natural extension to the international story as well.
At the core of the Adventist health success is a firm belief that my body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit – and because of that it deserves to be treated with reverence and respect.
But the language in the first film was “my body.” In this second film we see how people are willing to travel great distances and take themselves out of their comfort zone, so they can reach out and care for the total stranger. They do it because they recognize the body of that stranger is also a reflection of the Holy Spirit. And even though that person may be from a totally different culture and speak a totally different language, their broken or diseased body is in need of healing and the medical missionary does whatever is required to heal them. In that act of kindness, I think we see the best of the human spirit and a real appreciation for the presence of God in the stranger.
Question: There are many churches and religious communities providing healthcare around the world. Why do you feel the Adventist church deserves special consideration?
Answer: There are a number of faith traditions other than Adventists providing medical support globally. We talk in the film about how Buddhists and Muslims, Catholics and Baptists have a history of global medical work. The ADVENTISTS 2 is not intended in any way to diminish the efforts of other faiths. But in my mind, the Adventist story is unique, very dramatic and worthy of an hour of national television.
Question: What do you consider to be the most compelling part of your new film?
Answer: The film has six chapters and hopefully each has an element that is compelling – although for different reasons.
For me, the most powerful might have been the segment we filmed in Haiti that is a profile of the Adventist hospital in Port au Prince and an orthopedic surgeon, Scott Nelson, who volunteers there regularly. We were focusing on the aftermath of the recent earthquake – but in connecting to Dr. Nelson, we discovered these three young boys who were crippled from birth, and so we followed their story. In the 30 years I have been making films it was one of the most emotional stories I have encountered.
Question: When will the film be released, and how can we watch it?
Answer: The ADVENTISTS 2 will be available on DVD April 15. It will include the full one-hour film plus Bonus Features. It will be available through Pacific Press and at Adventist Bookstores nationwide. It will also be on Amazon. It is being scheduled to broadcast on PBS stations in September.
Question: How would you characterize the success of The ADVENTISTS? Were there lots of viewers outside the church?
Answer: The success of The ADVENTISTS was a great surprise. The PBS stations were delighted and it was renewed for a second two-year period, which means it will air on PBS stations for a total of four years to an estimated audience in the tens of millions.
It won a number of awards, including the Gabriel Award as the best film in America on a topic of religion. And the DVD reached #2 on Amazon, so clearly there was interest well beyond the Adventist community.
Question: The ADVENTISTS portrayed the Adventist church and its members very positively. What has been the reception to your filmmaking within the Adventist community? Do some people believe you should take a more critical approach?
Answer: What is interesting for me is that outside the Adventist community I am never asked why The ADVENTISTS film didn’t take a more critical approach. Viewers were fascinated by the story and inspired by the content. It is only in Adventist circles that people ask if I should have been more critical.
I am a Christian (though a non-Adventist), and I came away from the experience of making the first film with great appreciation for Adventists – but my focus was the health story and frankly, there is not a lot to criticize. The success speaks for itself.
Question: A number of donors, many with connections to Adventist healthcare, helped to fund The ADVENTISTS, correct? Did that have any impact on your objectivity?
Answer: Public television is very strict about making sure there is a wall between any funding organization and the filmmaker so there can be no editorial influence on the content of any film. I have produced films for PBS since the 1980’s, and that is a rule I believe in and closely adhere to.
Question: You are not an Adventist yourself. What sparked your interest in the Adventist faith? How do you view that faith personally, and has it impacted you and your spiritual life in any way?
Answer: The first film came about because two Adventist friends, Lee and Gary Blount, arranged a presentation of an earlier film of mine – BONHOEFFER – at Loma Linda University Church. It was during that weekend I was introduced to the medical side of Adventism and became convinced it would be a worthwhile topic for a film.
That is how the first film came about.
The focus for all my films is religion, faith and spirituality and frankly, I can’t imagine a topic more rich and provocative. These two films on Adventism in particular have given me a renewed appreciation for the Sabbath and the great gift it can be for those who accept it. And I have allowed the notion of my body being a Temple of the Holy Spirit to have impact on my daily life and I believe I am clearly better for it.
Question: What film project are you working on next? Are there any more stories to be told about the Adventist church?
Answer: We are editing now a new one-hour film on Adventist education that will look at Grades K-12 and the impact of a “whole person” approach that teaches to body, mind and spirit. That film will be completed in a few months.
You can buy The ADVENTISTS 2 on DVD at www.journeyfilms.com or at your local Adventist bookstore.
Martin Doblmeier, and his production company Journey Films, has produced more than 25 documentaries on religion, faith and spirituality. Doblmeier has won major awards and his films have aired on PBS, ABC, NBC, the BBC, The History Channel and other networks.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/5208