Who Is God, Anyway?
Articles Inspirational articles from Hay House authors
Who Is God, Anyway?One filmmaker’s search for spirituality.
Q. Can you give us some background on your work and why you are so passionate about being a filmmaker?
A. I had a very privileged background. My late father, George Rodger, was an eminent photojournalist. In WWII, he was a war correspondent for Life magazine and was in every theater of war. In 1949, he founded Magnum Photos, which was and still is the largest, most respected photo agency in the world. So I grew up with all these masters of composition and storytelling from Henri Cartier Bresson to Joseph Koudelka to Elliott Erwitt to Sebastiao Salgado and on and on. Photography was always the conversation of the day and these individuals taught me to learn how to see.
My passion, however, was film. My father (and all his colleagues) would tell a story in one image – a layering, a decisive moment as Bresson termed it. I took what I had learned from them and used it to hone skills in storytelling with my own photography and moving image.
I entered into advertising and found the immense travel and visual opportunity a wonderful university and career, all at the same time. By directing commercials, I became obsessed with images and how they would cut together and layer in a subliminal way what people were saying, where the story was going by using composition and style of cutting.
I also studied character and began to write screenplays – several of which are going into production now, some of them commissioned, and some of them projects of passion.
Making Oh My God was an opportunity to take all I had learned and shoot something not governed by a script, but by the people, the subjects and the places I uncovered along the way, with a tiny unrestricted crew of two, and without a client to adhere to. So it was a liberating experience and a horrendous challenge all at the same time and artistically, an opportunity to travel and frame this amazing planet and its inhabitants with an eye and education I was so fortunate to have experienced.
Q. What is the one message you'd like audiences to bring home with them after seeing your film, Oh My God?
A. There are many paths up the mountain, but the view from the top is always the same. Human beings are undeveloped primitive organisms on a rock in a big vacuum. A lot of us are driven by fears: fears of the unknown, fear of death, fear of life and fear of the realities of our own immortality. So we become desperate to hold onto something. It is quite possible to hold onto the thing that makes you feel secure without having to push other people away.
If you would like to sum up all of the above in one word, that word would be Tolerance.
Q. What has making this film taught you about your own faith and your own vision of what God means?
A. God means so many things to different people that the word is overused and too wide. Making the film OMG has made me very wary of religions, but also made me aware of the good that they can do as well as the bad. I think human will, our minds, and the level of our own ability is underrated. I don’t belong to a religion and probably never will. But after making this film I have become more aware of the power of spirituality – and that term spirituality is often referred to as God. I have learned that there should be much more emphasis on ourselves – that we should conduct our lives, as individuals in a respectful manner as articulated by all religious gospels and books, but we must not rely on putting our problems in an imaginary box for a deity to deal with, or to listen to Priests, Imams, Rabbi or any religious leaders who spin that word to enhance their own political agendas. We need to deal with it ourselves. So true prayer becomes not so much: Give me, Help me, or Forgive me so I can get into heaven, but: Thank You, I Love You to the very forces of nature that surround us. I have learned that today is paradise and today can equally be hell and a lot of it has to do with how we approach each day and the other individuals that inhabit our world. And as Dr. John Demartini expressed to me, we should be thankful for our challenges, because those are the very things that make us grow, and without challenges, the world couldn’t exist.
Nobody is happy 100 percent of the time, and don’t believe anyone who tells you that if you do good things and are good boys and girls, you’ll enter a place where it’s happy all the time after you die.
Q. What were the most difficult scenes to shoot in Oh My God? Were you banned or forbidden in certain countries?
A. Filming in the Palestinian Territories was the most difficult because of the charged security in that region. It was at times very frustrating and getting people to talk candidly on camera there was not easy. But, we lucked out and I think the whole section in the film works very well. It was also a challenge editing it as I had a self-imposed mandate to be as unbiased as possible. When I premiered the film at the Jerusalem International Film Festival, last year, I was very happy that Israelis respected it and so did the Palestinians.
We snuck in to countries under the radar, so authorities thought we were tourists. If I had approached certain countries in a formal manner, we would definitely have been banned entry as the project would have opened a whole can of worms.
Q. When you look back on filming Oh My God, what was the most frightening moment? What was the most memorable moment?
A. My most frightening moment? Being chased down an alley in Mexico City by the MS 13 gang with my camera equipment and seven thousand dollars strapped around my waist and coming face to face with an angry, hungry Rottweiler. You’ll have to read my upcoming book for that one. I couldn’t film it. That was when I smelled fear.
There were many equally memorable moments and for different reasons. Filming a Rabbi and a Palestinian peace activist hugging and weeping on The Mount Of Olives behind the Dome of the Rock was very emotional and is a fabulous moment in the film. The experience of filming the Himalayas and the peace of nature is indented in my soul. Filming an eleven-year-old boy in chemotherapy facing death in the face and hearing his answer when I asked What is your greatest wish today? sends shivers down my spine – I don’t want to give that answer away. Speeding around India in a cavalcade and commandoes with the country’s most eminent peacekeeper was a trip.
Q. Is there anyone you wanted to interview or include in Oh My God, but were unable to do so?
A. Many. An inmate on death row. A white supremacist. George W. Bush. What I wanted to do was to steer clear from high profile professional God people. After seeing the Pope interviewed, The Dalai Lama, Archbishop Of Canterbury, it was almost predictable what they would say as they would tout their religious party line. If I interviewed one of them, I’d have to interview all of them and it would be a different film. Ironically after finishing the film, a lot of the work we had put in place to get those we wanted yielded, but it was too late.
Q. Can you name three films/filmmakers that you admire most and the influence they had on your life?
- Apocalypse Now. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola. I think this film was a masterpiece in movie making; the undeniable trip to hell on earth. It was so layered in so many different ways that it became greater than the sum of all its parts. It showed me just what you could achieve with the language of film. It made me want to be a film director.
- Amadeus. Directed by Milos Forman. This is an example of the best storytelling. It is, to date, the best biopic I have ever seen. You can really understand the genius of Mozart and the evil green-eyed monster of jealousy, betrayal and how ambition, self-loathing, and disrespect can create evil on such human terms. I see these actions, albeit on a lesser scale, acted out every day, even amongst colleagues and friends. This film made me learn what was possible to achieve in a story. Oh, and the music!
- Slumdog Millionaire. Directed by Danny Boyle. I love India and have traveled so much there, this contemporary film takes you into a different world, with unknown faces. It’s almost like stepping onto a different planet, yet it’s bound together by emotions that are so human, you can relate and navigate by that commonality all of us share. It made me want to go back and shoot in India.
Q. What prompted the desire to create your new film Oh My God?
A. A number of things. The first was frustration that there seems to be such a juvenile, schoolyard mentality in the world. I call it the My God is greater than your God syndrome, where you have grown men flying airplanes into buildings going God is Great, where you have the leader of the free world saying to the BBC in 2003 that he invaded Iraq because God told him to. Where you have young women and young men blowing themselves up and innocent other human beings manipulated to do so for political gain and who genuinely believe they are buying themselves a place into paradise. None of these actions and dialogues made any sense whatsoever to me. So many people are quick to use God’s name, I thought I’d go round the world and ask as objectively as possible, what this entity that goes by the name of God means to people and why does His, Her, Its presence create so much conflict.
The other desire was to get out, rediscover my own identity with the world and have an opportunity to create photographic compositions out of this amazing rock on which we live.
Q. What was your greatest influence in creating this film?
A. Two equal influences: The polarization of the world post 9/11, and the travel, documenting bug instilled into me from my upbringing.
Q. Who do you hope to reach with your film Oh My God?
A. Anyone who cares and wants to be open enough to learn about other cultures and belief systems, and have the courage to challenge their own values and maybe see that we are far more united as human beings on this planet than we are divided. I would love to reach the vehemently religious, so that they can see similarities between their value systems and those who belong to a different club. Anyone who would like to sit in their armchair at home and take a trip around the world with me asking age-old questions to all sorts of people.