Winning Best Animation at the 10th Delhi Shorts International Film Festival 2021, a new animated film created by Hope Discovery—a project between Hope Channel Romania and the Seventh-day Adventist Church—explores the Great Controversy in narrative form, in an effort to make the Adventist worldview and end-time message accessible to seekers and members alike.
“The festival had 1300 films registered, and they selected about 40 or 50 films,” explains film director and manager of Hope Media Romania, Attila Peli. “It’s very complicated to be selected in any festival, but to win an award is even more difficult. And to win an award with a profoundly Christian film in a secular festival is almost impossible. I think that’s why it’s a great achievement and I thank God for that.”
Since then, the film has also won Best Animation Feature at the Christian Georgia Film Festival, and an Award of Excellence in the Christian and Sound Editing/Sound Mixing categories at the Accolade Global Film Competition.
“I’m very happy that we’ve won awards and that more may come, but I’m more interested in putting those film festival icons and laurels on the film so that people know that it’s good quality, it’s worth watching. We have no interest except that people will watch it and change their perspective on life,” Mr Peli explains.
Taking about three years to complete the project, Mr Peli says he was first inspired to create the film after attending the GAiN Conference in Seoul in 2018. “I had never seen a film about the Great Controversy before—not even from Adventists, and it’s the main theme of Adventist theology! I didn’t know exactly how to do it, but I knew I wanted to make a film.”
Working hard to fill this void, Mr Peli put together a small team of animators, three illustrators, a sound engineer and an editor, and started writing a script, which he believes was inspired by God.
“I just started writing the script and it came out in about a week. I think it was inspired by God because now I look at the script and I do not recognize my own involvement!” he says. “The problem is, films are expensive, and we had a very small budget—in fact in the beginning we didn’t even have a budget! To tell the complex story of the Great Controversy in a live-action film would have required a Hollywood budget, so I thought about an animation instead.”
The film follows the overarching narrative of the Great Controversy—from the fall of Lucifer to the second coming of Jesus—through the eyes of the protagonist, Samuel. Samuel and his sister, Naomi, get into a difficult situation and Samuel ends up getting stabbed by his sister’s boyfriend. While he is semi-conscious and in hospital, Samuel has visions of heaven, Jesus, and significant Bible figures.
“The Great Controversy is the center of the film, but I didn’t want it to be standalone,” explains Mr Peli. “I wanted to take this big topic—which might not be relevant to a young person—and connect it with real-life drama. The film ends with Naomi needing to make a decision, and I hope this is also mirrored in real life, too.”
Making the Great Controversy accessible and interesting to young people was Mr Peli’s primary motivation for creating the film. Being 56 minutes in length and featuring an artistic and highly emotive animation style, the film is designed as an introductory product to inspire young people to dig deeper into the Bible narrative and ultimately into Adventist theology.
“Ellen White’s Great Controversy is an extraordinary book, but it has several hundred pages and most youngsters haven’t read several hundred pages in all their life,” says Mr Peli. “If you give them a book like that they will start running, so they need an introduction that is easy to watch.”
While the film is animated, Mr Peli emphasised that it is not a filmed designed for kids, as it features worldly themes and depictions of Satan and demons. Instead, it’s targeted toward the 15 to 35 age group, when young people begin to ask existential questions and become interested in spirituality.
“The church has made a mistake in thinking that young people aren’t interested in spirituality,” says Mr Peli, urging the Adventist Church to invest more in creative products. “They are interested, but you have to package it in a way that impacts them, that’s relevant. If the Church began to understand the value of a story—how information sticks in your mind and emotionally impacts you—then we would probably have the budget to create more spirituality relevant films!”
“People do not understand the world we are living in because they don’t see us as being part of a larger spiritual war. When you understand this, your whole focus changes. You readapt your strategy of life.”
Currently, the film is available to watch as a seven-part series in Romanian on Hope Discovery RomaniaYouTube channel. An English version will also be released very soon. You can watch the English trailer at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WGdT-V-QDN8