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IDFA International Documentary Festival Amsterdam

The 23rd edition of the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), the world's largest and most prestigious film event devoted exclusively to non-fiction film and media, will run from 17 - 28 November in the city of Amsterdam.


What Does God Look Like?

Wednesday, November 29----So, what does God look like to you?? That is the provocative question posed by filmmaker Nathan Lang, as he travelled the United States in a coast-to-coast adventure to examine the religious pulse of ordinary Americans. Going to seven different cities and constructing a studio box with hidden video cameras, Lang has assembled over 100 hours of candid footage that will eventually become the documentary feature film GOD IN THE BOX (great title, Nathan).

Lang is in Amsterdam attending the International Documentary Filmfestival Amsterdam (IDFA) in that most precarious of guises....a filmmaker who doesn't have a film in the official festival or market. He therefore has to use his guile and charm in order to introduce his project to potential funders, distributors and sales agents.

"I came to Amsterdam almost on a whim, realizing that without an actual completed film that it would be harder to get someone interested in hearing my pitch", the effusive Lang shared over lunch. "As important as making any significant contacts is using this chance to talk up the project and get some responses that will help me move forward with it."

Nathan Lang grew up Jewish in San Antonio, Texas (no mean task) and has spent most of his working life as an on-camera television news reporter and news segement editor. He has worked at the local news stations in markets as diverse as Sioux Falls, South Dakota to New Orleans, and eventually in New York. He spent several years in Tampa, Florida, at the local Fox affiliate's news division as the chief investigative reporter. Following a rewarding ten-year career as a reporter, producer and writer, Nathan decided to branch out into other forms of media and now resides in Los Angeles, where he is currently producing and directing GOD IN THE BOX.

In an America whose lines are often drawn by the "culture wars", Lang and company set out on a seemingly simple task. He set up a mobile studio box, with hidden cameras behind the mirrored glass, and took "the God box" to strategic locations in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Denver, New York, Washington DC, Birmingham, Tempe and Junction City (that's Kansas, y'all). By criss-crossing between obviously red and obviously blue states, with a number of purples mixed in, Lang was able to entreat hundreds of people to come into the booth and answer the simple question: "What does God look like to you?".

Some framed their answers with descriptive words. Others used the opportunity to draw their version of what they felt the Man(?)Upstairs might look like on a sheet of drawing paper . "God is a simple word that means so much for so many people", Lang expressed. "Regardless of the vast differences in people, this film examines the interpretations of God and the power that unites, but also divides us."

Lang now has over 100 hours of fascinating, confessional material and is supplementing this with interviews with leading theologians, historians, celebrties and sports figures. "Everyone, no matter what your stationin life or whatever you do, has an opinion on this topic", Lang explained. "People's interpretation of God and what he expects of us is a relevant's what we are fighting over in Iraq and in the US. But if there is only one God, how can we ask God to choose sides?".

Lang also wants to include some exciting digital techniques in the film, in order to make it accessible, entertaining and of the moment. "This experience was remarkably enlightening", Lang described. "It went way beyond our expectations. I think it offers a really interesting and unexpected view of a topic that is always here in the abstract. We gave ordinary people the chance to express themselves in a way that they had never been able to before on a topic that is still in so ways a taboo."

Through his production company Raindance Productions, Lang is assembling the rest of his production elements before heading into post-production, where his intention is to give the film a unique shape and personality. He plans to have a completed version ready by late summer, with hopes for a slot at the 2008 edition of the Sundance Film Festival.

"I think the subject matter and the new approach that we are taking to the topic of spirituality and the places for traditional beliefs in modern life will make this a film that will reach across economic, social and racial lines and be of great interest to a large segment of the population", Lang summed up. "We will follow the traditional festival route and then try and find a distributor, although I am getting intrigued by the possibilites for self-distribution that are now opening up for the independent filmmaker. Who knows, maybe next year, we'll be sitting here in Amsterdam, and my film will be in the official section. I can dream, can't I?".

For more information on the film, go to the official website (still a work-in-progress Lang assures me): or contact Nathan Lang at Raindance Productions, email:

Sandy Mandelberger
Online Festival Dailies Editor

Comments (1)

To me it does not matter

To me it does not matter what God looks like. I would think I would not understand or recognize him or her if I saw them. Do ants under stand what we look like? Gettysburg Pennsylvania

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