An Example of the Pastoral Voice in a Contemporary Film

The pastoral voice in documentary film is widely employed to this day. For example, the 2017 Oscar-nominated documentary, Life, Animated tells the story of Owen Suskind, a boy who developed advanced autism at the age of three. In the film, doctors and experts inform the parents that Owen will likely never learn to speak, and that he will be dependent on others for the rest of his life. However, in the film, Owen develops an intense love and passion for animated Disney films and, miraculously, begins repeating lines from the cartoons to his family. One night, using a stuffed animal version the character of Iago from Aladdin, Owen’s father is able to engage in a conversation with Owen using lines from the film. Slowly, Owen begins to learn to speak with the help of these animated films, go to school, learn to read, and finally to get his own apartment, a girlfriend and a job. The documentary clearly has a pastoral voice, as it offers a testimonial story of hope and faith in the face of despair or loss. The film is an inspiration, not only to those who have children or relatives dealing with autism, but to all of us, as we see that hope can and does break through in unexpected and surprising ways. We ought not conclude that miracles cannot happen.


– from the upcoming book “How to Film the Truth: The Story of Documentary Film As a Spiritual Journey” to be released in the Summer of 2018 by Wipf & Stock