For most people who have musical gifts, visited sporadically, or participated regularly in the evangelical church since the turn of the millennium the name Hillsong is one that has become quickly familiar as a leading provider of worship materials and music.
With their rock star quality and trailblazing position, admirers and protesters equally acknowledge the effect Hillsong has had on the church's expression of worship and use of music over the last decade and a half. Let Hope Rise follows Hillsong United- giving them a platform to express their views on faith, social justice, brokenness and a variety of topics within the context of normal people caught up in an extraordinary scale of events.
Watching the film feels like sitting half way between a Hillsong blu-ray and a documentary. With that in mind, I often felt like the film was produced in response to those critics and protesters who dog Hillsong's movement rather than a simple behind the scenes look (something I felt came across much more naturally when Switchfoot released there documentary a few years ago).
As a result, different sections of the film feel specifically crafted to address how leaders attempt to find balance between a venue that can very easily slip into a performance based around fame and money and their responsibility to be mindful of those they are supposed to be serving through their musical gifts. This was a recurring theme throughout the film and in many ways almost served as a thesis for the film.
With a few momentary exceptions the leaders came across as genuine.
The guys on the bus made me roll my eyes as I remembered the antics I encountered as a sound gal for different bands over the years (that was way too familiar, to be honest, I'm guessing it's more of a band thing) and to see the families coming together after tour felt very honest as the level of self-reflection and standards to which the band holds themselves too really came across during these family segments. I'm going to take a wild guess and say that a few perfectionists may find a lot to relate too with those portions. The band also spoke of their work with Compassion International which came as a surprise to me though I was glad to see such an amazing organization getting a shout out. It was really encouraging to see the band members out on the streets getting the info themselves and I know from friends that Compassion is very thorough.
The editing of the film was very intentional with the interview segments feeling very produced, almost to the point of overproduction. That said, I also felt this issue was balanced out, at least in part, by the concert sections which through timing, follow along lyrics, and a polished presentation will allow viewers to become immersed in those moments.
The one segment which used viewer compilations as a music video was brilliant and the little girl on the piano totally stole the show for me (you have to keep your eyes open as it's a short clip but that girl has spunk!)
As someone more familiar with the music and the controversy behind the band, Let Hope Rise served as a new voice and insight into the group which has had such major influence into the lives of so many. I found it to be well produced, with high quality sound and video (not much of a surprise but still good to see), and answered many questions. I do wish that the interview segments had come across as less scripted as that did make me question the sincerity at times.
3.5 stars out of 5.
"Movie has been provided courtesy of Pure Flix Entertainment and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc."