‘Time for a New God’ makes Aspen debut | AspenTimes.com

‘Time for a New God’ makes Aspen debut

Stewart OksenhornThe Aspen TimesAspen CO Colorado
Contributed photoRabbi Irwin Kula is featured in the short documentary "Time For a New God," showing Monday in the Mountainfilm Mondays series at Aspen's Wheeler Opera House.

ASPEN – While David Holbrooke’s family regularly attend church – his wife is descended from five generations of Lutheran ministers – Holbrooke himself connects with the holy spirit in other places. Most often, on a mountain bike trail or a snow-filled mountain.Which doesn’t mean that Holbrooke has put traditional religious practice outside his range of vision. A 44-year-old filmmaker based in Telluride and Brooklyn, Holbrooke has directed four movies; three of them are directly about religious matters. “Freaks Like Me” focused on Rabbi Brad Hirschfield and an effort to break down walls between religions. “Hard As Nails” profiled Justin Fatica, a young, dynamic Catholic preacher.And “Time For a New God” explores the views of Irwin Kula, an eighth-generation rabbi with wide-open ideas about how humans relate to the divine. The film, Holbrooke’s first, premiered in the mid-’00s. It has its Aspen debut Monday in the Wheeler Opera House’s Mountainfilm Mondays series, on a bill with “Bag It,” a documentary about plastic bags. Holbrooke will be in attendance for a post-screening talk.(Apart from being a filmmaker, Holbrooke has for four years been the festival director of Mountainfilm in Telluride, a parent of Aspen’s MountainSummit and Mountainfilm Mondays. “Time For a New God” had an encore screening at Mountainfilm in Telluride last year, and was selected for Mountainfilm Mondays by the Wheeler staff. “Certain film are worth bringing back. Even one of mine,” Holbrooke said of his dual roles as filmmaker and programmer. He added that Aspen was a logical place to screen the film, given that Rabbi Kula is an occasional visitor here, and has appeared at the Aspen Ideas Festival.) For Holbrooke, making the 18-minute “Time For a New God” was as much about presenting a subject as it was about engaging in his own quest. “I come at religion with a lot of skepticism,” Holbrooke, who was raised with “no religion at all,” said from Telluride. “And here was a guy who could talk about religion in a way that made sense to me. It allowed me to bring my skepticism to the subject.”In the film, Kula floats the idea that humanity has found different spiritual needs as society has changed. Holbrooke points out that when we were hunter-gatherers, we had animal gods. As we became an agrarian culture, we put our faith in nature.”Now, in this society, what kind of God do we need?” Holbrooke said. “This film was made soon after the millennium turned, soon after 9/11, and that stirred things up. There are cultural and environmental issues; we see a lot of reasons why people are unsettled. And it’s asking, What kind of God, what kind of world, what kind of belief system do we need? In this rapidly advancing technological world, what brings us together?”Holbrooke, for one, is looking forward to seeing his film again. He expects that it will affect him in ways it hasn’t in the past. “It’s got a lot of layers to it,” he said. “No one’s saying, ‘Oh, I know how this ends.’ I take a lot away from it every time I see it. He’s got a lot of wisdom. For my own world view, this film has been helpful to me in my growth.”Kula sees himself in a lot of ways as a traditional Jew. But Holbrooke said not everyone agrees in that assessment. “A lot of more traditional Jews are reluctant to hear what he’s saying,” he said. “People say, ‘What? This isn’t the Judaism we know.’ On the other hand, a lot of people are saying, ‘Wow, I wish I’d heard this when I was younger. I might have stayed with Judaism.'”The next project Holbrooke is focused on involves not a religious figure, but an immortal figure in American diplomacy. Holbrooke is working on a film about his father, Richard, who died in December, following a diplomatic career that extended from the Carter to the Obama administrations, and ranged from Western Europe to Asia to the United Nations. The late Holbrooke’s career was capped by the successful negotiation of the Dayton Peace Accords, a 1995 peace agreement that resolved conflicts among the nations in the Balkans.”I think I’m the right person to do it,” David Holbrooke said of the film. “It may be cheaper than seeing a shrink. Or maybe not.”

Mountainfilm Mondays, featuring “Bag It” and “Time For a New God,” with a post-screening talk by David Holbrooke, starts at 7:30 p.m. Monday at the Wheeler Opera House.stewart@aspentimes.com