“God created music for the sole purpose to connect the human heart, our soul, with heaven.”-Joel Houston
Hillsong: Let Hope Rise is a theatrical worship experience (read: not a traditional documentary) from the best-selling and lauded Christian band, Hillsong United. Viewers are encouraged to participate in what is intended to be interactive viewing. This film is created by believers, for believers (your unchurched friends may be confused by the assumed familiarity with the band and movement). Filmmakers presume that the audience knows the music, the Hillsong legacy and church, although I speculate that viewers are a homogenous group of churchgoers. Hillsong church’s history is given a passing spotlight; the real focus here is behind-the-scenes of the music ministry and artistry of United, culminating with their performance at the Los Angeles Forum in 2014.
Interspersed with candid and raw interviews from the band frontmen and woman, the heart of the film is the glimpses at the creative process of penning inspirational songs that are theologically sound, lyrically profound, and easy to worship to. Taya Smith’s voice unerringly sends chills as she leads worshippers to heights of vulnerability and praise. One of the standout moments of the film is when Taya is overcome with emotion as she reflects on how that high note from “Oceans” comes from a desire to communicate with God when there just aren’t sufficient or adequate words. For so many, that one note transcends the need for superlatives and accolades.
The narrative of the documentary does not follow a story arc (any hopes of building tension are foiled at the beginning by preemptively showing clips of the Forum show prior to the lyric drought), so experiential viewing is the appeal. There is an ongoing conversation in each interview about the struggle to draw attention to God and not the worship leaders, so this can be considered the unifying theme of the clips. The tone throughout is one of humility and reverence that is authentic and inspiring.
Hillsong: Let Hope Rise is playing now in select theatres.