‘Hellbound?’ writer/director Kevin Miller teetered on brink of ‘atheism’
Kevin Miller didn’t set out to be a documentary filmmaker.
“I wanted to be a big studio screenwriter, but now when I see what those guys are having to do in order to get their films made, I’m glad I ended up going in this direction.”
Those who enjoy quality documentaries should feel similarly.
His latest documentary, Hellbound?, opened on Sept. 21st in New York City and should break wider in the near future. It explores a very interesting question, the notion of whether or not a loving God would be willing to condemn His (or Her, if you prefer) children to an eternity of damnation in fire and brimstone.
The film opens oddly enough with members of the Westboro Baptist Church, at the 10th anniversary memorial commemoration of 9/11, and considering the subject matter, that’s an interesting choice. Kevin says they were there because “hell is the ultimate sanction” and these people are convinced that they and they alone are the only ones on Earth who aren’t already damned to go to Hell. It is the perfect introduction. Religion isn’t just a product for houses of worship, it’s a topic that can be found on the streets in every city, everyday.
When asked what drew him to this subject, Kevin said: “I remember coming home from Bible Camp, where I became a Christian at age nine, and realizing that unless the rest of my family came to believe what I had just learned, they would go to hell. The trouble was, I was too afraid to tell them. ”
He also said that at one point, he “…teetered on the brink of atheism.”
Hellbound? touches on three different religious philosophies regarding the existence of Hell, internalism, annihilationism and universalism. It is the latter that is the primary focus, the notion that God would not let his children suffer for all time. There are a number of noted theologians who discuss these ideas in the film and Miller admitted it was “a balancing act” in presenting their varying views because while some are very charismatic and engaging speakers, others are not.
He also made a fascinating observation that within the religious community he believes there is a “99% and a 1%.” The 1% are the religious leaders who don’t want the 99% to be discussing and debating the existence of hell.
The idea that some religious leaders don’t want discussion about the interpretation of belief systems seems frightening at first glance. Perhaps it is more difficult for those whose religious beliefs don’t include a Heaven and a Hell.
“Do we choose to go to hell?” Since we can’t know with 100% certainty unless and until we get there, all we can do is discuss and explore the concepts involved and Hellbound? engages in that debate and journey.
Miller noted his favorite film is Raiders of the Lost Ark and that his favorite director working today is P.T. Anderson, and he was full of praise for his There Will Be Blood.
Hellbound? isn’t his first documentary and we hope it won’t be his last.