Hillsong: Let Hope Rise

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Hillsong: Let Hope Rise Movie Poster Image
Moving concert docu is ideal for Christian teens, families.
  • PG
  • 2016
  • 103 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive messages

Viewers of faith will find the messages incredibly positive -- that God calls individuals to love others as God loves them, that it's our moral and religious duty to care for the poor and the dispossessed, and that your art can be a reflection of your relationship with God. Viewers will also take to heart (and perhaps even experience) the idea that music is transformative and can bring you closer to God. Themes include communication, compassion, humility, and teamwork.

Positive role models & representations

All of the musicians are humble and earnest about their work, their mission, and their love of what they do. A couple are honest about how hard it is to be away from their families for stretches of time -- but they know it's for the glory of God. The head pastor of Hillsong is depicted as encouraging and supportive of the musical team.

Violence & scariness
Sexy stuff

A married couple kisses.

Language
Consumerism

One of the musicians writes his songs on an Apple MacBook, and there is visible recording equipment.

Drinking, drugs & smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Hillsong: Let Hope Rise is part documentary, part concert film. It focuses on the 11-member Australian Christian band Hillsong United, which has broken sales records and considers their events more worship experiences than musical performances. The "biggest band no one has heard of" is essentially the touring musical worship team of Hillsong church, an evangelical megachurch headquartered in Australia that has satellite churches around the world. There's nothing questionable in the movie in terms of language, sex, or violence, and it offers positive themes of communication, compassion, humility, and teamwork. Unsurprisingly, the movie will have the most appeal for Christian families and/or those who enjoy the band's faith-based music.

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What's the story?

HILLSONG: LET HOPE RISE is a documentary concert film about the rise of the Australia-based Hillsong United. It began as a small church youth band and has become a global phenomenon -- at least among millions of evangelical Christians. The 11 Aussie Christian rockers who comprise the group tour around the world, not just performing but also leading their audiences in worship through their catchy (and chart-topping) songs. The film cuts between their big concert at the Los Angels Forum and one-on-one interviews, footage of old concerts, and a discussion of the Sydney-based church's international growth.

Is it any good?

The Australian Christian group's emotional and inspirational music does more to connect audiences of faith with their beliefs than many religiously focused dramas. If you're open to seeing a musical documentary about a Christian band, Hillsong: Let Hope Rise is an undeniably fascinating look at the differences between this band and secular artists. You'd assume they'd be rolling in cash, considering their last album debuted in iTunes' overall top 10 and Billboard's top 5 (and, obviously, no. 1 on Christian/gospel lists), but these artists keep modest homes, and their proceeds go mostly to the mission of their church, not their personal fortunes.

The interviews with the group's individual members vary from in-depth to barely there. While the main performers -- Joel Huston, Jonathon "JD" Douglass, Jadwin "Jad" Gillies, Matt Crocker, and Taya Smith, along with music director/lead album producer Michael Guy Chislett -- get more screen time and share personal stories, audiences might wish there was even more behind-the-scenes info. One noticeable flaw in the film is that director Michael John Warren doesn't interview anyone outside of the extended Hillsong family (no Dove Award officials, Nashville-based Christian music experts, or even Christian music critics) to contextualize the band's impact and reach for those who aren't already familiar with the group. That said, one of the movie's most impactful moments is a montage of one of the group's best-known songs being sung around the world in different languages and styles. Hillsong is more than a Christian band, it's a church-based movement, and the group knows how to make audiences feel that sense of revival. But you almost certainly need to believe to enjoy the experience.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Hillsong: Let Hope Rise compares to other concert documentaries. What do you learn about the band? Why makes this band different from others?

  • What audience do you think the movie was made for? Do you think non-Christians can still enjoy it? Do you need to be of a particular faith to enjoy religious music?

  • How does the movie promote communication, compassion, humility, and teamwork? Why are those important character strengths?

  • What do you think the differences are between Hillsong's music -- from their writing process to profit use to performance -- and that of a secular artist/band?

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