Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Captivated The Movie

Captivated The Movie review
When parents are comparing notes on parenting issues, the topics of media and technology, and their effects on our families usually comes up. Television, movies, internet, cell phones, video games... with so much entertainment competing for our attention, how can we practice discernment and teach it to our kids? Understanding the issues and what's at stake is an important first step, and the documentary Captivated from MediaTalk101 aims to help us do just that; and so I was very glad to have the opportunity to review this DVD.
Captivated Movie Review
MediaTalk101 is a non-profit ministry providing Biblical help for living in a media-saturated society. They have been providing seminars and resources, and most recently have produced the documentary film Captivated. (You can learn more about MediaTalk101 on their website: is an award-winning documentary written, produced, and co-directed by MediaTalk101 founder and president Philip Telfer. It addresses media and technology issues and the need for discernment. Although the documentary is not anti-media or anti-technology, it definitely raises concerns about the over-use and the dependence our culture has on media; and it addresses the impact its indiscriminate use can have on physical, spiritual, emotional, and mental health. The film features not only interviews with doctors, professors, researchers, and other experts; but interviews with ordinary people who have recognized the impact of media in their lives and have taken up a challenge to limit their consumption. 
Captivated Movie Review
Some of the members of the Captivated team are:
  • Dr. Jeff Myers, president of Summit Ministries
  • Bob Waliszewski, director of the Plugged In department of Focus on the Family
  • Mark Bauerlein, professor of English at Emory University
  • Dimitri Christakis, MD, MPH, director of Center for Child Health
  • Dr. David Murray, professor of OT and practical theology
  • Dr. David Walsh, author of "Smart Parenting, Smart Kids"
  • Tim Winter and Melissa Henson of the Parents Television Council
These experts and many others share personal stories and testimony along with information from research and Biblical wisdom about the impact of media and the need for discernment. Along the way, several ordinary people share their own stories of how media was taking over in their lives and how they overcame a media addiction.

How did I use it? When I got the news that I would be reviewing the documentary, I also purchased for myself the Group Study Guide available to go along with the movie. I figured the movie might be a worthwhile small group study in several settings that I'm involved with - small groups in our church, our church youth group, and groups in the homeschool community - so I wanted to see the study guide and how the two resources could be used together in a group setting.

Captivated Movie review

Both the film and the study guide are divided into chapters that address different aspects of media and technology impact. 
Captivated Movie review
  • "Consumption" tackles the question of 'how much is too much?' and discussed the negative impacts of media on children - things like short attention spans, false sense of accomplishment, and distraction from reality and relationships. Some of the statistics and research about the actual time spent in front of screens and brain development showed very disturbing trends for younger generations. Something that particularly bothered me was the fact that video games produce a false sense of accomplishment for most users, and that this is contributing to a 'growing epidemic of distraction'. This chapter also addresses the myth of multi-tasking and talks about how our society is tending to 'amuse ourselves to death'.
  • "Content" gets into the nitty gritty of what it is that we are watching and hearing. The undeniable connection between what we see and hear and what we do is highlighted, and skepticism raised on the claim by many young people that "it doesn't affect me". This chapter also presents some history and discussion of the self-regulation of the movie industry and what the real results of the ratings system have been; and the difference in moral quality from the advent of motion pictures and TV until the present day.
  • "Captivity" talks about the issues of idolatry, addiction, and dissemination of philosophy and worldview as it relates to media. These are very real concerns, especially considering a statistic showing that approximately 10% of children are addicted to video games, and that addiction is similar to gambling addiction.
  • "Battleground" addresses the spiritual battle for hearts and minds that is at the heart of the issue. This chapter challenges the viewer to ask whether God is honored by what is being watched or listened to; and whether the worldview or philosophy presented by entertainment is opposed to God's Word.
  • "Freedom" offers hope for overcoming our captivity to media, and the interviews focus on suggestions for families wanting to break the hold media has on them.
Captivated Movie review

Captivated Movie review
The entire running time of the movie is just under two hours, and I think there's value in watching it all at once AND watching it in chapter segments and then taking time to absorb and really think about the presentation. I thought the study guide was great for personal use in considering many of the questions raised in the film; and it is full of insightful discussion-starter questions for use in a small group setting. There are lots of Scripture references throughout, and they are printed in the study guide, making it easy to refer to the Bible passages during personal study or group discussion. The final chapter in the study guide is probably the most helpful because it lays out the suggested Action Steps for those wishing to go on a media fast or to effectively cut their media consumption, along with a list of Bible verses that would be particularly good to memorize during that process.

Don't miss the Bonus Material on the DVD either! There are longer interviews of some of the team members that contributed to Captivated. A couple of these interviews are only 5-10 minutes long, and others are considerably longer. I was particularly interested in the longer interviews with Dr Mark Bauerlein (among other things, he talks about the cultural history of how adolescents moved from an inter-generational and responsible part of society to forming their own teen sub-culture that relies so heavily on peers rather than adults) and Kevin Swanson (who speaks in depth about the growing escapism in our society, especially among young men who are not maturing and not engaging in reality and social issues). To be honest, I am STILL digesting information from these bonus interviews - there is so much there to think about!

What I liked best:
  • the focus issue was reclaiming hearts and minds for God and it was a positive and hopeful message. At first, it may appear as if the purpose of the film is to convince Christians to withdraw completely from media and technology, but the overall message that I got was that we need to return technology to its rightful place as a tool instead of having it as a constant appendage, or as a god. 
  • Biblical theology and principles drive the entire presentation. While many opinions are offered, each person turned back to God's Word as the basis for the guidelines and principles they were applying to the issue.
  • it is not preachy or high-pressure. It is definitely promoting the approach of taking a media fast and placing pretty firm boundaries on our use of media, but overall I didn't feel that it was saying that good Christians need to never look at a TV or iPhone again. That said, it does seem to recommend a media fast in order to break the addiction, and several of the testimonies indicated that once people find freedom from being captive to a particular type of media, they really have no desire to go back to it all.
  • using the available study guide, this makes a great six-session (or possibly more) group study.
What I need to mention:
  • the idea of a total media fast or making the kinds of changes suggested by some of the people featured will probably seem extreme to many. I would recommend watching all the way to the end, and probably watching at least some of the bonus interviews before deciding on the action steps that are appropriate for you or for your family.
  • I believe that families need to watch this together, especially in homes where there are teens. Although my own family has not decided to go on a media fast (as of my writing this anyway!), this DVD is opening up some very interesting conversations and I think that teens would be much more open to considering how they may be captivated by media and what to do about it if they watch the film themselves. 
  • As the documentary and the study guide both recommend, taking any of the action steps is best done with some kind of mutual support - family supporting each other, and/or a small group that will support each other and be accountable to each other.
Captivated Movie review
Our bottom line: I am definitely recommending Captivated and the accompanying study guide to our small groups coordinator for our church, and to families and study groups that I already know are considering media impact as a Biblical worldview issue. I enjoyed watching - and appreciated the subtle irony of MediaTalk101 using social media to promote the project, and that I found the film both entertaining and informative. The issues surrounding our use of media and technology, especially for teens and young adults, are so important, and Christians need to take them seriously. I believe Captivated provides vital information presented in an understandable and compelling way, and will encourage families to consider how they may apply Paul's counsel to the early churches in our modern world. "See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception..." (Colossians 2:8)  but instead, "bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ." (II Corinthians 10:5)  
Captivated Movie Review
Do you want to know more about finding freedom in a media captive culture? Here's what you need to know:
Visit the website at:
You may also find out more about the people featured in the movie and the movie's production team. Find out more about MediaTalk101 at their website:

Age range: This movie is intended for adults but has been approved for all ages.

Pricing: The Captivated DVD is available through the website for $16.95. (There are discounts when ordering more than one - see the website purchase page for more info.) The 54-page companion study guide is also available on the purchase page for 4.95+1.50 shipping. Quantity discounts are also offered for the study guides. Or you may choose one of the bundles available, combining DVDs or DVD and study guide.

You can follow MediaTalk101 on Facebook and on Twitter.

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