Act of God

From the director of Manufactured Landscapes

Act of God

You and your friends get hit by a ball of lightning. The person standing right next to you dies, but you don't. You just get knocked off your feet.

What would you think about that?

How would you think about that?

Was it chance? Dumb luck? A trick of science? Divine intervention?

That all depends upon who you ask, according to Act of God, a brilliant new documentary from Jennifer Baichwal that examines the metaphysical effects of being struck by lightning. Baichwal's movie ventures into the places where science and religion get all smushed together, where the math of probability and the facts of electrical differential meet the human need to find a deeper meaning behind the apparently random and destructive.

Act of God has a terrific cast of characters. Baichwal interviews people whose lives have been changed forever by lightning, including the playwright James O'Reilly, who has written about the strike he survived almost 30 years ago, and who acts out, in chilling (and frankly riveting) detail, the events as he recalls them. Some of the people involved want to talk about God and heaven, but O'Reilly is having none of that.

Then there's the American writer Paul Auster, whose experiences as an adolescent at camp include the death of a fellow camper via lightning strike. Both O'Reilly and Auster say they waited many years before writing specifically about their experiences, but the events seem to have found a way into their writing long before that.

Baichwal interviews the religious family members of people who were killed by lightning in Mexico (as they were visiting a shrine), films the energetic festival and parade dedicated to Shango, God of lightning, and talks to a French lightning aficionado about storms and the soul. She also has a sequence with guitar improv hero Fred Frith, who talks about electricity and the brain, and how the act of creation takes place somewhere between meaning and chance.

Act of God is the coolest movie. It's also visually magnificent. Baichwal manages to convey all the power and majesty -- and menace -- of lightning with just the sort of gobsmacking footage that keeps you glued to the screen. Act of God fearlessly approaches the natural and the supernatural, and the result is visceral, intellectual, heartbreaking, delightful and instructive, all at once.

— L. Braun, Jam! Movies

Act of God

Fri November 6, 2009, 7:00 & 9:00, Muenzinger Auditorium

Canada, 2009, English, Color, 75 min, Not Rated, Widescreen, 1.85:1, 35mm



10 films for $60 with punch card
$9 general admission. $7 w/UCB student ID, $7 for senior citizens
$1 discount to anyone with a bike helmet
Free on your birthday! CU Cinema Studies students get in free.


Pay lot 360 (now only $1/hour!), across from the buffalo statue and next to the Duane Physics tower, is closest to Muenzinger. Free parking can be found after 5pm at the meters along Colorado Ave east of Folsom stadium and along University Ave west of Macky.


Park elsewhere and catch the HOP to campus

International Film Series

(Originally called The University Film Commission)
Established 1941 by James Sandoe.

First Person Cinema

(Originally called The Experimental Cinema Group)
Established 1955 by Carla Selby, Gladney Oakley, Bruce Conner and Stan Brakhage.

C.U. Film Program

(AKA The Rocky Mountain Film Center)
First offered degrees in filmmaking and critical studies in 1989 under the guidance of Virgil Grillo.

Celebrating Stan

Created by Suranjan Ganguly in 2003.

C.U. Department of Cinema Studies & Moving Image Arts

Established 2017 by Chair Ernesto Acevedo-Muñoz.

Thank you, sponsors!
Boulder International Film Festival
Department of Cinema Studies & Moving Image Arts

Looking for a gift for a friend?
Buy a Frequent Patron Punch Card for $60 at any IFS show. With the punch card you can see ten films (a value of $90).

Cox & Kjølseth
: Filmmaker Alex Cox & Pablo Kjølseth discuss film topics from their own unique perspectives.

: Pablo and Ana share Zoom-based briefs on what's currently playing at IFS

Search IFS schedules

Index of visiting artists

Sun Mar 10, 2024

Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles

At Muenzinger Auditorium

Mon Apr 1, 2024

Hot Shots! Part Deux

At Muenzinger Auditorium

more on 35mm...