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Exclusive Interview: 'Joan of Arc' Director Russell Holt Discusses the Life, Faith of The 15th Century French Heroine

( [email protected] ) Nov 23, 2015 05:23 PM EST
This holiday season, the highly-anticipated new docudrama "Joan of Arc" will air on BYUtv and will provide viewers an in-depth look at the amazing story of the unlikely French heroine.
''Joan of Arc'' Photo: BYUtv

This holiday season, the highly-anticipated new docudrama "Joan of Arc" will air on BYUtv and will provide viewers an in-depth look at the amazing story of the unlikely French heroine.

Airing on Thanksgiving, November 26 at 6 PM MT with rebroadcasts throughout the holiday season, "Joan of Arc" is told through the eyes of the young woman and provides dramatized scenes of her life and interviews with scholars and experts.

"This story is told by people of faith who understand Joan's spiritual experiences and who appreciate them and don't try to minimize them and explain them away," Russell Holt, the Emmy-award winning documentary filmmaker who directed and co-produced "Joan of Arc" told the Gospel Herald in an exclusive interview.

"We embraced Joan's spirituality and the powerful spiritual experiences she had as a girl, and portrayed those experiences in the most accurate and spiritual way that they've ever been portrayed in any telling of her life."

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Russell Holt, director and co-producer of "Joan of Arc." BYUtv

Filmed in France, the docudrama uses the actual 15th-century records of Joan's trial for heresy and testimony from those who knew her to bring truly her story to life.

"I went back to the original 15th century documents for Joan's court trials, which are lengthy and very detailed," Holt revealed. "Because of these court documents, we probably know more about Joan of Arc than anybody in Medieval times. Going through these documents, one finds Joan in there - things she said, verbatim. It was actually kind of a spiritual experience to read her actual words and how she responded to this intense investigation during these moving trials. Her faith and courage comes through very clearly, as does the fact that she was inspired by God."

Joan's story is undeniably one of tremendous faith and courage: At just thirteen years old in 1425, she experienced a series of angelic encounters. Despite having no military training, the humble farm girl obeyed the angel's commands and embarked on a seemingly impossible mission - to oust the occupying English from France and clear the way for a new king to be crowned.

"We didn't minimize Joan's spiritual experience or go past it to other things that would be more interesting to a secular audience," Holt said. "We show that experience and the impact that it had on the rest of Joan's life and ultimately, France."

While many historians and scholars have discounted Joan's spiritual experience as mental illness, Holt says he has no doubt the young woman was divinely inspired - in fact, studying her story strengthened his own faith in an incredible way.

"For those who love and revere the Bible, Joan's experiences ring true and are very meaningful," he explained. "Her spiritual experiences are reminiscent of many of the calls from God that came through the ages of the Bible in the Old and New Testaments. You think about Mary in the New Testament times receiving a visit from a heavenly messenger from God, Gabriel, calling her to a divine mission, and how her faith in accepting that mission literally changed the world."

After leading the French to a momentous victory, Joan was captured, tried for witchcraft and heresy and burned at the stake in 1431 at the age of 19 - ultimately sacrificing her life for her obedience to God.

"Even the most unlikely people who are touched by God can do incredible things and change the world," Holt said. "That's Joan's story. She was an impoverished peasant girl living on her father's farm when God entered into her life and transformed her by giving her this mission. I just love the fact that such an underdog, such an unlikely person can be used by God for His purposes."

Joan of Arc was officially canonized in 1920, and to this day is seen not only as an enduring symbol of French unity, but an example of steadfast personal honor, faith and courage. 

"I hope that young people, particularly young women will see a very powerful role model in Joan," Holt said. "Young people today don't have a lot of true life heros and heroines to look up to and model their lives after. Joan's not a fictional character, she's real. And I hope that young woman can look at her life and the way she, even as a teenager, courageously followed God at all costs and eventually gave her life at the age of 19. That's an inspiring story for young people on how important it is to follow God in your life."

Tune in to BYUtv on Thanksgiving, November 26 at 6 PM MT for the highly anticipated look at illustrious Joan of Arc.

Tags : faith-based films