“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1, NRSV)
Faith in the unseen is the driving force in Yusuke Hirota’s animated film, Poupelle of Chimney Town. It is a faith that seems ridiculous to some and dangerous to others. But for the boy at the center of the story, it is so strong that he must find a way to show the world the truth that has been hidden for centuries.
Chimney Town is a town filled with smoke belching chimneys that run day and night so that the sky is nothing but dark smoke, Lubicci is a young chimney sweep without friends. He remembers that his father Bruno would tell stories about what was beyond the smoke—a sky filled with stars. But there is no one in all of Chimney Town that has ever seen such an unlikely thing.
A bright object falls through the clouds and land in a trash pile, and transforms into a creature made of garbage. Lubicci befriends him and names him Poupelle. Together they dream of seeing the stars that Bruno spoke of. But the authorities are on the look out for anyone who speaks of stars or anything beyond the smoke. Inquisitors are constantly seeking out heretics who do not accept the official belief system. When the Inquisitors start coming for Lubicci and Poupelle, Lubicci comes up with a plan that can show the world the truth.
Lubicci operates out of faith. He knows that there is nothing to prove that stars really exist. But there is also nothing to disprove their existence. But such open-mindedness is a threat to the tyrannical regime that has created the world of Chimney Town. The stability of the society is built on accepting the key dogma, “There is no outside world; there is only this world.” As Lubicci lives out his faith in the unseen stars, he challenges the very fabric of the society. As such the story serves as a fable about speaking truth to power.
Faith, as we see in this story, can be an oppressive force, as with the Inquisitors who seek heretics. It can also be a liberating force when it opens a world to new ideas that may not seem obvious. Within the political world, there is a constant struggle to find truth among the massive amounts of “smoke”. No doubt those who buy into QAnon believe that they know the stars are behind the smoke of mainstream media. Others will see the conspiracy theories of QAnon as the smoke we must get rid of.
We can see the same if we look at religious life. Dogmatism and the thought that one group has the truth are always divisive and destructive. Evanglicalism and broad ecumenism seem hard to put together. Multi-culturalism and diversity may seem to be smoke or they may be the forces that prevent calcified belief systems from obscuring our view of the truth.
Lubicci didn’t just speak of his faith in starts; he acted out that faith. It was through his actions that the truth had a chance to be known by all. And by acting on his faith, he discovered new depths within himself that allowed him to expand his world.
Poupelle of Chimney Town is available on VOD and will soon be available digitally and on DVD.
Photos courtesy of 11 Arts.