When the movie Field of Dreams was released in 1989, tens of thousands of tourists began to descend on the farming town of Dyersville, Iowa, where the movie was set. And New Zealand has seen a tremendous surge in international visits since The Lord of the Rings trilogy was released. In both places, travelers sought to be a part of the magic that the movies provided.
These “film-induced pilgrimages” have become a research interest of Brent Plate, visiting associate professor of religious studies. His essay, “When Do Moviegoers Become Pilgrims?” was published at theConversation.com and reprinted in several media outlets, including Time.com. Plate pays attention to a number of films that have stirred people to get up and travel. In the midst of these, tourists begin to look like spiritual pilgrims.
Through such activities, Plate suggests, “Distinctions between tourism and pilgrimage, on-screen reality and off-screen reality, and the secular and sacred grow blurry.” Ultimately, Plate believes that travel is “hardwired into our species,” and contemporary media are one of the stimuli that encourage us to get up and move.
The essay is related to some of the work in the forthcoming second edition of his book Religion and Film: Cinema and the Re-Creation of the World.