Private Project

The Book of Joshua

A young preacher contemplates walking away from his calling as he struggles to revitalize his congregation in an economically depressed region of the South.

  • Paul Kim
  • Paul Kim
  • Joshua Nelson
    Key Cast
  • Paul Kim
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Short
  • Runtime:
    30 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    February 11, 2022
  • Production Budget:
    30,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Paul Kim

Paul B. Kim has two decades of experience in the film, television, and media industries as a documentary filmmaker and new media producer on projects spanning six continents, exploring topics in human rights, global health, education, and the intersection of religion and politics. His work has screened at domestic and international festivals, public television, universities, and industry events.

Kim is a professor of screen arts at Pepperdine University in Malibu, CA. He holds an MFA in Film and Electronic Media from the School of Communication at American University, where he served as a graduate fellow in the Center for Media & Social Impact funded by the Ford Foundation and collaborated with the MIT Media Lab on their new media literacy project. During Kim’s academic career, he developed and directed a unique undergraduate documentary filmmaking program, received his institution’s highest teaching award, and chaired a department overseeing numerous programs within communication and the visual arts. His student teams won some of the highest awards in the field, such as the Pacemaker Award from the Associated Collegiate Press and a Student Academy Award nomination. At Pepperdine, Kim teaches courses in production, storytelling, and documentary filmmaking.

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Director Statement

As far back as my memories can go, my father was at the center of our immigrant community. As a Korean Protestant minister, he was responsible for nearly everything. He was the first to open the church doors and the last to leave. He assisted people in navigating the immigration process and in the startup of their local businesses. He advocated for his members in court, organized food drives, negotiated to resolve disputes, and did countless other services to help people become productive members of their community.

But while I knew there was a tremendous cost to the work he did (as family we often paid the price), he showed us little vulnerability in the role and never spoke once about his internal struggles. It wasn’t until well into my adult years that little anecdotes from my parents began to slip out, outlining the difficulty of the job—given how dysfunctional members and leaders could be, with the absence of breaks and sabbaticals, and ultimately given the tremendous loneliness involved in being a spiritual figurehead.

As a documentary filmmaker, I always thought of the local church as one of the richest, untapped sources for thought provoking and dramatic material, but recognized that there are too many personal and communal roadblocks to navigate. Few churches, much less their pastors, want to openly discuss their mental, emotional, and spiritual issues.

It’s with this in mind that I was so surprised to meet a young preacher in Joshua Nelson, who from the beginning was incredibly candid about the difficulties of his role as a local church pastor. Refreshingly, he openly talked and wrote about what was only spoken in extremely private meetings among pastors—the darkness they all dealt with but never dared say aloud. He shared just how frequently he thought about quitting, given the tremendous pressures he faced. I am so grateful to him and his family for being so honest about their experience.

There was so much this project could have focused on given the importance of the backdrop of the last few years. The uprisings against racially motivated violence and the nature of the pandemic's impact on Albany all affected Joshua and his church in notable ways. But these were all bigger topics than this short film could hope to fully address, and I wanted to stay true to its unique nature in exploring the internal struggle and turmoil of the pastor that so few of us ever see. The pandemic put a long pause on our production and impacted what we were able to cover, but I feel fortunate that we were able to conclude the story given that there was no guarantee that Joshua would stay at his church.

With the decline of Christianity in America and the rapid disappearance of millennials and Gen Z from the pews as the backdrop, making this film forced me to ask difficult questions as to the relevance church communities and their appointed leaders have in addressing society's most pressing problems. What I found, largely through Joshua and a handful of other parishes, is a glimmer of hope.