English filmmaker Peter Greenaway made the short documentary Act of God for broadcast on UK channel, Thames TV, in 1980. Subtitled ‘Some Lightning Experiences 1961-1980’, the short takes a look at lightning and victims of lightning strikes, not unlike 2009’s feature-length doc of the same name (directed by Sean Faughnan, Ezna Sands and Petros Silvestros). Like Greenaway’s faux documentary The Falls (1980), this film focuses on the stories of these individuals that all share a common experience, with each filmed differently. It differs in the sense that they tell their own story here and are set to statistics.
Greenaway further explains his motiviation for Act of God:
“I was asked by Thames, a rather reactionary TV station, to make a half-hour program on any subject whatsoever. In my interest in taxonomies and attempts to classify information, I looked for the most unclassifiable events or phenomena I could think of – which was being struck by lightning. We advertised in the national press for all those people who had been struck by lightning and survived, to come forward to be interviewed – and that’s what the film’s about. I had hoped to find extraordinary religious experiences, people who felt they’d been punished by God. Most of their reactions were totally banal, but we came across some extraordinary events – girls riding fat ponies down English country lanes and entirely disappearing apart from a pool of cooling fat on the road. I put all these events together and of course everybody thought I had made them up.”