We Believe in Dinosaurs

We Believe in Dinosaurs is a 2019 American documentary about the controversy surrounding the construction of the Ark Encounter museum in Williamstown, Kentucky. The museum features a scale model replica of Noah's Ark, its goal is to promote young earth creationism and disprove evolution. Recorded over a four-year period, the film catalogs the project from conception to completion and beyond.[5][6][7]

We Believe in Dinosaurs
We Believe in Dinosaurs poster.jpg
Directed byMonica Long Ross[1][2][3]
Clayton Brown[1][2][3]
Written byMonica Long Ross
Produced byAmy Ellison[1][2]
Monica Long Ross[1][2]
Clayton Brown[1][2]
CinematographyClayton Brown
Edited byClayton Brown[1][2]
Music byKate Simko[2]
Release date
  • April 13, 2019 (2019-04-13) (San Francisco International Film Festival)
  • November 19, 2019 (2019-11-19)
Running time
99 minutes[1][2]
CountryUnited States

According to its directors, Monica Long-Ross and Clayton Brown, the goal of the film is “to spark an important dialogue about the thorny intersection of belief, religion, and science — crossing into the cultural bubbles where so many Americans seem to exist."[1] Their goal is not to convert creationists.[8] They go on to say, “We hope that the film can shine a light on the important science and religion conflicts that we face today, including the increasing incidents of science denial, and what the erosion of the separation of church and state means for America, as well as across the world.”[1]

The title of the film is a reference to the Ark Encounter's attempt to blend religious beliefs with science. The museum argues that dinosaurs existed alongside all modern animals including humans, but perished during the flood narrated in the Bible. The prevalence of dinosaur-based displays also attracts younger attendees, who are the prime target for religious instruction.[2]

1091 Media has acquired North American distribution rights to the film.[1]


The Ark replica, dubbed Ark Encounter, is a project of the apologetics ministry Answers in Genesis. The movie follows the construction of the replica largely through the eyes of three individuals: Doug Henderson, the head designer, is a biblical literalist and develops lifelike animals to populate the Ark; David MacMillan is a former creationist (and a charter member of the parent Creation Museum) who now tries to convince creationists that modern science is compatible with religion; and geologist Dan Phelps, who fights against the "non-science" promulgated by the Ark Encounter. Phelps is joined by a local pastor, Chris Caldwell, in protesting tax incentives granted to the Ark Encounter.[9][2][10][8][11][12]

Opening day attracted protests by Tri-State Freethinkers, led by Jim Helton, and a counter-protest organized by the creationist Eric Hovind.[13][14] Williamstown residents hoped that the Ark Encounter will stimulate their economy, and over 1 million people visited the Ark Encounter in its first year, but it did little for the town. Indeed, near the end of the film, we see that Megan McCamey's general store, which had been featured earlier, is now closed.[citation needed]


We Believe in Dinosaurs earned a score of 91% from Rotten Tomatoes with an average score of 6.4/10.[15]

Dennis Harvey, writing in Variety,[16] thought that the film attempts "to portray both sides even-handedly [and] offers not so much a critique as a slightly bemused observation of the Ark Encounter." He adds that the film does not have "any overt message," but nevertheless "suggest[s] that this eccentric collision between faith and secularism, commerce and politics—one that might have seemed wholly outlandish not long ago—is kinda-sorta the direction in which our republic is now headed."

Steven Farber in "The Hollywood Reporter"[17] thought the film is an "intriguing and unfortunately timely documentary" but found it to be "sketchy." He thought that although it "is frustratingly incomplete at times, it convincingly and sometimes frighteningly explores the big-business connections to fundamentalist religion." He labels MacMillan and Phelps as among "a few naysayers" but argues that "the doc cries out for a few more scientific voices. The directors understandably didn’t want to overwhelm their audience with talking heads, but a few more sage voices would have been welcome."

Jenny Kermode[18] writes in "Eye for Film" (UK) that "the film never comes across as mocking, letting all its participants speak for themselves and leaving the viewer to make sense of it all." She concludes, "This is a film about the value of stories and the way that, whether we believe them to be fact or fiction, they shape the way we understand the world."

Charles Barfield[19] notes in The Playlist that "Brown and Ross have culled together a group of characters that are sincere, open, and above all, fascinating," but he is concerned that "by trying to cover such a massive story (both figuratively and literally) ‘Dinosaurs’ spreads itself so thin and loses its grip on the basics of storytelling."

Other reviewers include Gary Kramer,[20] writing in Film International, who finds McMillan and Henderson to be "compelling because they show the difference between critical thinking versus blind faith" and thinks that "the film's greatest strength" is showing how "it adroitly reveals how people think and believe"; Will Warren,[21] reviewing the 2019 AFI DOCS Film Festival in the "Washington City Paper"; Raquel Stecher[8] in Quelle Movies; Brent Hankins[22] in The Lamplight Review; Arlin Golden[23] in a Film Inquiry roundup of the San Francisco International Film Festival; Alan Ng[12], writing in Film Threat; Steve Kopien,[24] writing in Unseen Films; and Chris Knipp[25] reviewing the film on his own blog. Excerpts from various reviews may also be found in the article, "Reviews of documentary 'We Believe in Dinosaurs'"[26]

Festivals and InterviewsEdit

We Believe in Dinosaurs was judged Best Documentary Feature[27] at the 28th Annual Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival, 17 November 2019. It was shown at the American Film Institute's AFI DOCS Forum,[28] in Washington and Silver Spring. The film was screened in New York at the DOC NYC festival,[29] 13 and 14 November 2019 and at the SF Film Festival[30] in San Francisco, 13 and 15 April 2019.

The film was additionally screened at the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival[31] in Hot Springs Arkansas, 22 October 2019; the Virginia Film Festival,[32] Charlottesville, Virginia, 27 October 2019; the Rocky Mountain Women's Film Festival[33] at Colorado College, Colorado Springs, 17 November 2019; the Woods Hole Film Festival,[34] Woods Hole, Massachusetts, 29 July 2019; and the Sidewalk Film Festival,[35] Birmingham, Alabama, 24 August 2019.

In addition, Monica Long Ross, one of the producers, granted an interview[36] to Sophie Willard of the website Women and Hollywood[37] at the DOC NYC Festival on 12 November 2019.

Steven Saito, interviewing Brown and Long Ross at the San Francisco Film Fest ’19,[38] opined that the directors had produced a "compelling documentary, never losing sight of their own beliefs while being respectful in presenting those of others."

The Friendly Atheist (Hemant Mehta[39]) interviewed[40] Long Ross and Amy Ellison in Episode 140, "The producers of the documentary We Believe in Dinosaurs" of his podcast in 2016, while the film was still in production. In 2017, the pseudonymous AronRa[41] interviewed[42] Brown, Long Ross, and Amy Ellison in "Episode 60 - We Believe in Dinosaurs" of his podcast Ra-Men.

Director Monica Long Ross and featured scientist Dan Phelps were interviewed by James Underdown on Point of Inquiry, a podcast from the Center for Inquiry, in June 2020, along with Rob Boston, Communications Director at Americans United for Separation of Church and State. They discussed the film in the larger context of science denial and the struggle between creationism and evolution. Boston said “It’s important to understand that this wasn’t just a fight over one museum, a big boat in Kentucky in a small town. This battle is played out across the country in public school classrooms every year.” Long Ross and Phelps discussed difficulties finding scientists willing to speak out against the museum due to fear of backlash from creationist groups, controversy over tax rebates given to the museum, and issues of employment discrimination by Answers in Genesis, the organization that runs the Ark Encounter.[43]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Barraclough, Leo (18 May 2019). "Cannes: 1091 Media Takes North American Rights to Creationism Doc (EXCLUSIVE)". variety.com. Variety. Archived from the original on 7 January 2020. Retrieved 7 January 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Farber, Stephen (13 April 2019). "'We Believe in Dinosaurs': Film Review San Francisco Film Festival 2019". hollywoodreporter.com. The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 7 January 2020.
  3. ^ a b Warren, Will (20 June 2019). "Reviews From the 2019 AFI DOCS Film Festival". washingtoncitypaper.com. Washington City Paper. Retrieved 14 January 2020.
  4. ^ a b "We Believe in Dinosaurs". rottentomatoes.com. Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 14 January 2020.
  5. ^ Blackford, Linda (December 8, 2016). "Film about Ark Encounter to highlight Americans' strange connection with science". Lexington Herald-Leader. Retrieved December 12, 2019.
  6. ^ Blackford, Linda (July 15, 2019). "Dinosaurs, depression and delusion. What I found in new documentary on Kentucky's Ark". Lexington Herald-Leader. Retrieved December 12, 2019.
  7. ^ Rowney, Jo-Anne (2017-01-26). "How and why creationists built a $100m 510-ft Noah's Ark to 'disprove' evolution". mirror. Retrieved 2019-12-13.
  8. ^ a b c Stecher, Raquel (29 April 2019). "We Believe in Dinosaurs". quellemovies.com. Quelle Movies. Retrieved 14 January 2020.
  9. ^ Greene, Steve (20 December 2016). "'We Believe in Dinosaurs' Tracks the Making and Marketing of a Giant Noah's Ark Rebuild". indiewire.com. Indie Wire. Retrieved 14 January 2020.
  10. ^ "WE BELIEVE IN DINOSAURS: denying science on a monumental scale". themoviegourmet.com. The Movie Gourmet. 20 April 2019. Retrieved 14 January 2020.
  11. ^ Kramer, Gary M. (26 June 2019). "Crises in Detail: AFI Docs 2019". filmint.nu. Film International. Retrieved 14 January 2020.
  12. ^ a b Ng, Alan (April 14, 2019). "We Believe in Dinosaurs". filmthreat.com. Film Threat. Retrieved 8 January 2020.
  13. ^ James, Josh (July 7, 2016). "Noah's Ark Theme Park Debuts To Cheers And Jeers". WUKY radio. Retrieved 2020-03-24.
  14. ^ Hansel, Mark (July 9, 2016). "Ark Encounter protesters and supporters share common ground in an unlikely place". Northern Kentucky Tribune. Retrieved 2020-03-24.
  15. ^ "We Believe In Dinosaurs". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved October 30, 2021.
  16. ^ Harvey, Dennis. Film Review: ‘We Believe in Dinosaurs’, Variety, May 19, 2019. Retrieved 12 Dec 2019.
  17. ^ Farber, Steven. 'We Believe in Dinosaurs': Film Review, The Hollywood Reporter, April 13, 2019. Retrieved 12 Dec 2019.
  18. ^ Kermode, Jenny. We Believe in Dinosaurs, Eye for Film (UK), April 26, 2019. Retrieved 12 Dec 2019.
  19. ^ Barfield, Charles. ‘We Believe in Dinosaurs’ Sheds Light on The Disturbing True Story of Modern Creationism & Kentucky’s Life-Size Noah’s Ark, The Playlist, April 19, 2019. Retrieved 12 Dec 2019.
  20. ^ Kramer, Gary M. Crises in Detail: AFI Docs 2019, Film International, June 26, 2019. Retrieved 12 Dec 2019.
  21. ^ Warren, Will. We Believe in Dinosaurs, Reviews from the 2019 AFI DOCS Film Festival, Washington City Paper, June 20, 2019. Retrieved 12 Dec 2019.
  22. ^ Hankins, Brent. Movie Review: ‘We Believe in Dinosaurs’, The Lamplight Review, April 19, 2019. Retrieved 12 Dec 2019.
  23. ^ Golden, Arlin. San Francisco International Film Festival Week 1 Round Up, by Arlin Golden, Film Inquiry, April 18, 2019. Retrieved 12 Dec 2019.
  24. ^ Kopien, Steve. We Believe in Dinosaurs (2019) DOC NYC 2019, Unseen Films, November 10, 2019. Retrieved 12 Dec 2019.
  25. ^ Knipp, Chris. Clayton Brown, Monica Long Ross: We Believe in Dinosaurs (2018) - San Francisco Film Festival 2019, by Chris Knipp, blog post, April 20, 2019. Retrieved 12 Dec 2019.
  26. ^ Young, Matt. Reviews of documentary "We Believe in Dinosaurs", by Matt Young, The Panda's Thumb, 22 Apr 2019. Retrieved 14 Dec 2019.
  27. ^ 28th Annual Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival Awards, 17 Nov 2019. Retrieved 13 Dec 2019.
  28. ^ AFI DOCS, American Film Institute, Washington, 19-23 Jun 2019. Retrieved 13 Dec 2019.
  29. ^ DOC NYC, New York, 13,14 Nov 2019. Retrieved 13 Dec 2019.
  30. ^ SFFilm Festival, San Francisco, 13, 15 Apr 2019. Retrieved 13 Dec 2019.
  31. ^ Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, Hot Springs, Arkansas, 22 Oct 2019. Retrieved 13 Dec 2019.
  32. ^ Virginia Film Festival, Charlottesville, Virginia, 27 Oct 2019. Retrieved 13 Dec 2019.
  33. ^ Rocky Mountain Women's Film Festival, 17 Nov 2019. Retrieved 13 Dec 2019.
  34. ^ Woods Hole Film Festival, Woods Hole, Massachusetts, 29 Jul 2019. Retrieved 13 Dec 2019.
  35. ^ Sidewalk Film Festival, Birmingham, Alabama, 24 Aug 2019. Retrieved 13 Dec 2019.
  36. ^ Willard, Sophie.DOC NYC 2019 Women Directors: Meet Monica Long Ross – “We Believe in Dinosaurs”, "DOC NYC 2019 Women Directors: Meet Monica Long Ross – 'We Believe in Dinosaurs,' interview with Monica Long Ross, Women and Hollywood, 12 November 2019. Retrieved 14 Dec 2019.
  37. ^ Women and Hollywood. Retrieved 14 Dec 2019.]
  38. ^ Saito, Steven. San Francisco Film Fest ’19 Interview San Francisco Film Fest ’19 Interview: "Clayton Brown and Monica Long Ross on Putting Their Faith in Science in 'We Believe in Dinosaurs'", The Movable Feast, April 15, 2019. Retrieved 14 Dec 2019.
  39. ^ Hemant Mehta. Retrieved 14 Dec 2019.
  40. ^ "The Friendly Atheist." The producers of the documentary We Believe in Dinosaurs, "Episode 140, The producers of the documentary We Believe in Dinosaurs", podcast, YouTube, 18 December 2016. Retrieved 14 Dec 2019.
  41. ^ Aron Ra Aron Ra. Retrieved 14 Dec 2019.
  42. ^ "AronRa". Ra-Men, Episode 60 - We Believe in Dinosaurs, "Episode 60 - We Believe in Dinosaurs", YouTube, January 4, 2017. Retrieved 14 Dec 2019.
  43. ^ Underdown, James (9 June 2020). "Monuments to Misinformation: The Ark Experience and Creation Museum" (podcast). Point of Inquiry. Center for Inquiry. Retrieved 23 June 2020.