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M. Leary

Film series

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So you have the following opportunity:

Establish an annual film series at a popular evangelical seminary.

It seems that the films you select would have to be challenging-yet accessible enough, but still be within a certain insitutional ethical boundary. At least at first.

It also seems that to attract people you would probably want to start off with some crowd pleasers, but yet foriegn or indie crowd pleasers so that people would understand that the series is not just a night at the movies.

So this is the situation I am in, so I am wondering if anyone has some good suggestions for films and/or themes.

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The history link at CAFF has some of their themes. The one I find most interesting (but I didn't get to it that year) is Road Trip: Moving with the Spirit.

I think stories of Eden might make for some interesting discussions: Pleasantville, The Truman Show, East of Eden (for Cain and Able, of course), Lord of the Flies come off the top of my head.

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I keep thinking about the "carpe diem" film list we were noodling with at the last board. Romantics vs anti-Romantics. Preachers versus kids that just want to dance. Degenerating at the far end into Lord of the Flies. Dead Poets. Pleasantville. Chocolat. Dancing at Lughnasa. Footloose. Room With A View. I think Emperor's Club is a lame film but it's crying out to be double-featured with Dead Poets.

Another theme we had an amazing time with at Cornerstone one year was The Grotesque. (Beauty vs Ugliness, inner vs outer) Freaks. Elephant Man. Hunchback of Notre Dame. Twin Peaks. The documentary on the Nazi euthanasia program, Healing by Killing.

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Here's my usual plug for Quiz Show, what seems to be a stright-forward ethical decisions film is ultimately a film that explores the myths of character behind ethnicity, intelligence, affluence, and appearance. Outstanding performances and Redford's best direction.

Elephant Man is an excellent choice as well, maybe in conjunction with The Straight Story for a look at Lynch.

I think the Evangelical world is ripe for a look at the art of animation beyond disney and Spirited Away is a perfect film to be that first step.

Yi-Yi would also be another otustanding foreign choice. But if you're looking more mainstream perhaps Life is Beautiful.

As far as the best disucssion films out there I'd lean toward The Big Kahuna (although the language is very harsh at places) and The Mosquito Coast, especially with a Christian crowd.

Good luck, sounds like a great oppotunity. What's the seminary?

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Twin Peaks is great for that theme, very interesting choice. Did you show that at Flickerings?

I do have some academic guidelines to work in, it has to be something that would dovetail well with a theological educational setting. Not to say that the current suggestions aren't.

I wonder now if starting with something basic like: "Why is Film a Meaningful Experience?" and calling the series something like: Holy Moments. (At least this first year. That way the school can bill the series as a "community theological project.")

But this seems rather open-ended. It really would be a great way for theology students to talk about good film, but that question is so broad that it doesn't seem to be a productive approach. (It is open enough though that I can pick films that I personally am interested in seeing theology students watch: Ghost World, Brazil, 400 Blows, Blue/Dekalog, Mr. Death, Code Unknown, etc...)

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Good luck, sounds like a great oppotunity. What's the seminary?

Hey, Yi-Yi and Straight Story are great suggestions. The seminary is Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. A professor tried to start a film series here last year and it didn't do well. It was poorly attended. He picked great films: Citizen Kane, Paths of Glory, Bringing up Baby, etc...

But I think the series dwindled because he didn't pick the right films for the collegiate environment. So I want to make sure we slate films that will grab people's attention from an contemporary entertainment perspective but will be challenging, and then working our way to Code Unknown as a finale.

It is hard to do a film series at a seminary.

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Guest Russell Lucas

Vengeance and Forgiveness

Three Colors: White

The Sweet Hereafter

In the Bedroom

Freedom, Real and Imagined

All That Heaven Allows

A Man Escaped

Wings of Desire

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I think this sounds like a great idea, Michael, but I have a question on the outskirts of this conversation.

TEDS requires its professors to be premillenial in their eschatology, correct? Does it also require its students to subscribe to premillenialism?

You can respond to this in the "Theology" folder if you think that's the appropriate place to prevent any hijacking of this thread.

Tying back into the film festival, *if* pre-mil is a requirement, you might want to pick films that explore the future, that point to which direction the world might be heading. Bleak films are plentiful, but so are films that are hopeful about the future. Having written that, none come to mind -- of either stripe. I'm blank right now. Oh wait. You coudl be even more explicit, show something like Don McKellar's (sp?) "Last Night," which is about THE END in some sense.

Of course, you'd want to stay away from the Lalonde brand of "Left Behind" films.

And the films could either challenge the premil view or, in some way, support it. I'm sure people reading this will have lots of ideas, and maybe I will as well, once I think about this for a little while. Shall I pursue this, or am I on the wrong track?

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It is funny that you ask that. Most students here are not pre-mil, and it seems that they are that way because most of the professors are not. I don't know when or how or why, but that policy seems to have been abandoned. It may have to do with the fact that most pre-mil/dispensationalist teachers are still associated with fundamentalist tendencies in today's scene, and TEDS wants to distance themselves from that. It is pretty much "don't ask, don't tell, and don't fight about it."

Showing "Last Night" would be a great idea. I don't want us to watch films that have to do with Christianity, or theology, or anything like that. This should be just a basic "film series". That will introduce people to good films. But something like Last Night would be great because it would challenge preconcieved notions at a visceral level, which is a very meaningful experience. I would have to rent it again and double check whether it "fits in the boundaries."

This is great! Thanks for all the help so far.

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Freedom, Real and Imagined

All That Heaven Allows

A Man Escaped

Wings of Desire

I've always thought "Prison/Escape" movies would make a great series of films. A Man Escaped, yes. Woman in the Dunes. Maybe Papillon... Or Chicken Run.

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I like the "Vengeance and Forgiveness" theme, Russell. As we've talked about recently on these boards, this seems to be a current cultural zeitgeist, so why not ride it?

Other films along those lines could include "Changing Lanes" or even "The Apostle" -- although this film is a rich spiritual feast, it also depicts the pain of unforgiveness in the pastor's marital relationship (justified at least in part by his frightening tendency towards overbearing control that is illustrated in his and his wife's brief scenes together). One could even throw in the intense documentary "Domestic Violence" for good measure.

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Freedom, Real and Imagined

All That Heaven Allows

A Man Escaped

Wings of Desire

I've always thought "Prison/Escape" movies would make a great series of films. A Man Escaped, yes. Woman in the Dunes. Maybe Papillon... Or Chicken Run.

Hey, that is good. So maybe we could pick a theme, and use that theme as a catapult to really talking about "what makes film meaningful."

So Freedom: Real and Imagined could also encompass films like Ghost World because the film teases with the idea of personal freedom through maturation. Or something of that nature. That theme is good because it is not just prison films that fit the bill. 400 Blows could even fit in there as it explores the idea of freedom in youth.

And maybe we could show my personal fav: Trans (which would be a great Flickerings film by the way.)

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Guest Russell Lucas

Sure. Obvious physical freedom in Bresson, and the perception or reality of socially-imposed imprisonment in Sirk. Wenders's angel sees freedom, or life, or something inimical to his experience, and wants it.

A film like Europa, Europa explores the way that people may alter their identity (and risk losing their individuality) to pursue freedom.

I like the idea of The 400 Blows. Youth-oriented or coming-of-age films usually have some insights into freedom, intentionally or not.

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(Just an update)

The list the seminary settled on is something like this:

Freedom and Determinism in Contemporary Film

Waking Life - freedom in contemporary philosophy

The Apostle - religious "freedom" and contemporary society

400 Blows - freedom in coming-of-age structures

Crimes and Misdemeanors - moral freedom and agency

Blue -

Dekalog 1 & ? -

13 Conversations About One Thing - freedom and storytelling

(not in that order)

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Wouldn't the summary for Blue be : Freedom and the past? Or freedom and responsibility?

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Moulin Rouge is a great one for fate vs freedom. In the finale, fate seems to be doing everything it can to triumph, but the "little people" take destiny in their own hands and win out over it.

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What is the connection to freedom in Decalogue 1 (apart from a 'film worth watching')? In Decalogue 2 it could be Freedom and Consequences (or Freedom and Choices, since there are a few choices that people have to make in the film).

Tim

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Well, I think the title enough renders the films relevant. They explore individual understandings of "freedom" in relation to existing social norms and standards. Something like that...

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Guest Russell Lucas

What is the connection to freedom in Decalogue 1 (apart from a 'film worth watching')? In Decalogue 2 it could be Freedom and Consequences (or Freedom and Choices, since there are a few choices that people have to make in the film).

Tim

I think one freedom-related theme in One is that we see illustrated the ways that people obtain the freedom to act or choose. Sure, it's easy to reduce it to the tensions between living by scientific calculations and living by intuition and faith, but in a real way those competing elements give people the freedom of conscience or lack thereof to structure or perceive their existences.

Of course, freedom is so elastic a concept that you could write a paragraph like that about every film in the series.

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Boy, am I late in discovering this thread! And given that the list is already decided upon, the horse is well and truly out of the barn. Oh well, never can resist a list...

Vengeance and Forgiveness

Three Colors: White

The Sweet Hereafter

In the Bedroom

Nice set of movies. I've always thought THE SON would be a superb double feature with IN THE BEDROOM. THE STRAIGHT STORY is all about forgiveness, of course, though not vengeance. THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO is all about vengeance and forgiveness, and last year's version is very explicit about putting that in a Christian frame - though the Books & Culture article on it points out that, for all the Christian language, it's actually less Christian in its approach to the theme than was the original novel or (IIRC) some of the other film treatments. GANGS OF NEW YORK, perhaps? UNFORGIVEN. SLING BLADE?

That was fun.

Ron

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Well, it has been tough to stay within the moral parameters they have set up. Unforgiven would be perfect though, what a great film. Can't wait to catch Mystic River. I actually nixed Crimes and Misdemeanors even though it is perfect and settled on this final list:

Waking Life

In the Bedroom

Close Up

400 Blows

The Apostle

Blue

Dekalog 1 and ?

And I am going to watch The Sweet Hereafter yet another time to see if it is suitable for thier guidelines.

Close Up is a great experience thinking of it in terms of freedom and social determinism regarding its cultural context. I can foresee some good discussion with that one. I though about The White Balloon because it is a bit shorter, but its social points are very subtle and require a lot of background discussion.

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I second Ron's regrets of having come late to this. It is sad that Crimes And Misdemeanors couldn't pass muster. It would be perfect.

For consideration in the future: in a match with Unforgiven (a film I love as well), many think of Pale Rider. Nothing wrong with that, but I think that a more nuanced pairing would be with The Outlaw Josey Wales. On almost every level: tone, redemption, character motivation; it would be a fine foil for the more recent film.

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Just a Western series would be great. There seems to be a great deal of stuff in the genre that is relevant theologically. It almost seems like the Western genre is the cyberpunk literature of the Boomers...or is it the Busters.

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Just a Western series would be great. There seems to be a great deal of stuff in the genre that is relevant theologically. It almost seems like the Western genre is the cyberpunk literature of the Boomers...or is it the Busters.

Actually, I'd say that would work for the tweeners (too young for WWII, not boomers). Myself, I wasn't much for westerns 'til The Wild Bunch. I think that the anti-westerns were more geared to boomers, but this wasn't really the point of all of this. Boetticher and Peckinpah definitely have something to offer in this regard, as does Clint.

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