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2019 Arts & Faith Ecumenical Jury: RESULTS

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The results are in and posted here: http://artsandfaith.com/index.php?/films/year/5-2019-arts-faith-ecumenical-jury/

  1. Parasite
  2. A Hidden Life
  3. The Irishman
  4. Little Women
  5. Amazing Grace
  6. The Farewell
  7. Marriage Story
  8. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
  9. The Last Black Man in San Francisco
  10. Light from Light
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The most notable feature of the 2019 Arts & Faith Ecumenical Jury list is that four of the films on it, including three of the top four listed, are Academy Award nominees. In years past, the list has seemed to this voter a bit more varied. Not quite eccentric and certainly not esoteric, but...different.

Is this a one-time anomaly, or does it indicate changes in the film landscape or the jury configuration? Terrence Malick has long had many passionate admirers at Arts & Faith, and Scorsese's last film, Silence, appeared on this jury's list of recommendations. Although I personally was not enthralled by it, Greta Gerwig's Lady Bird was championed in this forum in 2017. Perhaps this calendar year simply saw the alignment of releases by beloved and respected auteurs. Marielle Heller, the director of A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood may not have been a household name in these parts, but Fred Rogers was a subject of a documentary last year. 

Perhaps because it has garnered awards from many critics' organizations, Parasite may be less of a surprise at #1 than it should be. A mix of social commentary, black comedy, and horror, the film should make all but the most cursory readers stop and reflect on what the jury means by recommending these particular films to Christian audiences. In his blurb on the film, juror Noel T. Manning II, suggests the reason is that film asks tough questions about in what we put our faith. That it does. I would add that the film's tonal shifts and unexpected changes may also cause us to question with whom we feel allegiance. In politically polarized and economically challenging times, we may be tempted to divide the world into the rich and the poor, those who have and those who lack, and to see their respective problems and shortcomings as unique to their situation. But there is no temptation except that which is common to man. 

The are commercial films, yes. But they are films about powerful political and moral themes: money, power, war, family. Christians do not have a monopoly of interest about these topics, but they should not neglect powerful art that explores them simply because those who are not Christian might admire aspects of them as well. If we find common ground in celebrating art with those whose beliefs differ from ours, that should be celebrated. 

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