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Faith Issues in Film Group

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Our group meets at 7 pm, on the first Tuesdays, eight months of the year. We watch the chosen film on our own, and then gather to discuss it; we’re very much like a book club in those aspects. Our meetings often include an introductory worship portion and we end with a time for sharing and prayers. We are always open to new members.

Meetings currently take place by Zoom; please contact for the link.

Here is our 2023-24 schedule:

Sept 5 Women Talking (2022)
Oct 3 The Duke (2022)
Nov 7 Tár (2022)
Jan 2 Living (2020)
Feb 6 Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)
Mar 5 The Swimmers (2022)
April 2 Crip Camp (2020)
May 7 Denial (2017)

Women Talking (2022) is written and directed by Sarah Polley and based on the 2018 novel of the same name by Canadian writer, Miriam Toews.

The cast includes Rooney Mara, Claire Foy, Jessie Buckley, Judith Ivey, Ben Whishaw, and Frances McDormand, who also served as a producer on the film.

Available on Prime Video, Apple TV, and other streaming sources but not currently Netflix

In 2010, the women of an unnamed Mennonite colony discover that some men of their community, even some of their husbands, have been using livestock tranquilizer to subdue and rape them as well as some of their daughters. The attackers have been arrested and imprisoned in a nearby city. Most of the men of the colony have left to oversee the bail, leaving the women by themselves for two days. 

True to its title, the film consists almost entirely of the women talking among themselves as they weigh the pro and cons of leaving, staying and fighting, or trying to forgive and forget.  Some are tormented by the consequences of violating the obligations of their faith and fear they will be punished by God if they leave the community.  Some are furious and eager to fight back. Others are just frightened and confused about where they would go and what they would do.  Eventually the group reaches consensus with a clear understanding of their oppression and potential liberation and that leaving isn’t to reject belief, but to reestablish it on a firmer, more coherent moral basis 

The Duke (2022) 

Director: Roger Michell

Availability:  Streaming on Amazon Prime and Apple TV.  Palo Alto Library system has 2 DVDs. 

The Duke is based on the true story of, Kempton Bunton, a modern-day Robin Hood who in 1961 in England attempted to steal from the rich to give to the poor. He is a fearless and undaunted idealist. 

Some of the strongest moments in the film come when Kempton is put on trial for theft. Given the chance to speak for himself, he explains that he has always looked out for other people and gotten in trouble for it. He says, “I am not me without you. We all need each other. You are me. It’s you who makes me me. And it’s me that makes you you. Humanity is a collective project…. My philosophy – the I’m you and you’re me thing – tells me that every time someone gets cut off from the rest of us, this nation becomes a foot shorter.”  

Terrific performances by Jim Broadbent as Kempton and Helen Mirren as his long-suffering wife.  

Tár (2022)

Director: Todd Field

Available on Amazon Prime, YouTube, Peacock and Comcast OnDemand.

Tár is a psychological drama about an embattled orchestra conductor (Lydia Tár) played by Cate Blanchet who won a Golden Globe for this portrayal as well as numerous other awards. She was also nominated for an Academy Award, and the film itself received six Academy nominations. 

As the film begins, Lydia Tár is at the height of her fame having already received many awards honoring her talents as a composer, conductor, accomplished pianist, musicologist and as the first female conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic. She’s on a quest to reach an unrealized goal – that of making a definitive recording of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. Unfortunately, Lydia is also obsessed with power and doesn’t mind walking over anyone who gets in her way. This includes her various love interests whom she selects and discards at will, despite having a supportive wife and a young daughter. Her downfall begins when her indiscretions come to light, and she spirals out of control. What happens next (or doesn’t happen) could make for a very good discussion.

Faith issues might include looking at the spiritual complexities of power, ambition, pride and control as well as penance and redemption. What is really important in life and how do we sometimes get completely off-track?  

Living (2020)

Directed by Oliver Hermanus; stars Bill Nighy, who was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor

Availability:  Rent on Prime Video DVD on order at PA Library

Living is a well-crafted British drama about a bureaucrat’s spiritual transformation in the face of death. The post-World War II London drama puts an understated Bill Nighy at the center. He plays Williams, the head of the Public Works Department, who receives a terminal health diagnosis and, after a period of shock, begins taking stock of his life and essentially trying to be the best person he can before he goes. It’s a role that calls for subtlety, and Nighy is the right leading man. Living is a loose adaptation/remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Ikiru (aka To Live), a post-World War II drama about a Tokyo bureaucrat who goes on a similar journey after a terminal diagnosis of gastric cancer. There is a strong theme of confronting mortality and assessing life choices. 

Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)

Director: Taika Waititi

Currently Streaming on Netflix and available on Hoopla and Kanopy from the library. Also some DVD copies from the library.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople tells the story of misfit foster kid Ricky Baker. When Ricky’s foster aunt suddenly passes away, he’s left alone with his grumpy uncle Hec. The unlikely duo find themselves on the run in the vast New Zealand bush, evading child services and the law. They are forced to work together to survive and despite their differences, form a bond in this hilarious and heart-felt adventure. Director Taika Waititi showcases his New Zealand heritage and fun sense of humor in this film. We follow Ricky’s struggles with the foster care system and see a really sweet relationship form between him and his reluctant uncle Hec. 

The Swimmers (2022)

Director: Sally El Hosaini

Availability: Netflix

The Swimmers is the true story of Yusra and Sarah Mardini, who flee their home country of Syria in 2015 after their house was destroyed during the civil war. The two young sisters embark on a harrowing journey as refugees, putting both their hearts and champion swimming skills to heroic use.

Director Sally El Hosaini steers away from making the two sisters into unappealing superheroes. It is not very often that we see two young girls incarnate kindness, compassion, and selflessness as they do during their long journey by land and sea to Turkey, Greece, and Germany. We cheer their final triumph. 

Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution (2020)

Directors: James LeBrecht and Nicole Newnham 

Available on Netflix

“This camp changed the world,” we’re told, in the early moments of James LeBrecht and Nicole Newnham’s documentary, “and nobody knew about it.” The most refreshing and surprising element of this moving chronicle is that, title notwithstanding, the subject is not Camp Jened, the Catskills getaway that offered disabled kids and teens in the 1960s a “normal” summer camp experience. It’s about how that camp was the epicenter of a movement — a place where they could be themselves and live their lives didn’t have to be a utopian ideal, but a notion that they could carry out into the world, and use as a baseline for change. 

Denial (2017)

Director: Mick Jackson, Emmy Award winner for Temple Grandin

Based on the acclaimed book History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier

Availability:  Streaming on Amazon Prime and available on DVD

Denial is a movie about a real-life libel case. The filmmaking isn’t fancy or ambitious. Its aim is to tell the story of the case, from its origins to its finish, and it does so clearly, with no embellishment. Fortunately, the issues surrounding the case are so fascinating and so packed with moral importance that a straightforward telling is quite enough to make “Denial” a worthwhile drama. In 1996, the American historian Deborah Lipstadt was sued by the British historian David Irving over Lipstadt’s claim that Irving was a liar and a falsifier of history. In his books and lectures, Irving had claimed that there were no gas chambers at Auschwitz. In bringing the suit, Irving charged that Lipstadt had damaged his career and his reputation. 

This film reasserts the primacy of truth. What a tonic.