A Son’s Sacrifice

A Son’s Sacrifice follows the coming-of-age story of Imran, a young first-generation Muslim American who confronts his Muslim roots and his immigrant father’s traditions, while simultaneously learning how to live in harmony in the multiethnic, multifaith city of New York.

Imran takes over his father’s halal slaughterhouse and, on the holiest day of the year, must lead his community in a sacrifice that will define him as a Muslim, as an American, and as a son.

Filmmakers Yoni Brook and Musa Syeed, an interfaith team of first-generation Muslim and Jewish Americans, use the food we eat to explore the passing on of traditions and issues of intergenerational conflict.

Two by Two/Ooops Noah has Gone (2015)

Two by Two/Ooops Noah has Gone (2015)One of the most interesting of these is the way the film examines the issue of nature versus nurture. Other films look at how we can break free from our upbringing, or move past traumatic experiences from the past. By assigning personality traits to the evolutionary make up of species Two by Two is able to look at the issue of how much of who we are is due to hard wiring and how we might overcome it. Leah and Hazel are grimps – their status as aggressive loners is built into their DNA. Yet the film raises the possibility that they might even overcome the limitations of their birth, such that, by extension it suggests, so might we. In a not dissimilar vein it also seems to advance the theory that if we can discover the place we really fit we can thrive in a way we might never have thought possible.

Part of the reason that the film can explore these issues is because rather than using known and familiar animals as its lead characters, it uses made up ones instead. This raises interesting possibilities in a way that using rabbits and guinea pigs would not. Had it used familiar animals then any sense of tension would be gone – the audience would know in advance that their survival was guaranteed. Here, whilst it seems unlikely that all of the leading characters are going to be wiped out, it does suggest some latitude, particularly when you bring evolution and adaption into the mix as well. It opens up a range of options and lead to a surprisingly satisfying conclusion.

Radical Grace

Radical Grace follows three American nuns, united by a shared belief that faith is action, who continue to strive for justice in the shadow of a politically motivated Vatican investigation. As the relationship between the sisters’ faith and organized religion is called into question, each woman finds the strength to stand up and challenge the very Church she has dedicated her life to serving.

Supported by a younger generation of Catholics, the sisters’ message of inclusivity resonates throughout the country and beyond, as people around the world begin to question the Vatican’s motives.

Playing out through the 2012 Presidential election, the surprising retirement of Pope Benedict and the election of Pope Francis, who reaffirmed the need for a Vatican investigation, Radical Grace explores the strength of personal faith and commitment in the shadow of an institution in crisis and a nation in need.

Metéora (2012)

Metéora (2012)Paradoxically there’s both a familiarity about Spiros Stathoulopoulos’ Metéora (2012) and a sense of novelty. It’s reminiscent of a number of films which do hear some similarity thematically but are very different in terms of style. It concerns the ordinary lives of those living in remote mountainous monasteries and bears many similarities with Into Great Silence and Of Gods and Men and captures the slow, quiet passing of time in much the same way. But it also explores the issue of forbidden love for those who are meant to be living celibate lives for their God and that combined with the barren, rocky desert setting brings to mind The Last Temptation of Christ, even before the climatic scene featuring the crucifixion. But as with several other moments in the film, that scene is animated, using the style of Orthodox iconography. And it’s about monks, which also brings to mind the way in which The Secret of Kells uses an animation style based on Celtic-style religious art to tell the story of an early Irish monastic community. In terms of whether or not this is a film for you, I suggest you think about how you feel about each of those films and go from there.

New Muslim Cool

New Muslim CoolPuerto Rican American rapper Hamza Perez ended his life as a drug dealer 12 years ago, and started down a new path as a young Muslim.Now he’s moved to Pittsburgh’s tough North Side to start a new religious community, rebuild his shattered family, and take his message of faith to other young people through his uncompromising music as part of the hip-hop duo M-Team.Raising his two kids as a single Dad and longing for companionship, Hamza finds love on a Muslim networking Web site and seizes the chance for happiness in a second marriage.But when the FBI raids his mosque, Hamza must confront the realities of the post-9/11 world, and challenge himself. He starts reaching for a deeper understanding of his faith, discovering new connections with people from Christian and Jewish communities.New Muslim Cool takes viewers on Hamza’s ride through the streets, projects and jail cells of urban America, following his spiritual journey to some surprising places – where we can all see ourselves reflected in a world that never stops changing.

Noble (Bradley, 2014)

Noble (Bradley, 2014)Did I want a biopic that was critical of its heroine? Of course not. But I wanted one where she was presented as a fully realized human being. The Christina Noble represented in this film is a walking sermon object lesson. Expository dialogue–the practice of having a character verbally explain or interpret the the meaning of their own movie for the benefit of the audience–is always patronizing: in Christian movies, it can feel especially so….

There is one way that Noble stands out from most Christian films. The seriousness of its subject matter also immunizes it somewhat from any sense of glibness or smugness. Christina does a lot of good work, but the film never succumbs to the Christian movie addiction of needing to be a “feel-good” story. Because of that, paradoxically, we do feel better watching it than we do at some Christian movies that will only show evil as a prelude to showing Christians conquering it. While Noble doesn’t present the world as a place that is easily cured of its sinful ways, nor Christians as above the fray, it does suggest there is a way of working for good and even bringing light into some fairly dark places.

Pray the Devil Back to Hell (DVD)

Pray the Devil Back to Hell (DVD)Pray the Devil Back to Hell is the inspiring story of a group of ordinary women who came together – Muslim and Christian, rich and poor, urban and rural – to end a bloody civil war in their war-torn country of Liberia. Thousands of women took on the warlords and a corrupt regime as they came together to pray for peace and then staged a silent protest outside of the Presidential Palace.  Armed only with white T-shirts and the courage of their convictions, they demanded a resolution to the country’s civil war.  Their actions were a critical element in bringing about an agreement during stalled peace talks.Their demonstrations culminated in the exile of a dictator and the election of Africa’s first female head of state, and marked the vanguard of a new wave of women taking control of their political destiny around the world.Inspiring, uplifting, and most of all motivating, the film is a compelling testimony of how grassroots activism can alter the history of nations. Desmond Tutu, 1984 Nobel Peace Prize winner, commented that Pray the Devil Back to Hell “…eloquently captures the power that each of us innately has within our souls to make this word a far better, safer, and more peaceful place.”

Will the PBS series ‘Wolf Hall’ tarnish St. Thomas More’s halo?

Wolf HallSir Thomas More loses his head in this Sunday’s episode (April 26) of the acclaimed PBS historical drama, “Wolf Hall,” which is not much of a spoiler since that’s what infamously happened to More in 1535 at the hands of King Henry VIII.

The real suspense now is whether More will also lose his halo.

Not officially, of course: Thomas More remains a Roman Catholic saint by dint of his refusal to accept Henry’s plot to have his first marriage annulled. The onetime Lord Chancellor of England also opposed Henry’s power play against the pope, which led to the establishment of the Church of England.

The Vatican Tapes – An Epic Battle Between Good and Evil

The Vatican TapesThe Vatican Tapes, directed by Mark Neveldine and starring Kathleen Robertson, Djimon Hounsou, Michael Peña, and Olivia Dudley, is a movie that follows two priests examining exorcism tapes from the Vatican who stumble on a more intense path – an eschatological duel with the Antichrist himself….
The age old battle between the divine and the fallen angel has deep roots in the Christian collective conscience and like any other set of beliefs that make us who we are, this tenet will forever be a source of artistic inspiration. Judging solely from The Vatican Tapes’ first official trailer, we can expect a high quality production in terms of visual effects, suspense, and adrenaline rush. The trailer introduces the story of men of God doing God’s work on Earth facing the ultimate battle: a war with a possessed body and a soul that’s being slowly devoured by the Devil.

Spanish film brings story of ‘Three Rebel Monks’ to life

Three Rebel MonksA group of young adults in Spain are bringing to the big screen a novel about the renewal of the Cistercian Order by three saints who strove to recover the poverty, simplicity and austerity of the early monastic era.

“Three Rebel Monks” tells the story of Saint Robert of Molesmes, Saint Albéric, and Saint Stephen Harding, who overcame the challenges of monasteries that resisted their efforts.

The film is an adaptation of the book with the same title written by M. Raymond. The film director, Aleix Forcada, said that he began with a short university project and ended up with a thorough production.