On April 7 and April 9, the film of the Dialogue between Cornel West and Bob Avakian, REVOLUTION AND RELIGION: The Fight for Emancipation and the Role of Religion, was shown in two parts at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).
The UCLA screenings were introduced by Annie Day, who is from The Bob Avakian Institute and a co-producer of the film. Day gave people background on the Dialogue and talked with great urgency about the (then) impending national day of protest against the murder and brutalization by police of Black and Latino people.
Some 25 students from diverse departments attended on the first night. The screening was followed by informal discussion. A philosophy major responded this way: “Avakian put very big and important ideas before people, ideas people had not likely encountered before. It was demanding and I particularly appreciated the fact that Avakian took the necessary time to meticulously explain and elaborate on these ideas. West was different. It was a very concise but existential presentation that went right to the heart. If you think about it, the two presentations were complementary.”
Religious faith goes to extremes at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, as documentaries introduce spiritual leaders whose activism has made them lightning rods of controversy.
The subjects range from the Pakistani cleric Abdul Aziz Ghazi (in “Among the Believers”), whose Islamabad-based Red Mosque indoctrinates Pakistani children in jihad, to the American evangelical minister Rob Schenck, a fervent antiabortion activist whose gun-control leanings threaten his ties with the Christian right in “The Armor of Light.”
Despite the hot-button nature of their material, the filmmakers strive to keep their tone evenhanded.
In several places, Daredevil fans of the religious persuasion, have claimed that an understanding of Matt Murdock’s Catholic faith is integral to a deeper appreciation of the story. It’s true that Matt had a Catholic upbringing and education and frequently visits a priest to air his dirty laundry. However, he also practices meditation, which seems to have a greater effect on his fleeting peace of mind. Like a good Catholic (or any Christian for that matter), he carries around a crushing sense of guilt, which isn’t unburdened by his visits to Father Lantom (Peter McRobbie), even though the priest occasionally dispenses some much-needed wisdom. Unfortunately, much of their interaction reflects a deeper theological problem. They still revert to the use of fear to motivate right behavior, whether that be from a vengeful god that would banish wrongdoers to hell, a devil that would scare them into the arms of god, or either a vigilante superhero or his enemy, both of whom want to clean up the city.
Dudes are recognised in a new religion which is going head to head with the Jedi church as the second Hollywood-inspired faith. Despite sounding like a joke, The Church of the Latter-Day Dude, is battling to become an officially-recognised faith based on the cult film The Big Lebowski. More than 100,000 members of the church have been ordained as ‘Dudeist Priests’, in theory giving them the authority to preside over weddings, funerals and other religious events. American, Oliver Benjamin, 43, started the world’s first online religion in 2005 after watching the hit Coen brothers movie, starring Jeff Bridges as Jeff Lebowski, a surreal, ironic, dope-smoking 40-something character nicknamed ‘the Dude’. Based in the Thai hippy city of Chiang Mai, 500 miles north of Bangkok, Oliver, who now calls himself the Dudely Lama, claims to have ordained over 120,000 Dudeist priests worldwide. Oliver, a graphic designer from California, travelled the world for ten years, first watched the film in 2000 and then set up a website (www.dudeism.com) in 2005. Oliver hopes that Dudeism will form congregations all over the world in the coming years.
While “Fill the Void” is something of a valentine to Hasidism, “Felix and Meira” explores Meira’s dissatisfaction with her insular community and her narrow role as mother and wife. Audiences –– undoubtedly a majority secular –– will view the baby steps Meira takes away from her cloistered world as “progress,” but Yaron was slow to see it that way. “At first I noticed this automatic objection rising in me,” she says. “I felt the story was judging Hasidic life and as I had just come from a very specific and profound point of view; it was difficult for me to realize that in a way I had become a bit closed-minded.” To undo her preconceptions, Yaron spoke to Hasidic women leading double lives; she also listened to the stories of her costar Luzer Twersky, who grew up religious in Brooklyn but became secular in his early twenties.
O February 10th, MidAmerica Nazarene University’s (MNU) chaplain Randy Beckum gave his morning sermon, which wasn’t unusual – it was his job. But what was different that day was the response to the sermon – as one student paper put it, the sermon sparked an “outcry” and a torrent of criticism particularly on social media. The criticism ranged from complaints that Beckum had politicized his sermons to the idea that he had insulted Christians who served in the military.
As you know two movies came out recently. Selma, the story of one of the 20th century most influential Christian leaders, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who led a non-violent movement that changed the course of American History forever. And American Sniper, the story of the most deadly Navy SEAL sniper in American history. Selma has made 29-30 million so far. American Sniper made over 103 million in the first 4 days. Gives you an idea about who our heroes are. I don’t think it is an under-statement to say that our culture is addicted to violence, guns, war, revenge and retaliation. Unfortunately, so are a lot of Christians.
The film not only stars Israeli-born actor Shredy Jabarin in the lead role – which is of itself, I believe, something of a first – but all the dialogue is in Arabic.
Whilst Jabarin’s ethnicity and the filmmaker’s decision to opt for a Middle-Eastern language are more quasi-authentic than fully authentic, it does make watching the film interesting and its certainly more authentic than the Hollywood Jesuses with their blue eyes and blond hair.
Moreover it’s not a bad little film. Jabarin’s performance as Jesus may not quite be divine, but there’s hardly a step out of place and he manages to add gravitas without getting dull or stodgy over being overly severe. Jesus smiles occasionally but he always feels like a man with a bigger, more pressing vision on his mind.
Despite many bans, cinema has been questioning religious faith for over half a century.
One of the most acclaimed films of the Berlin Film Festival this year was The Club, which won the Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize. Directed by Chilean director Pablo Larrain, the film is about a group of priests living in a remote, kind of semi-retirement home. It turns out they are, in fact, scandal-tainted priests, who have been cast out by the church for pedophilia, political corruption, and even kidnapping the babies of unwed mothers (based on real-life incidents in Chile in 2014).
As far as the church goes, it is out of sight, out of mind. A local, who recognizes one of the priests as the one who had sexually abused him when he was young, publicly denounces him. And the guilty priest commits suicide. A new, young priest is sent to sort out the compounded horror—but there is no easy solution, is there?
The Yazidis are a Kurdish religious community whose syncretic but ancient religion Yazidism (a kind of Yazdanism) is linked to Zoroastrianism and ancient Mesopotamian religions. They live primarily in the Nineveh Province of Iraq. Additional communities in Armenia, Georgia, and Syria have actually been in decline since the 1990s as a result of significant migration to Europe, particularly to Germany.