Mary in Film: an Analysis of Cinematic Presentations of the Virgin Mary from 1897-1999: a Theological Appraisal of a Socio-Cultural Reality

  • Author(s): Michael P. Durley
  • When: 2000-06
  • Where: The International Marian Research Institute
  • Based on the research already done, and with a strong personal interest in film, I have continued the Institute's research on the Mary in Film topic. The main results of this research, at present, include: creating detailed reviews of 138 films for Marian content (in addition to the 44 used to prepare the Huelva talk)~ accumulating a list of over 1,000 films with probable Marian content from secondary sources (and doing partial reviews on a large number of them)~ establishing contacts with a number of Catholic experts on religion in film~ and presenting minicourses on the topic through the International Marian Research Institute (IMRI). For these reasons, IMRI was ideally suited to support theological research on the Vrrgin Mary in Film. Also, a number of reasons make the present time ideal for a thorough review of the topic. Cinema celebrated the 100111 anniversary of its first public display in December 1895. The Vatican saw fit to mark this occasion by releasing a list of 45 outstanding films. The first Marian dramas occurred around 1899~ and this dissertation parallels the Vatican's Centennial homage to films as a whole in regard to IMRI's area of specialization. The Catholic Church also commemorates the Year 2000 as a special Christian Jubilee. A number of projects are being carried out to present and re-present aspects of the Gospel to the people of today. The significant role of the Virgin Mary within the content of the full Christian message should be among these projects. An analysis of the Marian character within Cinema examines that significant role within a context most relevant to modem society. By happy coincidence, the University of Dayton, within which IMRI is located, celebrates its Sesquicentennial during the Jubilee year. A number of projects were sponsored to commemorate this anniversary, including a Film Festival and Lecture series to examine the image of Mary presented in films during the past century. This provided an opportunity to organize and present the research which had been done to date to general audiences. Finally, the past two decades show some signs of a revival in popular interest in the Virgin Mary. This is certainly true of film over the past ten years. Several documentaries and dramas related to her were shown on television in various countries in 1999 alone, with several more scheduled for 2000.

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