In New Films From Israel and Sri Lanka, Faith Struggles in the Shadows

Dark in the White LightTwo films in particular from the International Competition, “Dark in the White Light” (Vimukthi Jayasundra) and “Tikkun” (Avishai Sivan) deal with the most pressing question for the faithful: life after death. The most profound rite of passage, death, is treated differently by different religions (Buddhism and Judaism), yet similarly in relation to God: the believer shouldn’t defy His will.

”Dark in the White Light” describes several connected stories. The focus is on a Buddhist monk, who seeks enlightenment, and his opposite in terms of character: a corrupt doctor who is accomplice to illegal kidney transplants. The variety of characters include a charlatan who organizes the illegal trafficking of organs, a student who wants to become a doctor, and the silent driver, who is the ally of the unscrupulous doctor. Sri Lankan director Vimukthi Jayasundra deals with a round story, framed within a discussion between villagers in the jungle, as if a legend or a myth has come to life on screen. It seems the dark interlaced stories we just saw are a product of their oral culture, stories ignorant people tell about the afterlife.

Transcendental Time Traveler in Continuum S04E04

In the latest episode of Continuum (the fourth episode of the fourth season of a Canadian sci-fi TV series) a new character was introduced. He is presented as a kind of Messiah who can travel through time. He does the latter differently than the others in the show who need a complicated machinery to accomplish time travel. Right after he is described as “he was chosen”, light (a universal mystical symbol) appears in his body and he disappears (or travels) through it. It was told through a narrator that his purpose is to “make things right”, to “repair everything”. The latter phrase strongly corresponds to the Jewish concept of Tikkun Olam. His physical appearance is simple, a cross between a guru from India and a modernized classical Jesus figure.

The main character of the show–Alec, a young technical genius, who becomes the inventor of the time machine–first dismisses what the idea of this person, saying ” I don’t buy it, all this pseudo-science is just metaphysical bullshit.” Seconds later Alec is touched by the traveling savior, see screenshot on the forehead. That touch is right on the third eye and is familiar to those who saw anointments and mystical touches by gurus, like Osho. It usually is expressed as a transferring of energy that is life-altering for he recipient. In our case it enables Alec to meet and converse with his future old, self and out of their conversation a deeper understanding of what is needed and what is possible emerges.
Transcendental Time Traveler in Continuum S04E04

There was little reference to religion earlier in the show, beyond treating several groups who believed in their various missions as new religious movements. By that I mean that they usually had a charismatic leader and the accolades were true believers who would do almost anything for the cause. This new person brings a flavor to the show that. I hope, will not just spread more knowledge about religious concepts, but also keeps the show entertaining.


Chaplains: New documentary on chaplains to air on PBS

Hospitals, prisons, battlegrounds — these are the dramatic life-or-death settings where you would expect to find chaplains guiding the wayward and administering last rites. But director Martin Doblmeier’s new documentary, “Chaplains,” shows that chaplains from various faith traditions also offer pastoral care in little-known locations: Tyson Foods processing plants, NASCAR race tracks, the U.S. Congress and a Hollywood retirement home among them.

“As human beings we are all body, mind and spirit, and the role of the chaplain is that dimension we call the spirit, a role that too often goes underserved,” Doblmeier said in recent press materials released by his Alexandria-based production company, Journey Films. “For many, that is where they find meaning in their lives and at those times when we ask the big questions like ‘how could this happen to me’ or ‘why do I deserve this?’ It’s the chaplain’s role not to invent meaning but help the person reconnect to what is most meaningful for them. And often there is a spiritual dimension.”

OFFICIAL TRAILER for CHAPLAINS from Journey Films on Vimeo.

Working Together: Arabs who love Israel?

This film producer wants the world to hear their stories

Issues pertaining to the Arab-Israeli conflict make headlines around the world on an almost daily basis, but American film producer Max Federman feels that there is a sore lack of positive stories about Israeli society in the media. He set about to change this, with a documentary called ‘Working Together’ that shines a light on Muslim Arabs who love their lives in Israel, delving into matters of employment and business opportunities, education, women’s rights, security, health care, and freedom of religion and expression.

“This project is foremost about giving a voice to a narrative that is typically overlooked by the mass media,” Federman tells The Jerusalem Post. “It’s not about a political agenda or lofty ideals of peace; but rather about simply presenting the views of individuals who see the value of showing the world the day-to-day realities of coexistence in Israel.”

Why Evangelical Films Fail ( Peter J. Leithart )

Theologically speaking, character development is “sanctification.” A conversionist form of Christianity places less emphasis on sanctification than on conversion and justification. In films, that translates into drastic oversimplification of human psychology. For Evangelicals, there are only two sets of motivations, as there are two kinds of people: Saved and unsaved. While that is ultimately true, it is not the whole story.

Though I’m an Evangelical Protestant, I find the characters in a good mainstream film more psychologically real than characters in Evangelical films. It need not be so. One need only read a bit of Augustine’s Confessions or Pascal or Kierkegaard or Dostoevsky to get a taste for the possibilities of Christian psychology.

Brave Spaces: Perspectives on Faith and LGBT Justice

HRC’s new documentary details how religious spaces can be come more LGBT-friendly

Our recent article on the firing of LGBT staff at Catholic schools was just the latest reminder that many faith communities and institutions are still reluctant to truly open their doors to all—that being in direct conflict with their core values and teachings. But being a part of religious communities myself, I know that safe spaces do exist and that there are LGBT people and allies working from within to make spaces that aren’t so queer-friendly a little more welcoming.

While mainstream depictions of the LGBT community paint us to not be particularly religious, for many of us religion does matter, and moving forward to open up dialogue on this is important. That’s why I welcome Brave Spaces: Perspectives on Faith and LGBT Justice, a new documentary commissioned by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC).

Ten Hollywood Celebrities Who Have Spoken Out About Their Religion

“We’re not all crazy right-wingers.”

Actress Mayim Bialik recently talked about being religious in Hollywood.

“I think in general it’s never going to be trendy to be observant or religious in Hollywood circles,” the actress, who is Jewish, told Fox News in an interview published on Aug. 21.

There are many celebrities in Hollywood who have spoken about their faith. Some are very public about their belief system, while others are much more private. A few have expressed opinions similar to Bialik, and have only revealed a glimpse into their personal beliefs.

Here’s a look at people like Natalie Portman, Tom Cruise, Denzel Washington, Kristin Chenoweth, Orlando Bloom and more, who have shared stories or insights into their religion.

Iran premieres big-budget epic film ‘Muhammad’ By Ali Noorani

MuhammadIran’s most expensive movie, “Muhammad“, which chronicles the childhood of the Muslim prophet, opened nationwide winning praise from early audiences.

Directed by Majid Majidi, the 171-minute, visually stunning film cost around $40 million (S$57million), partly funded by the state, and took more than seven years to complete.

Majidi says the aim of his work, the first part of a trilogy, is to reclaim the rightful image of Islam, which he said extremists have distorted.

“Unfortunately at this time the impression of Islam is of a radical, fanatical and violent religion, which is not what it’s about,” he said in Montreal, where “Muhammad” had its international premiere, hours after screening back home.

Jennifer Aniston, Kevin Spacey et al a mixed blessing for Shaun Monson in Unity

UnityFor Shaun Monson, celebrity is a curse and a crutch. Not his own celebrity, but the 100 famous faces who narrate his documentary Unity. The personal, new-agey exploration of existence has a red carpet full of stars reading Monson’s script about love, peace and understanding, including Jennifer Aniston, Susan Sarandon, Kevin Spacey, Jeff Goldblum, Helen Mirren, Michael Gambon and Australians Geoffrey Rush, Joel Edgerton and Rose Byrne.

Songs of Praise Calais migrant camp episode defended by BBC’s head of religion

Filming BBC’s Songs of Praise from a French migrant camp has been defended by the channel’s head of religion who said the programme is not just about music.

Aaqil Ahmed, the public broadcaster’s head of religion and ethics, said this Sunday’s BBC One broadcast from the camp known as the Jungle, would focus on faith not politics.

He was commenting after filming wrapped at the camp near the port of Calais where a group of would-be immigrants have thrown up a ramshackle church, providing ministry and Christian worship.