It is the end of the semester for me, so I’ve been caught up in papers and final projects and have been neglecting the blog. My birthday recently passed and my wonderful sister sent me the new Death Cab for Cutie EP on iTunes. It came with this music video which I just watched and it made me cry. It is such a sad and beautiful story based on the wildfires that happened in California a little while back. It really got me thinking about how in times of tragedy communities come together in solidarity. When events like 9/11 or Katrina or the Tsunami happen the silver lining is that you get to see the love people have for one another and the sacrifices they are willing to make to help each other out. So please enjoy this video.
I am both so happy and so sad. I was wandering around the internet (like you do) and I happened upon this film festival… Awaken! International Spiritual Film Festival: the first ever spiritual film festival in New Jersey, where I’m from. And it happened a month ago and I missed it! I hope that they hold it again next year, but who knows if I’ll even be here then. Either way I wanted to share it with you guys.
I find trolling film festivals a great way to learn about small market films. Unfortunately some of these films never even make it to mainstream theaters or DVD so it is hard to even see them without these festivals. I hope to catch a few of these at some point. It looked like a pretty good bunch of movies.
The winners for the audience choice awards were:
Stranded: I come from a plane that crashed
in the mountains.
Documentary (up to 1 hour):
The Cats of Mirikitani
The Peace Tree
So I was wandering around wordpress and there was a “Hawt Post” about how bloggers can use twitter to help build their blogging community. You can check that out here if you want.
Anyway, that led me to Twitter, which though I use I haven’t really gotten hooked on yet. I figured I’d search and see what I found, figuring maybe there would be something I could blog about. I typed “Spiritual film” and low and behold I saw some tweets about the Sun Valley Spiritual Film Festival. I really like their mission statement:
The Sun Valley Spiritual Film Festival is a celebration of human spirituality through film. Given this vision, the mission of the Sun Valley Spiritual Film Festival is to:
- Present films that explore spiritual traditions from around the world, as well as films that cherish the human spirit.
- Encourage the production of new films and documentaries, by providing an event in which these films can be screened.
- Promote discussion among recognized leaders in the fields of arts and spirituality, by presenting interactive discussion panels.
- Offer the public an opportunity to engage with film-makers and spiritual leaders.
- Enhance the public’s understanding of, and respect for, diverse spiritual traditions from around the world.
It caught my eye and it turns out Sun Valley is in Idaho. It’s a shame it’s not a month sooner since I will be spending the summer in Yellowstone National Park and could meander that way. They don’t have this year’s program up yet, but they have an archive of the films they’ve shown in past years. Topics include films on Buddhist prayer, Mother Theresa, Dealing with Cerebral Palsy, the Aftermath of 9/11, Eastern European religious icons, and the comfort of pets to name just a few. If you are in Idaho and feel like checking out some moving pictures, look them up.
The whole foray into twitter and finding this film festival has inspired me to post information about any film festivals I learn of that promote spiritual, religious, or inspirational films. Maybe I’ll even start a twitter account specifically for this blog.
Starring Billy Crudup, Malin Akerman, Jackie Earle Haley, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and Patrick Wilson.
Synopsis (from IMDB):
In a gritty and alternate 1985 the glory days of costumed vigilantes have been brought to a close by a government crackdown, but after one of the masked veterans is brutally murdered an investigation into the killer is initiated. The reunited heroes set out to prevent their own destruction, but in doing so discover a deeper and far more diabolical plot.
I am the type of person that enjoys lighthearted films, films that make me laugh and pick me up, films that inspire. That being said, sometimes gritty, raw, and dark films can also inspire. Watchmen is definitely a downer, as one can tell from the opening credits as the heroes fall from favor as society turns against them and they must go into hiding. But there is a lot we can learn from these dark emotions that Watchmen so artfully invokes.
I have talked about justice before, but this film focuses so heavily on it that I feel it is important to discuss again. In an ideal society government would function in a way to serve and protect its citizens. Unfortunately in this universe, during World War II society needed assistance. The Watchmen formed and were initially heralded as heroes, though soon were villianized as vigilantes.
Much of this had to do with the Watchmen wearing masks. This anonymity gave the appearance of a lack of accountability as the public rallied crying “Who watches the Watchmen”?
O SON OF BEING! Bring thyself to account each day ere thou art summoned to a reckoning; for death, unheralded, shall come upon thee and thou shalt be called to give account for thy deeds. ~ Bahá’u’lláh
Accountability is important. Afterall the film, as well as the graphic novel it is based on, showed that there were reasons for the people to be weary of the Watchmen. They were just people too, afterall, and while some had noble intentions, others, like the Comedian, acted on more base instincts.
But the film does not stop on the surface level of accountability. As we can see in the current economic crisis, people without masks can be just as wreckless as those who remain hidden. In the movie this comes to light through the one living Watchman who had “gone public”. He was viewed honorably and as a hero and a successful businessman, but he turned out to be the most deadly of all, whereas others like Night Owl had a strong moral compass that kept them accountable even masked.
I think that is a lesson we can all take to heart in our own lives and meditate on the true meaning of accountability. For those who believe in God,ultimate accountability rests in His hands. I think Watchmen really plays with the idea of loss of accountability. This distopia lacked God, it lacked government, it lacked a social contract. In that system it is little wonder that Ozymandias could see the sacrifice of several million people for peace as valid. We can see how tragedy can unite people, and through unity peace can be achieved. Maybe it was valid argument, but Ozymandias does not have the right to make that choice.
How can we build unity? In a way that does not resort to destruction like it did in Watchmen. I see this movie, and graphic novel as warning, a look into a world unchecked. Some people see our world like that, but it does not have to be. We can make good choices, and keep ourselves accountable.
I think I will end this post with a beautiful story from Persian culture about another Watchman. I think it has a lot to do with seeing the end in the beginning, which was a theme of this film as well. Rorschach could see there was something wrong before the others could, but he could not see the end as quickly as he would have liked. Ozymandias believed the end was just. Dr. Manhattan withdrew from humanity. The difference, or perhaps similarity if you share Ozymandias’ point of view, is that the end in this scenario is good. Perhaps the people should have listened to the Watchman, which watchman is up to you. Without further ado, the story as recounted by
My dear readers, I know I have been neglectful! There are so many drafts of posts and despite it being spring break I can’t seem to make any of them come to fruition. So instead I will leave you with this beautiful music video of the song Glósóli from a favorite Icelandic band of my Sigur Rós. I have to thank SoulPancake for introducing me to the piece.
I think this video is representative of how music can transcend language or culture, as well as how music and film as well as the arts in general touch the heart and the spirit. I think this quote captures it:
Although sound is but the vibrations of the air which affect the tympanum of the ear, and vibrations of the air are but an accident upon accidents that depend upon the air, consider how much marvelous notes or a charming song influence the spirits! A wonderful song giveth wings to the spirit and filleth the heart with exaltation… ~
There are some beautiful themes in this video such as innocence, hope, longing, cooperation, and transcendence. See if you can spot them 🙂
Starring Daphne Zuniga, Al Gore, Rick Warren, Peter Gabriel, Larry Brilliant, Marjora Carter and others.
Synopsis (from NetFlix):
Hailed “the hottest gathering in the world” by Wired magazine, TED (Technology Entertainment Design) is an annual event where an eclectic group of brilliant minds exchange bold ideas for the future. Actress Daphne Zuniga is your host on this all-access tour of the conference. Guests include former Vice President Al Gore, musician Peter Gabriel, environmentalist Majora Carter, as well as comedians, authors and innovators from around the world.
I love TED. I had never heard of this conference nor this documentary about it before NetFlix recommended it and I am so thankful it did (I am beginning to see a theme here… I promise not to gush too much about NetFlix any more… I just as frequently discover great films from my library and from friends). Ok, back to the point. Apparently TED is this great conference by invite only, in which technical innovators, scientists, artists, and social advocates come together to both speak about what they have been doing as well as to help each other achieve their dreams to better the world. The people who attended TED seem to live this mantra:
“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”
Consider the flowers of a garden: though differing in kind, colour, form and shape, yet, inasmuch as they are refreshed by the waters of one spring, revived by the breath of one wind, invigorated by the rays of one sun, this diversity increaseth their charm, and addeth unto their beauty. Thus when that unifying force, the penetrating influence of the Word of God, taketh effect, the difference of customs, manners, habits, ideas, opinions and dispositions embellisheth the world of humanity.This diversity, this difference is like the naturally created dissimilarity and variety of the limbs and organs of the human body, for each one contributeth to the beauty, efficiency and perfection of the whole. When these different limbs and organs come under the influence of man’s sovereign soul, and the soul’s power pervadeth the limbs and members, veins and arteries of the body, then difference reinforceth harmony, diversity strengtheneth love, and multiplicity is the greatest factor for co-ordination. ~
1As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. ~ Ephesians 4:1-6
“Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”
— Albert Einstein
Starring Sean Biggerstaff and Emilia Fox.
Synopsis (from IMDB):
When art student Ben Willis dumps his girlfriend Suzy, he develops insomnia after finding out how quickly she moved on. To pass the long hours of the night, he starts working the late night shift at the local supermarket. There he meets a colorful cast of characters, all of whom have their own ‘art’ in dealing with the boredom of an eight-hour-shift. Ben’s art is that he imagines himself stopping time. This way, he can appreciate the artistic beauty of the frozen world and the people inside it – especially Sharon, the quiet checkout girl, who perhaps holds the answer to solving the problem of Ben’s insomnia.
I subscribe to NetFlix instant and it is through their recommendation that I happened upon this quirky, independent British film. It reminded me that despite how sexualized American culture is/may seem, we do have puritan roots compared to Europe. This film is filled with nudity of all kinds, some that would make an American film NC-17. At first it shocked me a little, but I do think that it served a purpose, as well as could provoke a discussion that perhaps the religious and secular shy away from, and I will delve into that more later. I just wanted to be upfront about the content of this movie since I’ve noticed the promotional materials geared to Americans tend to neglect it (I was surprised myself).
This film started as an 18 minute short film. Due to it’s critical acclaim and Oscar nod, the writer and director, Sean Ellis, turned it into a full length movie. This film is an exploration of how the main character, Ben Willis, views the world. Because he is an insomniac and an artist the whole quality of the film is dreamlike. It’s actually quite beautiful and some of the shots really capture the art of film, as opposed to just its story telling ability.
In fact, beauty is a central theme of the entire film. Ben Willis is attending art school in the hopes of becoming a painter. It is clear that he is enamored with the female form and women are his muse.
Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it ~ Confucius
There is a real juxtaposition between his wonderment, how he revers women and the beauty of their bodies, and how the rest of the males in the film do. His male coworkers are juvenile and look at porn and hire strippers. In return they do not get very far in relationships, since the women can see the vileness and crassness they exhibit.
Ben, on the other hand, is different. In the film he has the ability to stop time, something I have always wanted. It is his way of dealing with boredom and monotony. At first, when he does so, he looks at all the women. He undresses them. This is a really challenging part of the film for me, being a woman and thinking about how unwillingly exposed I would be in that situation, completely unaware of what Ben was doing. However, I think it is a true metaphor for what men (and women!) do to each other in our vain imagination. How frequently have people talked of “undressing with the eyes”?
ALAS! ALAS! O LOVERS OF WORLDLY DESIRE! Even as the swiftness of lightning ye have passed by the Beloved One, and have set your hearts on satanic fancies. Ye bow the knee before your vain imagining, and call it truth. Ye turn your eyes towards the thorn, and name it a flower. Not a pure breath have ye breathed, nor hath the breeze of detachment been wafted from the meadows of your hearts. Ye have cast to the winds the loving counsels of the Beloved and have effaced them utterly from the tablet of your hearts, and even as the beasts of the field, ye move and have your being within the pastures of desire and passion. ~
I think Ben’s undressing though is less sexual, and more focused on the Eve-like true beauty of women (at least I hope so 🙂 ). Ben was sexualized at a young age when he and his best friend found his father’s stash of dirty magazines. Through the film it is clear how much of an effect that had on both him and his best friend (who pays for strippers and chases women to no avail). I think this also speaks to the taboo on discussing sexual topics, since these children discovered all this on their own, without any parental guidance. These topics are hard to talk about, especially in religious households that value chastity, but not talking about it does not mean that children will not be exposed. I do not have an answer as to what is the best thing to do, but I do think “ostrich syndrome” doesn’t help.
Speaking of chastity, Ben’s budding relationship with Sharon, and his fascination with her is incredibly chaste in comparison. All his drawings of her are of her face and eyes, and he sees her beauty through her expressions, her dreams, and her inherent nobility. She is different than the other hooligans working the night shift. She is learning Spanish and wants to travel the world. He respects her and is enamored by her, and when is given the opportunity to kiss her merely pecks her on the cheek. It is their first kiss (again pretty chaste, not the tongue filled make out kisses we are used to in Hollywood) that breaks the spell of his insomnia.
For when the true lover and devoted friend reacheth to the presence of the Beloved, the sparkling beauty of the Loved One and the fire of the lover’s heart will kindle a blaze and burn away all veils and wrappings. ~
Unfortunately when Ben takes Sharon to a party, his ex is there. She corners him and kisses him, and Sharon sees, though she turns to run before seeing him pushing his ex away and rejecting him. Ben pauses time, but he cannot rewind it. He knows the hurt he has caused and wants to stay in this moment as long as he can before Sharon runs away and cries. He knows how important trustworthiness, fidelity, and respect are and in that moment he lost them.
The ending is beautiful, and while I have already given so much away, I will save that. If you end up watching the film, Ben’s character shines through with his consideration, fortitude, and love in the final scenes.
People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within. ~ Elisabeth Kubler-Ross