As I began my time of employment in catechesis I was asked how I would feel about compiling a possible list of films to be distributed among primary school teachers that would be suitable for children of those ages, which could be watched and then discussed by the pupils to show how God can work even through the modern medium of film. I thought back to a philosophy essay I had composed a year previous and how in discussing the beautiful papal encyclical Fides et Ratio I had found myself incorporating discussion of Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy and the movie Beauty and the Beast. Needless to say the response to these points was not exactly what I had hoped for (perhaps at the time it was for the best!) However it proved a clear point to me; that my time spent in studying the aesthetics and practicalities of filmmaking had not been fruitless, and that it may actually be possible to find a blend for my incredible love of the movies and my love of Jesus Christ.
I honestly believe filmmaking presents catechists with an incredible opportunity to present scriptural material, and lessons for living to people of all ages. This can range from any type of film, whether it is a children’s fairytale such as Disney’s Cinderella, to a sweeping epic such as Braveheart, and even to gut-wrenching horror films such as The Exorcist. If we as Christians are to preach a message that tells of the universality of the Kingdom of God, that all are welcomed, even those we personally cannot stand, then we must be ready to look at the message presented by all. Whether they are Catholic, Anglican, Buddhist, agnostic or militant atheist. In these blogs I will draw on my own experience of Christian living, my passion for filmmaking, and the Word of God to present a number of films which I feel greatly reflect a strong Christian message. There will be a number of surprises, and a number of films which I believe will challenge us to see the presence of God in those unexpected places. This will present a challenge to the reader: step outside your comfort zone. I would hope that each film presented will include an outline of the film itself, the themes which I feel are the most clear throughout the film and where in the Christian calendar such a film would be particularly appropriate, a reflection on how these themes are presented in the film, a reference to a piece of scripture the viewer may find of interest and a brief prayer for the viewer.
However, I beg of you to be patient with me. I am not a scholar. I am not a Saint. I am simply a man who knows what he likes. Perhaps God has given me an opportunity to connect a few dots with these movies and present a glimpse of a possible bigger picture (though what could be bigger than the latest epic to hit the silver screen The Hobbit?) These writings which I compose are simply my own thoughts and reflections on what I see, and while scattered as they inevitably are I can only hope I am able to present what I see in a way that is clear and will hopefully make some degree of sense.
In the Gospel of Saint John, Mary of Magdala sets out in the dark to anoint what she believes will be the dead body of Jesus. Imagine how shocked she was to discover that the stone was cracked open, the body gone, and then realizing he is in fact not dead! He is Risen! Death is conquered and God’s love has prevailed! I invite you to travel with me, to reflect upon a number of films ranging from a whole spectrum of genres and eras, to set out in the dark like Mary of Magdala, to challenge ourselves to find Jesus in the most unexpected of places and remember, God is the ultimate Director…and he has the whole world in his hands. So I invite you to sit back, get the popcorn ready, and as my Father always reminded me before he began any story, when you are sitting comfortably I shall begin…