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Movie Discussion Resource

Year: 2016

Hacksaw + Ridge

Published / by Peter

Engage with culture without disengaging your faith.

posterGenre: Biography, War
Rating: MA 15+
Length: 133 minutes
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Hugo Weaving, Teresa Palmer, Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey, Rachel Griffiths
Director: Mel Gibson
Screenplay: Andrew Knight, Robert Schenkkan

Brief Synopsis
This is a true story and unembellished. Unlike movies like The Revenant it is recent, well documented and there are still many living witnesses who experienced these events first hand. Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield) was a Seventh-Day Adventist conscientious objector who refused to bear arms on enlisting in the US Army during World War 2. The US Army could not work out why he would enlist in the first place if he wouldn’t carry a rifle. Doss wanted to be a medic but army rules said he had to qualify basic training with a rifle before doing his medic training. He refused on principle citing the commandment “Thou shalt not kill”. He was determined to accompany his buddies but to save lives on the battlefield not to take them. However, Doss is imprisoned before being court martialled. On intervention from higher up in the chain of command the court martial charges are dismissed. Doss does his medic training and is sent to Okinawa where the bloodiest fighting in the Pacific takes place. The rest of the film is graphic and gruesome with bodies on all sides being blown apart. The carnage is enormous. Doss, unarmed, saves 75 men single handed. After being severely wounded he returns to the US where he receives from the President, the Medal of Honour, the United States’ highest military honour, awarded for personal acts of valour beyond the call of duty. Doss was the first conscientious objector ever to receive the medal.

Questions for discussion
Some general questions might provide enough framework to get started:

  • What stood out as the main points/highlights in the movie?
  • What themes are explored?
  • What assumptions were embedded in the story?
  • What challenged you? What questions did it raise for you?
  • Are there biblical or theological themes or characters that come to mind?

Any Army is all about discipline and procedures and uniformity. You all obey orders, you all do the same thing. Armies have trouble coming to terms with diversity and difference. Only after many years has the Australian military started to change its attitude to gender differences; it now admits women to train as fighter pilots and enter combat units and has changed its attitudes to LGBTQI people. However, it seems the Australian military has a problem with harassment and bullying and much worse surfacing in recent years. Doss endures the same violence from his comrades. Why is diversity such a problem in our society? How does Doss endure it?

Family Values
Doss comes from a conservative SDA community. There is a real community spirit evident. How important is the community and family to those growing up today? Why are our churches so bereft of young people? Why don’t they catch the values we espouse or do they express them in another way? Is there still something missing?

Doss experiences violence in his family. His father (Hugo Weaving) is marred by his experiences in the Great War. All his mates are dead and he visits their graves. Alcohol deadens his pain but makes him violent towards his wife and children. Grown up, Doss confronts his father during a violent rage against his mother (Rachel Griffiths). The event is a turning point in Doss deciding that he will never touch a gun again. Does this response seem realistic? Would we have thought differently and say we need to stop someone who is threatening another even if violence is needed? Is the pacifist response the only real answer?

Religion does matter
Doss is very religious. He observes the Sabbath; Saturday is the day of rest for SDAs. He prays, he carries his Bible everywhere. After their first attempt to take Hacksaw Ridge his unit is repulsed and they are ordered back again to commence their assault on the Sabbath, which is a problem for Doss. When the commander discovers the unit hasn’t moved forward he is told that they are waiting for Doss to finish his prayers. They will not move without him. Doss is not afraid to hide his faith. But he does not preach to anyone; it is his behaviour that speaks. What does this say to us? Does our faith make a difference to the way we live? In what ways?

Just One More
Doss prays, “Help me get just one more, Lord.” Each time Doss goes out to save a comrade against the odds that he won’t survive, he works on the principle “one at a time”. We may have challenges that appear too hard to surmount or even deal with. Does this show a way forward? “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” Matt 6:34 (The Message) Discuss. Also does prayer help? Why?

Doss finds himself in the underground tunnels dug by the Japanese. He avoids Japanese patrols but runs into a wounded Japanese soldier. Without hesitation he starts to treat the wounded man as if he was no different from any American. He binds his wound and administers morphine. Andrew Garfield the actor who plays Doss is quoted as saying, “He transcended any idea that there was a good side or a bad side. He was there to serve something greater than himself, something even greater than his army. He was there to serve humanity. This is a good example for us, who are being pitted against each other in this very violently separating culture we find ourselves in.” 1

  1. Sunday Mail, watch (TV guide insert) Oct 23 2016,  p15.

© Peter Russell, 10th November, 2016 Pilgrim Uniting Church, www.pilgrim.org.au
This resource is freely available to download and copy but kindly attribute copyright

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Published / by Peter

Engage with culture without disengaging your faith.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople posterGenre: Adventure, Drama, Comedy
Rating: PG (Not recommended for children under 15; may contain material which some children find confusing or upsetting.)
Length: 101 minutes
Starring: Sam Neill, Julian Dennison, Rima Te Wiata, Rachel House
Director and Screenplay: Taika Waititi
Adapted from the book: Wild Pork and Watercress by Barry Crump.

Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) is a wild child, out of control. He has stolen, defaced, destroyed and graffitied property. He has been a serial foster child and almost run out of options. He has one chance left and if that fails it will be juvenile prison. In a police car and accompanied by his welfare officer, Paula (Rachel House), he arrives at a run down farm property in the wilderness. There he is introduced to Bella (Rima Te Wiata), who welcomes him with a hug. Ricky cases the joint and is startled by Bella’s husband, Hec, coming up the hill carrying a wild boar on his back, and promptly gets back in the police car. Threatened with juvenile detention he gets out and stays with Bella and Hec. Soon he finds that Hec doesn’t want anything to do with him. Bella, however. is all kindness, feeds him and has set up a special room for him with all sorts of comforts including warming his bed with a hot water bottle. He runs away the first night and Bella finds him in the morning, asleep, up the hill and scarcely 200m from the house. He sees Bella attack a wild pig and kill it with only her bare hands and a knife. He is invited by Bella but refuses to join her plucking the fur from dead rabbits. He is horrified but finds life is better with Bella and his birthday is celebrated with cake and singing and a present of his own pet dog which he calls Tupac. Hec endures Ricky in silence.

Suddenly, when it seems that Ricky has at last found a safe place, Bella dies. Hec and he are both devastated. Hec makes it clear that Ricky goes back to welfare. Hec indicates he is not going to stay on the farm. Ricky decides that he will not go back. He packs supplies, takes the rifle that Bella taught him to shoot with and goes bush. Lost, and having run out of food, Hec finds him but is injured. He and Ricky are forced to camp out. Meanwhile the authorities find that Hec and Ricky are no longer at the farm and a national manhunt is called with a $10,000 reward. Hec and Ricky are on the run together and through many adventures, avoiding the authorities, grow closer together. Ricky feels that Hec is family and Hec reluctantly feels more for Ricky. Ricky calls Hec and himself the Wilderpeople.

Questions for discussion
Some general questions might provide enough framework to get started:

  • What stood out as the main points/highlights in the movie?
  • What themes are explored?
  • What assumptions were embedded in the story?
  • What challenged you? What questions did it raise for you?
  • Are there aspects of the story that resonated with your own experience or with the experience of others in a similar situation?
  • Are there biblical or theological themes or characters that come to mind?

Who we are?
Ricky sees himself as a gangster and a rapper. He is a tough dude? How do you see Ricky? A lot of kids in trouble are not literate but Ricky is keen on books and reading and makes up Haiku poetry which, he explains, was taught to him to let him express his feelings in a helpful way. Ricky is astonished to discover that Hec can’t read. How does this change through the movie? How important is it to express our feelings in a positive manner? How do you do this?

Being Spiritual but not Religious
Bella talks about her Maori beliefs about what will happen when she dies. There is not much evidence of any religion until the funeral service. Only a few people are present including Hec and Ricky making up half. Why is there a Christian Service for Bella? The minister prattles on. Why do you think Hec walks out? Would you have done? Why? What issues does this raise?

The Misfits
After the funeral Hec reflects on Bella collecting misfits, referring to himself and Ricky. It was who she was. Bella tells Ricky “Have your breakfast … then you can run away.” On a walk in the bush with Bella, Ricky sees some wild horses and asks if he can ride them. Bella replies, “Why do they need to be ridden anyway? Why can’t they just eat grass and be happy?” What does this say about Bella? Do you know any people like Bella? It takes special people to foster wayward kids. At the moment our society has more kids than foster families. Why do you think this is? What dangers are there in Christian families fostering children? What do you think it takes to be foster parents?

Finding Family
Ricky finds a home and the warmth and love is reflected in a hot water bottle and a dog. Why do you think Ricky is drawn in to this family, despite Hec’s protests to leave him alone and not call him “Uncle”? Even when Hec takes to the bush and finds Ricky when he is lost and wants to take him back, Ricky persists in refusing and wanting to follow Hec. Why do you think this is? Why does he hold on despite obviously having been rejected by other foster parents? What might be different this time?

The Wilderness
Out in the wilderness, Hec and Ricky and the two dogs travel and survive, even in the cold of winter snow. What elements of being in the wilderness contribute to the developing relationship between Hec and Ricky? How does the spirituality of place appear in the film? Discuss.

When what we say is not what we mean
When Ricky and Hec meet some men on the hunt for them, Ricky and Hec’s explanation of their relationship together is misconstrued. Why does this happen? How easy and dangerous is it to jump to conclusions about people you don’t really know? Discuss.

Unconditional Love
Aunt Bella showers unconditional love on Ricky. Comment on how she does this? Ricky encounters another family on his journey that does the same. Who are they and why do you think they do this? What might be said about the Christian values that these people hold? Why aren’t all Christians like this? Counterpoint to this is Paula who sees Ricky as a problem to be solved. “No child left behind!” A tick in a box! How can the bureaucratic response from organisations or government ever be the answer? Can it be changed?


Thanks to Palace Nova Cinemas for supporting the Movie Discussion Resource project.
© Peter Russell, 8 August 2016, Pilgrim Uniting Church, www.pilgrim.org.au
This resource is freely available to download and copy but kindly attribute copyright.

The Revenant

Published / by Peter

Engage with culture without disengaging your faith.

posterGenre: Drama, Action & Adventure
Rating: MA15+ (for strong frontier combat and violence including gory images, a sexual assault, language and brief nudity)
Length: 156 minutes
Starring: Leonardo Di Caprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter, Forrest Goodluck, Arthur Redcloud
Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu
Screenplay: Mark L Smith and Alejandro G. Iñárritu

Brief synopsis
Hugh Glass (Leonardo Di Caprio) is part of a large hunting expedition into the wilds of the northern United States seeking furs. The movie opens with him and his half-Pawnee son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck), moving through the wilderness with their flintlock muskets at the ready. It is 1823 and the wild and frozen vistas are the magnificent backdrop to the film. The main body of the hunters are busily skinning animals and bailing up the pelts, a raw bloody business, when attacked by a party of Arikara Native Americans seeking their chief’s daughter, Powaqa, who has been abducted by an unknown group of hunters. The battle scene is graphic and brutal. Glass, Hawk and a small group manage to escape the slaughter in their boat which they later abandon. Carrying as many pelts as they can they abandon the boat and strike out on land depending on Glass to guide them. Glass is separated from the party and attacked by a bear defending its cub. Glass is savaged by the bear but manages to kill it, but not before being seriously wounded and near death. Captain Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson), the leader of the group, does rudimentary first aid and sews up Glass’s many wounds. The group then attempts to carry Glass on a stretcher but find it seriously hampering their progress. There is an argument that Glass, being so far gone, be put out of his misery but the Henry can’t follow through. He promises money to those volunteering to stay and provide a Christian burial when Glass must inevitably die. Hawk and two others volunteer to care for Glass while the rest press on. One of those left is John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) who had initially wanted to kill Glass. When alone, he attempts to smother Glass. Hawk comes to the rescue and is killed by Fitzgerald who drags his body away. When the other member of the party, Jim Bridger (Will Poulter), returns Fitzgerald convinces him that Hawk has wandered off and Glass is as good as dead. They put him in a shallow grave and half cover him. When Fitzgerald and Bridger return they report Glass’s death to Henry after Fitzgerald warns Bridger not to talk. Bridger refuses to take his part of the money for looking after Glass.

Revenant means a person who has returned, supposedly from the dead. The rest of the movie depicts Glass’s return; his raw survival efforts, crawling painfully along the ground, cleaning his wounds, scavenging for food, catching fish, evading the Arikara hunting party and removing the entrails of a dead horse so he can weather a storm inside its carcass. In passing, the vast vistas of the un-spoilt wilderness are portrayed in all their frigid glory.

Questions for discussion
Some general questions might provide enough framework to get started:

  • What stood out as the main points/highlights in the movie?
  • What themes are explored?
  • What assumptions were embedded in the story?
  • What challenged you? What questions did it raise for you?
  • Are there aspects of the story that resonated with your own experience or with the experience of others in a similar situation?
  • Are there biblical or theological themes or characters that come to mind?

Revenge or Justice
Revenge and survival are the themes running all through this film. The desire for revenge is what keeps Glass alive and spurs him on through incredible hardship. Blood vendettas and honour killings keep the cycle of violence alive in today’s world. The most graphic violence in the film was the bear mauling Glass. But human beings are different from bears. The bear will fight to protect its cubs but will not seek revenge if the cubs are killed. Human beings innately seek justice for wrongs done to them or their kin. When Glass and Hikuc, the Pawnee Native American (Arthur Redcloud), meet they swap stories. Glass is bent on revenge for the killing of his son. Hikuc recounts that he also has lost his family to marauding Sioux. He tells Glass, “Revenge is in the hands of the creator”.
‘Never take revenge, my friends, but instead let God’s anger do it. For the scripture says, “I will take revenge, I will pay back, says the Lord”.’ Romans 12:19 GNT What does this mean?
To what extent are the wars and conflicts around the world part of the revenge cycle?
Should governments take revenge? What conflicts might have been avoided if governments sought justice instead? What might this have looked like?

Fitzgerald is made out to be the villain of the piece. He is certainly out for number one and antagonises Glass from the beginning. He volunteers to stay with the near dead Glass only because he has lost his pelts which he blames Glass for and takes the offer of money as some form of compensation for his troubles. He expects Glass to die quickly and digs a shallow grave. When Glass doesn’t succumb he construes a way to finish him off as he is supposedly worried about the Arikara chasing them. He abandons Glass, and lies to Henry that he gave Glass a proper burial. When Glass finally makes it back Henry finds that Fitzgerald has absconded with the contents of the safe. Henry and Glass pursue him.
Is Fitzgerald the only villain? Is he all bad?

In real life Fitzgerald did not kill Glass’s son. Glass pursued him mainly because he was left to die. And in real life he didn’t get his revenge and kill him.
See http://www.historyvshollywood.com/reelfaces/revenant/

There are flash backs to earlier times with Glass living in a Native American village with his Pawnee wife and young son. He sees soldiers killing his wife. His visions recur throughout the film. These visions appear to give him advice and strength to carry on. At the end of the film Glass, badly wounded, sees his wife again, who finally walks away from him.
What role did you see these visions taking? Have you had any similar experiences? Do you think visions contain spiritual messages?

Inside the ruined church
Glass happens upon a ruined church, unbelievably built with stone and containing still visible icons on the walls. Glass has a vision of his dead son and embraces him. He is left hugging a tree.
Why do you think this image was inserted into the film? What does this image imply about Christianity and its place in the landscape?

Meeting Hikuc
Near to starving, Glass comes upon Hikuc, a Pawnee Native American, feasting on raw buffalo meat. After an initial stand off they share the meat and camp together. Hikuc invites Glass to travel with him and shares his horse. The Pawnee observes Glass’s wounds and opines that Glass will die from them if not treated so then proceeds to apply Native American remedies. When hit by a sudden blizzard Hikuc builds a shelter for Glass and heats it with rocks from the fire.
What role do you see Hikuc playing in the movie? Are there any parallels to scripture?

Glass survives only to discover a group of French trappers camped nearby. The body of Hikuc is hung from a tree with sign hung from his neck saying. “On est tous des sauvages” (“We are all savages”).
Are we all savages? Who are the real savages in this story? What makes the difference?
Savagery (violence) still abounds in our world today. Reflect on why this is so. What can be done?

Glass infiltrates the French trappers’ camp and sees a trapper raping Powaqa. He could easily have taken Hikuc’s horse and got away but he intervenes and saves Powaqa first. At the end Glass battles Fitzgerald and they are both severely wounded. Glass has his chance to kill Fitzgerald but remembers Hikuc’s words and refuses to finally despatch his enemy. Instead he slides Fitzgerald into the river, where he floats downstream to the Arikara hunting party who kill him. Too weak to move, Glass watches the Arikara come towards him. He watches them pass by and sees Powaqa with them.
You will know them by what they do. Matt 7:16 GNT Discuss.
How does this movie treat Native Americans?
What final messages are you left with?

Scripture Quotations Good News Translation Copyright © 1992 by American Bible Society
© Peter Russell, 26 January, 2016, Pilgrim Uniting Church, www.pilgrim.org.au
This resource is freely available to download and copy but kindly attribute copyright

The Big Short (2015)

Published / by Sandy

Engage with culture without disengaging your faith.

Genre: Biographical comedy-drama, history
Rating: M (coarse language and occasional nudity)
Length: 130 mins
Starring: Christian Bale (as Michael Burry), Steve Carell (as Mark Baum, based on Steve Eisman), Ryan Gosling (as Jared Vennett, based on Greg Lippmann), and Brad Pitt (as Ben Rickert, based on Ben Hockett)
Director (and co-writer): Adam McKay


Brief synopsis
Three parallel stories of a few high finance investors who foresee the credit and mortgage housing collapse of the mid-2000s, and decide to take on the big banks for their greed and lack of foresight. They saw the crisis coming, in which massive numbers of American mortgage holders would default. They took the risk to bet against the market by buying up billions of dollars in credit default swaps and then just waited for things to turn their way. A true story, based on the 2010 book by Michael Lewis.

This longer synopsis might help – it’s a complex film!
Michael Burry, an eccentric ex-physician turned one-eyed Scion Capital hedge fund manager, has traded traditional office attire for shorts, bare feet and a Supercuts haircut. He believes that the US housing market is built on a bubble that will burst within the next few years. Within the company, Burry largely does as he pleases, so he proceeds to bet against the housing market with the banks, who are more than happy to accept his proposal for something that has never happened in American history. The banks believe that Burry is a crackpot and therefore are confident in that they will win the deal. Jared Vennett with Deutschebank gets wind of what Burry is doing and, as an investor, believes he too can cash in on Burry’s beliefs. An errant telephone call to FrontPoint Partners gets this information into the hands of Mark Baum, an idealist who is fed up with the corruption in the financial industry. Baum and his associates, who work at an arms length under Morgan Stanley, decide to join forces with Vennett despite not totally trusting him. In addition to Burry’s information, they further believe that most of the mortgages are overrated by the bond agencies, with the banks collating all the sub-prime mortgages under AAA packages. Charlie Geller and Jamie Shipley, who are minor players in a $30 million start-up garage company called Brownfield, get a hold of Vennett’s prospectus on the matter. Wanting in on the action but not having the official clout to play, they decide to call an old “friend”, retired investment banker Ben Rickert, to help out. All three of these groups work on the premise that the banks are stupid and don’t know what’s going on, while for them to win, the general economy has to lose, which means the suffering of the general investor who trusts the financial institutions. (written by Huggo, on IMBD website)

Questions for discussion
Some general questions might be enough to reflect on/discuss the movie, such as:

  • What stood out as the main points/highlights in the movie?
  • What themes are explored?
  • What assumptions were embedded in the story?
  • What challenged you? What questions did it raise for you?
  • Are there aspects of the story that resonated with your own story/experience or with the experience of others in a similar situation?
  • What biblical or theological themes or characters come to mind that engage with the story?

Financial language as exclusionary
The film requires characters to talk to camera and explain some of the technical financial terms as it’s assumed it’s a bit beyond the average person to understand. There are also some ‘extras’ who appear in a single scene to talk to camera – Margot Robbie in a bubble bath explaining CDOs (collateralized debt obligations) and Selena Gomez at a Vegas blackjack table walking the audience through synthetic CDOs. In what ways is financial language exclusionary, such that ‘experts’ are needed who understand investments. In what ways may that financial knowledge be self-serving and a source of power, greed and corruption? Discuss.

The human cost
 in the face of human greed
Brad Pitt’s character scathingly points out to two young hedge fund investors, excited that the market is about to turn in their favour (ie about to crash) that thousands or even millions of people will as a consequence be plunged into homelessness and poverty, with the potential to take down the world’s economy. What is the human cost for vulnerable citizens who are the victims of those who are clever enough to read the market, invest and win big time? What about greedy investors and bankers, involved in widespread fraud and corruption? Financiers are often quite separated from the average person, sometimes located high above the streets insulated from the harm their greed inflicts on ordinary people. Who are the ‘goodies’ and ‘baddies’ in the movie? And what makes them so? What instances do you know about in relation to the lack of supervision and regulation in the banking and trading systems? Discuss.

The Bechdel Test

Cartoonist and Fun Home graphic novelist Alison Bechdel developed the test that measures the number and depth of female characters in a work of fiction by asking three questions: Do at least two women appear in the movie, do they talk to each other, and do they have a conversation about something other than men? (Sometimes an additional question is tossed in: Are the female characters named?) Sure, The Big Short is a true story, and therefore can narrow its focus to the main characters, who happen to be white men. But still worth talking about the way women are depicted in the film.
In fact, the housing crisis wouldn’t have unfolded as it did without women – women like Meredith Whitney. Author Michael Lewis describes her in the prologue to The Big Short book: ‘Whitney was an obscure analyst of financial firms for an obscure financial firm who, on Oct 31, 2007, ceased to be obscure. On that day she predicted that Citigroup had so mismanaged its affairs that it would need to slash its dividend or go bust. It’s never entirely clear on any given day what causes what inside the stock market, but it was pretty clear that, on October 31, Meredith Whitney caused the market in financial stocks to crash. By the end of the trading day, this obscure woman who could have been dismissed as a nobody, had shaved 8% off the shares of Citigroup and $390 billion off the value of the U.S. stock market. Four days later, Citigroup CEO Chuck Prince resigned. Two weeks later, Citigroup slashed its dividend. From that moment, when Meredith Whitney spoke, people listened. Whitney’s mentor was Steve Eisman, the inspiration for Steve Carell’s character in the film. Discuss.

Money, the economy and the ‘common good’
American theologian John B. Cobb asserts that ‘Western society is organized in the service of wealth” and thus wealth has triumphed over God in the West’.
In the world of the New Testament, it was understood that ‘since all good exists in limited amounts which cannot be increased or expanded, it follows that an individual, alone or with his family, can improve his social position only at the expense of others’. (Bruce Malina, ’New Testament World’, pp71-93).
An early church father, John Chrysostom (c. 347–407), once wrote: “This is the rule of most perfect Christianity, its most exact definition, its highest point, namely, the seeking of the common good . . . for nothing can so make a person an imitator of Christ as caring for his neighbors.”
‘A commitment to the common good could bring us together and solve the deepest problems the world now faces: How do we work together? How do we treat each other, especially the poorest and most vulnerable? How do we take care of not just ourselves but also one another?’ (Jim Wallis).

Rev Sandy Boyce 23rd January 2016 Pilgrim Uniting Church, www.pilgrim.org.au
This resource is freely available to download and copy but kindly attribute the source.
Download TheBigShort


Published / by Sandy

Engage with culture without disengaging your faith.

posterGenre: British drama, biography, drama, history

Rating: PG13 (violence, brief strong language, partial nudity)
Length: 1 hour 46 minutes
Starring : Carey Mulligan, Meryl Streep, Helena Bonham Carter

Brief synopsis
In early 20th-century Britain, the growing suffragette movement forever changes the life of working wife and mother Maud Watts (Carey Mulligan). Galvanized by political activist Emmeline Pankhurst (Meryl Streep), Watts joins a diverse group of women fighting for equality and the right to vote. In the face of police action, Maud and the suffragettes play a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse, risking their jobs, homes, family and lives for a just cause.

Questions for discussion
Some general questions might be enough to reflect on/discuss the movie, such as:

  • What stood out as the main points/highlights in the movie?
  • What themes are explored?
  • What assumptions were embedded in the story?
  • What challenged you? What questions did it raise for you?
  • Are there aspects of the story that resonated with your own story/experience or with the experience of others in a similar situation?
  • What biblical or theological themes or characters come to mind that engage with the story?

The following provides some particular aspects of the movie that could be explored. Please note this is a catalyst for discussion, not a review. There has been criticism that the script has filtered out the contextual complexities of politics, and the direction reduces difficult situations to simple sentiments (Richard Brody, The New Yorker). However, there is plenty to discuss from the movie!

Maud is given a book, Dreams in a Desert, by Olive Schreiner. On the inside page, there are names of women involved in the suffragette movement, as the book is passed from one woman to another, to fuel their imagination and to sustain their commitment. She reads, “The woman wanderer goes forth on the path towards freedom.” She wonders, “I am alone, utterly alone. Why do I go to this far land?” And reason says to her, “Silence, what do you hear? Thousands, and they beat this way. . . Feet of those who follow you. Lead on.” Discuss this quote in the context of movements of social change, and particularly the notion that even an ordinary ‘foot soldier’ may be a leader with the potential to inspire others.

Domestic terrorism?
The women used their own bodies as weapons of resistance. They also blew up post boxes, smashed windows, destroyed communication networks, carried out arson – predicated on the confidence that ‘there’s another way of living this life’. Is violence justified because it is the language those in power understand? Could social change to address institutionalised gender discrimination have been achieved by peaceful means? How would this violence be viewed through the lens of ‘anti-terror’ laws? What are contemporary examples of civil disobedience e.g. action in relation to refugees and asylum seekers, war, the environment, and working for justice? ‘Good ends are sometimes reached by bad means, but that’s no reason to celebrate the means. Rather we should mourn that some had to resort to bad means to achieve the good ends that should have been theirs all along’. (The non-violence of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr would come decades later in the 20th century. The courage of Malala in advocating for change through peaceful means would not come until a century later). Discuss.

Media was used by the police and politicians to shame the suffragettes. The suffragettes too learned the power of media. This is demonstrated most starkly at the Epsom races, where two of the women plan to use the presence of the media to attract attention to their cause. Film technology was in its early days, but the incident on the racecourse was captured on 3 newsreel cameras and raised the profile of the women’s campaign for change. How is media used, and misused, by people on all sides of social change, protest and dissent? Discuss.

Time for change – or the long slow drift to change?
The specific focus of the suffragettes for the right to vote was only part of the story, with women still disadvantaged and diminished in many areas e.g. sexism, ‘honour killings’, rape, domestic violence against women, pay inequity, exclusion of women from leadership in some church traditions. There is still such a long way to go to improve their conditions and gain equity, and requires ongoing change to to address the complex issues involved. How do you see the dynamics of direct action for social change through the cycle of unrest, upheaval, change and stability? What role does media play in change, and social media with instant methods of alerting people to decisions on strategy for gatherings and actions?
Tessa Hadley: ‘Historians these days tend to attribute the eventual achievement of women’s suffrage to the significant role they played in the war economy, and to the longer, slower attrition of the constitutional suffragists, who didn’t engage in direct action. And then the slow tides of economic and social change, moving through the 20th century, brought by so many more women in the workforce’.
Is the long slow drift towards change something that is inevitable and ‘reasonable’, or is direct action needed in a world that increasingly thrives on the inequities of people. Discuss.

Foot soldiers
The film’s main focus is on ordinary people drawn into action for social change, changing history. They are denigrated as ‘foot soldiers’ (fodder for a cause). Yet social change requires a movement of people, not just charismatic individuals. Rosa Parks was a member of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) and only one of many who were arrested for not giving up their bus seats. Martin Luther King Jr was the hesitant champion of highly orchestrated NAACP civil disobedience campaigns. The Arab Spring that began in 2010 spread rapidly through the Middle East and north Africa region with millions involved. Discuss the role of ‘foot soldiers’ in a movement.

Ripe for the picking
Maud’s personal history (didn’t know father, mother died when she was 4, she worked in a laundry from 7 years old, workplace intimidation etc) made her more responsive to the suffragette movement. In a contemporary setting, there are social, economic and political conditions that make individuals, groups and communities ‘ripe for the picking’, and sometimes recruited into terror networks. Discuss.

Votes for women
The world has changed for the better in the past century, although ‘the project of feminist advancement is radically incomplete’ (Jacqueline Rose). The new Canadian PM Justin Trudeau has a Cabinet of equal parts men and women. ‘It’s an incredible pleasure for me…to present a cabinet that looks like Canada’. When asked why he had a gender-equal cabinet he replied simply, ‘because it’s 2015’. The film’s credits list the dates when women were given the vote – starting with New Zealand and Australia (SA being the first State to do so). Some countries took much longer (eg Switzerland, 1971). Discuss how women are represented in leadership.

Prophetic imagination (Walter Brueggemann. The Prophetic Imagination, Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2001)
Brueggemann names lament and grief, and a deep awareness of the plight of the poor and oppressed, as the starting point for social change, that then requires an engagement of the prophetic imagination in anticipation of what God will do to generate newness. Discuss.

© Rev Sandy Boyce 6th January 2016 Pilgrim Uniting Church, www.pilgrim.org.au
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