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Movie Discussion Resource

Year: 2021

My Name is Pauli Murray

Published / by Sandy

Engage with culture without disengaging your faith.

Genre: documentary (available on Amazon Prime streaming)
Rating: M (mature themes, violence, drug use, coarse language)
Length: 91 mins
Director: Betsy West and Julie Cohen
Country of origin: USA

Synopsis:
Note: given the non-binary status, the term ‘them‘ and ‘their‘ may be used in lieu of gender specific pronouns.

“You say, ‘I can’t’ – I’ll show you I can, even if I die trying” (Pauli Murray 1910-1985).
Murray was one of the most influential figures in 20th century history in the U.S. – transgender, non-conforming, non-binary, gay/queer, pioneering feminist black lawyer (she preferred ‘Negro’), fearless activist and civil rights trailblazer, writer and poet, who influenced both Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Murray understood what it was to exist beyond previously accepted categories and cultural norms. Murray was an early architect of the idea that the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment should guarantee not just racial but gender equality. Murray challenged the constitutionality of segregation. Murray’s personal path and tireless advocacy foreshadowed some of the most politically consequential issues of our time, shaping landmark litigation – and consciousness – around race and gender equity. 

Murray became the first African American student to receive a doctorate from Yale Law School and the first African-American woman to be ordained as an Episcopal priest in 1977. Murray emphasized the particularity of African American women’s experiences, while proclaiming a universal message of salvation. 

Told largely in their own words, My Name is Pauli Murray is a candid recounting of the segregated south. It includes writings as well as newly discovered photographs, video footage and audio interviews, chronicling how Murray spent their life grappling with gender norms and identifying as non-binary. It premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival:”It’s not often we’re introduced to a true luminary, and Pauli Murray was just that. Murray questioned systems of oppression and conformity throughout the mid-twentieth century, with a radical vision consistently ahead of the times. Pauli Murray’s trailblazing legal foresight influenced landmark civil rights decisions and gender equality legislation that transformed our world.” 

General questions for discussion
Some general questions might provide enough framework for you to discuss the movie: 

  • What stood out as the main points/highlights in the documentary?
  • What themes are explored?
  • What challenged you? What questions did it raise for you?
  • What resonated with your own experience?
  • Who have been significant influencers for you, and in what way?
  • Are there biblical or theological themes or characters that come to mind? 

The bus

“The bus was the quintessence of the segregation evil. The intimacy of the bus interior permitted the public humiliation of the black people to be carried out in the presence of the privileged white spectators who witnessed our shame in silence or indifference”. 

Pauli preceded Rosa Parks and others by 15 years in the civil rights movement – but most people don’t know her name. Pauli Murray was one of the most remarkable and consequential figures in American 20th century history” (New York Times).  How can one person be so pivotal and yet their name is not one you have ever learned? Discuss. 

In what ways do ‘privileged white spectators’ continue to look on in silence or indifference at the concerns of others in our time and place – refugees, impact of the environmental crisis in the Pacific etc. Discuss. 

Change is sure to come
For the first two years of law school at Howard University, Murray was the only woman, though at first she was not acknowledged in class and for some time she wasn’t able to speak. Nevetheless Murray topped the honours list for her academic work, and in 1944 graduated first in her class. While at Howard, Murray coined the term ‘Jane Crow’ to refer to discrimination based not only on race, as was the case with ‘Jim Crow’ racial segregation laws, but also on gender. The law students at Howard University had been discussing how best to bring an end to Jim Crow. Lawyers had been chipping away at segregation by questioning the “equal” part of the “separate but equal” doctrine. Fed up with the limited and incremental results, Pauli Murray proposed a radical alternative: why not challenge the “separate” part instead? Her idea seemed both impractical and reckless to her peers. They told her that any challenge to Plessy would result in the Supreme Court affirming it instead. Undeterred, Murray told them they were wrong. Then, with the whole class as her witness, she made a bet with her professor, a man named Spottswood Robinson: ten bucks said Plessy would be overturned within 25 years. Murray was right. Plessy was overturned in a decade – and, when it was, Robinson owed her a lot more than $10. In her final law-school paper, Murray had formalized the idea she’d hatched in class that day, arguing that segregation violated the 13th and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. When Robinson joined with others to try to end Jim Crow, he remembered Murray’s paper, fished it out of his files, and presented it to his colleagues – the team that, in 1954, successfully argued Brown v. Board of Education.
=> What kind of legislative change has happened in your lifetime, despite the obstacles.  Discuss. 

Hope
It is challenging maintaining hope when you are engaged in issues, seeking to bring about change. (The environmental crisis is one for our present day). Pauli Murray says, ‘Hope is a crushed stalk between clenched fingers. Hope is a song in a weary throat”. In addition to dogged determination and stubbornness, what sustained and motivated Pauli Murray? Discuss. 

Influences of the Influencers
Murray was orphaned early in life, and lived with her Aunt Pauline at the home of her maternal grandparents, Cornelia and Robert Fitzgerald. Cornelia was born in bondage; her mother was a part-Cherokee slave named Harriet, her father the owner’s son and Harriet’s frequent rapist. Robert, by contrast, was raised in Pennsylvania, attended anti-slavery meetings with Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass, and fought for the Union in the Civil War. Together, they formed part of a large and close-knit family whose members ranged from Episcopalians to Quakers, impoverished to wealthy, fair-skinned and blue-eyed to dark-skinned and curly-haired. When they all got together, Murray wrote, it looked “like a United Nations in miniature.”

=> What are the influencers/influences in your own life that shape the way you view the world?

We shall endure
“To the oppressors now you are strong and we are but grapes aching with ripeness. Crush us. Squeeze from us all the brave life contained in these full skins. But ours is a subtle strength, potent with centuries of yearning.  We shall endure to steal your sense in that lonely twilight of your winter’s grief”.   

This thought resonates with much of the biblical narrative – with the oppressed Hebrew people, the people in exile, the people under Roman occupation. ‘We shall endure….’ Discuss.

Non-violence/direct action
Gandhi famously remarked, “It may be through the Negroes that the unadulterated message of nonviolence will be delivered to the world.” Inspired by Gandhian principles of nonviolence and the strategy of civil disobedience, Murray was in the vanguard of black activists to use nonviolent direct action, challenging segregation and actively working alongside civil rights leaders such as King and Rosa Parks. 

The January 6th Capitol insurrection in Washington and other violent exercises of power colluding with lies, mischief and manic mayhem, stand in contrast to the principles of non-violent direct action.  Is violence so endemic now that it is part of the fabric of society, or is non-violence (that Jesus preaches) the only hope for transformative change? Discuss. 

Pauli the Priest
Pauli Murray – gay/queer, a black bisexual woman – was pioneering in many ways. And then she became an Episcopal priest. Sometimes God chooses the ‘least likely’ to offer significant leadership. Discuss examples from the biblical witness and your own experience.

© Rev Sandy Boyce 13th October 2021
Pilgrim Uniting Church, www.pilgrim.org.au

This resource is freely available to download but kindly attribute appropriate copyright

Movie Discussion Resource.My Name is Pauli Murray

Akoni

Published / by Sandy

Movie Discussion Resource: Akoni

Engage with culture without disengaging your faith

Genre: Drama/romance
Rating:
M
Length
: 90 minutes
Starring Kit Esuruoso, Genna Chanelle Hayes, Mark Coles Smith
Writer/Director/Producer: Genna Chanelle Hayes
Australian release: October 2021

 

 

Brief synopsis
A Nigerian refugee struggles to integrate into Australian society after escaping the clutches of Boko Haram in Nigeria. While living on the streets in Sydney, he ends up on the receiving end of racist taunts from a group of drunken men. A young woman Violet (Genna Chanelle Hayes) comes to his aid and offers him a place to stay.  She is a model living the glamorous life, but struggling with her own heartbreak with the loss of her partner. She soon finds solace in her unlikely new companion as he opens her up to a world beyond her current life of modelling, parties and social media.

Genna stars in the film, as well as writing, directing and shooting it. Akoni is her feature film directorial debut. She has been an intrepid traveller since she was young. The story of the film reflects Genna’s commitment to human rights and her passion for learning different cultures.  The driving force behind the film was to raise awareness of the impact of terrorist organisation Boko Haram in West Africa, an issue she became passionate about after falling in love with a Nigerian while in London. She is also passionate about refugees more generally; her short film Displaced was about a Sudanese refugee living in Melbourne. Akoni is a remarkable achievement on a budget of only $300,000.

Questions for discussion
This is a gently told film that may be a catalyst for conversation about the plight of refugees, and the danger from which they flee. Some general questions might provide enough framework for you to 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 experience?
  • Are there biblical or theological themes or characters that come to mind? 

Terrorism and Displacement
(Genna Chanelle Hayes): “Currently, over 3 million Nigerians are displaced due to the activities of terrorist group Boko Haram, and almost half a million Nigerians – mostly children – have been killed. The Boko Conflict in West Africa is just one of many violent conflicts destabilising nations around the world, and as the number of internationally displaced peoples soars toward 100 million, it is my hope that the story of Akoni can enhance global understanding of the circumstances refugees and asylum seekers face, and contribute to the creation of global immigration policies that uphold the human rights of all peoples”.
=> A thoughtful discussion could focus on the issue of terrorism, violence and war that has led to huge numbers of IDP (Internally Displaced People) and refugees seeking safety in other countries – and how the world is responding to this humanitarian crisis.

Welcome to the Shire!
Sammy (Mark Coles Smith, Last Cab to Darwin), an Aboriginal man, befriends Akoni and offers him shelter in an abandoned warehouse, where many others are also living in improvised shelter. They may feel abandoned by the society in which they live, but create an alternate community for those ‘on the fringe’ – with its own rules and protocols so everyone is able to find safety and acceptance (in contrast to the opportunist ‘casual’ violence endemic on the city streets). Discuss. 

Refugees and homelessness
“Many refugee and humanitarian entrants arrive in Australia with few or no financial resources, may be in debt and often face significant challenges in securing employment during the early stages of settlement. Additionally, many refugee and humanitarian entrants send money to family members living in dire situations in countries of origin or asylum, often sending a significant portion of their limited income overseas. This makes the task of meeting private rental costs exceptionally challenging and can result in refugee and humanitarian entrants living in poverty and overcrowded conditions for the first few years of life in Australia”. (Refugee Council of Australia, Submission to the Affordable Housing Working Group). When refugees arrive in Australia through the Humanitarian Program, they arrive as permanent residents and can immediately access income support payments in the same way as any other Australian permanent resident, though they may struggle to find employment and the means to survive financially, and may have difficulty finding housing. Refugees who arrive by any other means struggle financially, and are constantly at the mercy of visas being issues in a timely way to allow them to work. Homelessness is a huge issue because there is no safety net, and too little in the way of support structures. Finding affordable, appropriate and sustainable housing is an ongoing challenge. When people fall foul of the law, often simply to survive, they are likely to be deported on ‘character’ grounds.
=> Discuss some of the systemic issues that leave refugees vulnerable to homelessness. 

Silence/Making Space
There are awkward silences between Akoni and Violet, each trying to work the other one out. It was notable that Violet didn’t rush in to solve Akoni’s problems, apart from his immediate need for safe shelter. She allowed the silence to settle, until Akoni was ready to talk. Attentive silence gives time for a person to process their thoughts and feelings. Silence does not indicate disinterest – it can still communicate so much that is of value, including conveying the message that “you are worth listening to”. Violet seemed to open a doorway when she asked, ‘do you dream?’ (in contrast to more ‘interrogative’ questions).
=> Discuss your own experience in cross-cultural conversations, the place of silence, and the place of invitational questions (in contrast to ‘interrogative’ style questions). 

Jesus was a refugee
More than a slogan, ‘Jesus was a refugee‘ speaks about the lived reality of Jesus and his family fleeing violence by the political authorities. Being a refugee, a displaced person, runs in the DNA of Jesus and his family with much of the narrative from the Hebrew Scriptures following the story of the exodus and the exile, Naomi and her family fleeing famine and seeking refuge in a foreign country etc. How might this insight impact how we read the biblical narrative and how we ‘read’ our contemporary context? Discuss. 

Education
Access to tertiary education is a huge issue for refugees and asylum seekers in Australia who have to pay international fees.  Who knows how many other capable students like Akoni are prevented from reaching their full potential in order to give back to their adopted country. More advocacy needs to happen to encourage universities to offer scholarships to students. Check out what is happening with the universities near you. 

The happy ending
Could the film have ended without the final scene? What was its purpose? Did it round the movie off, or distract from the overall message? Discuss. 

© Rev Sandy Boyce 3rd October 2021 Pilgrim Uniting Church, www.pilgrim.org.au
This resource is freely available to download and copy but kindly attribute copyright.

Movie discussion resource.Akoni

Joe Bell (2021)

Published / by Sandy

Movie discussion resource Joe Bell 

Engage with culture without disengaging your faith.

Genre: Bio-drama
Rating:
M
Length
: 94 minutes
Starring Mark Wahlberg, Reid Miller, Connie Britton
Director: Reinaldo Marcus Green
Writers: Academy Award-winning writing team Diana Ossana and Larry McMurtry (Brokeback Mountain)
Website: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Bell_(film)
Australian release: September 2021

 

Brief synopsis
Joe Bell is an American biographical drama road film starring Mark Wahlberg, Reid Miller and Connie Britton. Based on a true story, the movie follows Joe after his son Jadin takes his life. Joe goes on a “forgiveness walk” from Oregon to New York City, to raise awareness about bullying. Joe spent spent six months on the road, stopping at school assemblies along the way to remind teens that picking on others who are different is not cool. He hopes to find redemption by raising awareness of bullying after his son is tormented in high school for being gay, and takes his own life because he wants the pain of living to be over.  A full synopsis is on the Wikipedia link above.

Questions for discussion
The film may be a catalyst for conversation leading into deep sharing and mutual support.
Some general questions might provide enough framework for you to 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 experience?
  • Are there biblical or theological themes or characters that come to mind? 

Speaking up

Home town wisdom: ‘Let nature take its course – it’ll work itself out’
(Joe Bell, the working-class man who lives a rather simple life in the country).
No, it won’t. Bullying is not ok. It’s hurtful and can negatively impact a person’s well-being. 

Bullying is more than a fight or disliking someone. It’s being mean to someone over and over again. Bullying is an ongoing or repeated misuse of power in relationships, with the intention to cause deliberate (on purpose) psychological harm. Bullying behaviours can be verbal, physical or social. Bullying can happen anywhere – at home, online, with friends, in a group, on the bus or at school. People who are being bullied need advocates and supporters. Workplace practices need to be implemented to change the culture of bullying. Raising awareness and changing behaviours need to happen in schools (unlike the response of the school principal in the movie). People need to be empowered to intervene when they see someone being bullied.
Three Australians a week are taking their lives as a result of bullying. Every 15 minutes a child is being bullied. A study reported 1 in 4 Australian students experience bullying. Every day 100,000 children stay at home because they feel unsafe at school. Social media is spawning a brutal cruelty online. Kids as young as 12 are being bullied to death.

‘My name is Joe Bell and I’m going to walk for change. I’m walking across America to speak out against bullying’. (Joe Bell, the grieving Dad, seeking redemption)

=> Bullying is nothing new but technology has exacerbated its reach. Discuss.

‘I’m gay’
Joe speaks at many school assemblies on the issue of bullying. But he doesn’t mention that his son was gay.  The omission is significant. In recent years a tragic number of gay teens have ended their own lives after enduring homophobic bullying, cruelty, threats and violence, and often involves a violation of their online privacy.  Suicide is the third leading cause of death among adolescents, and gay teens are 4 times more likely than straight teens to attempt suicide.  Research shows that in schools where children are explicitly taught that homophobic bullying is wrong, rates of such bullying are dramatically reduced, and pupils feel safer. Discuss. 

Unconditional love
Joe Bell: ‘Hold on to the ones you love and you love them for who they are for you may not get that chance again’. Joe and his son Jadin sing ‘Born this way’ (Lady Gaga) with an important message of love, acceptance and respect. 

Whether life’s disabilities
Left you outcast, bullied, or teased
Rejoice and love yourself today
‘Cause baby you were born this way
No matter gay, straight, or bi,
Lesbian, transgendered life,
I’m on the right track baby,
I was born to survive.
No matter black, white or beige
Chola or orient made,
I’m on the right track baby,
I was born to be brave.
I’m beautiful in my way
‘Cause God makes no mistakes
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born this way

=> There has been great progress in the way people understand and accept each other that transcends culture, capacity, (dis)ability, etc. But so many challenges clearly remain. Discuss.

‘Forgiveness Walk’
Joe goes on a long forgiveness walk – a time of solitude and soul searching as he wrestles with what he sees as his own complicity in his son’s death. How do you come to terms with regrets and missed opportunities where you have lost the opportunity to gain forgiveness from the person? How do you make peace, and find peace?
This could be a more general conversation.
(Note: the conversation needs monitoring if it goes deep – people with profound issues of grief should be encouraged to find a safe place and a wise person/counsellor to speak with outside of the group discussion. Be mindful of each other’s well-being). 

Predictable?
Steve Pond of TheWrap called the film “An open-hearted, unapologetically emotional story of a man struggling to come to terms with what happened to his son and with his own complicity in it” and said “[t]here are shocks along the way, handled gently or dropped as a gut punch”.
Some critics have suggested the movie is a bit ‘preachy’, with ‘a noble social conscience message’. Others have commented that it doesn’t go deep enough. Given this is based on a true story, are there aspects of the narrative you would like to have seen developed more? For whom do you think the movie is intended? Discuss. 

© Rev Sandy Boyce 2nd October 2021 Pilgrim Uniting Church, www.pilgrim.org.au
This resource is freely available to download and copy but kindly attribute copyright

Movie discussion resource.JoeBell

 

Rosa’s Wedding

Published / by Sandy

Movie discussion resource: Rosa’s Wedding 

Engage with culture without disengaging your faith.

Genre: Comedy/romance
Rating:
M
Length
: 97 minutes
Starring Candela Peña, Sergi López, Nathalie Poza, Ramón Barea, Paula Usero
Director: Icíar Bollaín
Website: rosaswedding.com.au
Australian release: July 2021 (Spanish film sub-titled)

Brief synopsis
Seamstress Rosa is in her mid 40’s. She works in the wardrobe department of a film production company in Valencia, putting in long hours and receiving minimal pay.  She comes to realize that her whole life has been devoted to pleasing and accommodating others, putting others ahead of her own needs. In addition to the pressure of her job, she’s also besieged by the demands of family members: her widowed dad, Antonio (Ramón Barea); her divorced brother Armando (a scene-stealing Sergi López); her possibly-alcoholic sister Violeta (Nathalie Poza); and her grown-up daughter Lidia (Paula Usero). Plus, there’s the constant favours for friends and neighbours. She decides to shake things up and take charge of her life. She retreats to her childhood home in the coastal town of Benicàssim – much to the dismay of her family. She plans to set up a business of her own in her seamstress mother’s shop, long since closed. She also plans to get married – to herself. Rosa will soon discover that her siblings have other plans, and life is going to be anything but easy if it’s not in the family script. Rosa’s Wedding is a warm hearted film, and a life-affirming call to self-empowerment and independence.

Movie trailer here.

Questions for discussion
The film may be a catalyst for conversation leading into deep sharing and mutual support. Some general questions might provide enough framework for you to 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 experience?
  • Are there biblical or theological themes or characters that come to mind? 

Putting others first – shaking off gendered and cultural expectations
Rosa has an endless number of people who expect her to jump to their demands – watering their plants, caring for their animals, looking after their kids. At the same time, she is underappreciated, and abused by her own goodwill. The film begins with a dream sequence of Rosa running a race until she collapses, in an attempt to escape her endless obligations. Rosa is a hard-working woman whose selflessness extends to the point of exhaustion and burn out. Some of us may have lived this kind of life, putting the needs of others ahead of our own. Gender and culture also play a role, as well as our ‘need to be needed’.
=> Discuss how you have seen or experienced this yourself. 

‘I’ve never been to me’
This song dates back a few decades. The singer recognises that she’s actually missed out on a lot. While she may have had adventure, romance and excitement she’s never discovered herself, as in who she truly is on the inside. Rosa’s Wedding has a similar focus – Rosa has been so busy with everyone else’s needs that she hasn’t been attentive to her own. She has overlooked paying attention to her health and well-being. Rosa decides she wants to marry herself. She vows to respect and love herself,  and to put her own wants and desires above others for once. This is less about feminism, or the romance and self-discovery of Eat Pray Love, and more about simply being able to love and respect oneself and put your own needs and well-being first.  

Interestingly, in Japan women can have a solo wedding – be pampered as a bride and have a beautiful photoshoot. One ‘bride’ said she wanted to perform a public declaration of her love – for her single self. “I wanted to figure out how to live on my own. I want to rely on my own strength.”  Japanese women who remained unmarried after the age of 25 have been referred to as “Christmas cake,” a slur comparing them to old holiday pastries that cannot be sold after Dec. 25. Today, a growing number of Japanese women are postponing or forgoing marriage, rejecting the traditional path that leads to what many now regard as a life of domestic drudgery and a relentless tide of domestic burdens. Cultural norms have not caught up with working women in Japan: wives and mothers are still typically expected to bear the brunt of the housework, child care and help for their ageing relatives. More and more Japanese women, who have traditionally been circumscribed by their relationships with men, children and other family members, now find singlehood represents a form of liberation. Read more here.
=> Discuss the tension between societal expectations and personal needs. 

The rescuer personality
The rescuer personality is driven to help others. When someone has the need for help, the rescuer is there, just like a superhero, ready to save the day. They combine a flood of cortisol, the stress hormone, with a flood of connective emotions, to create a role for themselves in this world. Some people think that the rescuer personality is driven by guilt. That is incorrect. Rescuers are driven by a need to be needed. When they can help other people, they feel like they are helping themselves. It would also be fair to say that the rescuer role needs rescuing, probably moreso than the rescued needs rescuing. Read more here.
=> Discuss the dynamics of this personality type. 

The ones you love
While Rosa is prepared to sacrifice her own needs to help others, she also inadvertently overlooks the very real needs of her adult daughter, Lidia, struggling with the care of her young twins and a dysfunctional relationship. Rosa wants to tell Lidia how to live her life, and Lidia seeks a different kind of relationship with her mother. It is Lidia who helps Rosa navigate the pathway for the wedding Rosa had been planning all along.
=> Discuss the family dynamics of helping others at the expense of your own family. 

Hineini
In the parlance of the Hebrew Bible, there’s a special way of signalling readiness to meet expectations: Hineini. Here I am. When God calls to Abraham, and speaks to Moses from the burning bush, they answer hineini. It is the verbal equivalent of jumping up and snapping to attention. At your service. Hineini carries a sense of obligation. Your presence is needed; please show up.
There is another way to understand hineini: I am here. Right here, right now. Wherever I am, I’m already here. Or, to quote the title of a book by the scientist and meditation teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are. Hineini is not always a response to an external call, an external need. We also need to answer hineini to ourselves, calling ourselves present right here, right now. When the body says “rest,” hineini. When fear, sadness, anger poke and pierce us, hineini: these are my feelings, they hurt, and they need my attention and acknowledgement. As I am called to pay attention to other people’s needs, so I am also called present to my own. I need to show up for myself. (Carole Bass). Read more here
=> Discuss the idea of hineini – I am here. 

© Rev Sandy Boyce 2nd August 2021 Pilgrim Uniting Church, www.pilgrim.org.au
This resource is freely available to download and copy but kindly attribute copyright

Movie discussion resource.Rosa’s Wedding

Nine Days

Published / by Sandy

Movie discussion resource Nine Days (2020) 

Engage with culture without disengaging your faith.

Genre: Supernatural drama/Science Fiction/Fantasy
Rating:
M (mature themes, violence and coarse language)
Length: 2 hours 4 mins
Starring Winston Duke, Zazie Beetz, Benedict Wong, Tony Hale, and Bill Skarsgård
Writer/Director:
Edson Oda
Release date in Australia: July 15, 2021

Brief synopsis
Will (Winston Duke) spends his days in a remote outpost watching the live Point of View (POV) on TV’s of people going about their lives. When one of them dies unexpectedly, it leaves a vacancy for a new life on earth. Will is tasked to find a replacement from the candidates – unborn souls – who arrive to undergo tests determining their fitness, facing oblivion when they are deemed unsuitable to be human beings. Will’s role is as arbiter, like a reverse grim-reaper. His is the task to see who deserves to live a life – and who doesn’t.
Will soon faces his own existential challenge in the form of free-spirited Emma (Zazie Beetz), a candidate who is not like the others, forcing him to turn within and reckon with his own tumultuous past. Fuelled by unexpected power, he discovers a bold new path forward in his own life. This is a heartfelt and meditative vision of human souls in limbo, aching to be born against unimaginable odds, yet hindered by forces beyond their will. The film is a tender tale about what it means to be human. (see Wikipedia link ‘Nine Days’ for a longer plot synopsis)

Nine Days trailer here.

Questions for discussion

Note: this film may raise some angst and even trauma for people on subjects like suicide and mortality, so a group conversation may need to begin gently to check in on each other.
Some general questions might provide enough framework for you to discuss the movie, such as: 

  • What did you appreciate about this movie? 
  • What were the highlights?
  • What themes were 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?
  • Are there biblical or theological themes or characters that come to mind? 

Here’s a big discussion
Pre-existence, beforelife, or premortal existence is the belief that each individual human soul existed before mortal conception, and at some point before birth enters or is placed into the body. Concepts of pre-existence can encompass either the belief that the soul came into existence at some time prior to conception or the belief that the soul is eternal. Ancient Greek thought and Islam affirm pre-existence, but it is generally denied in Christianity.
=> There are BIG existential questions to explore here, respectful that people will have different views on matters, and shaped by different philosophical and religious influences. 

=> pre-existence is the scaffolding for the film; what do you think is the meaning of the film?

Life, in abundance
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? (from “The Summer Day“ by Mary Oliver)
‘You are being considered for the amazing opportunity of life, a chance to be born in a fruitful environment where you can grow, develop and accomplish’. (movie quote, by Will)
Will has told Emma that he cannot tell her anything about his previous life, but in response to her showing concern for him, he indicates that in his previous life he once gave a theatre performance that made him feel alive, but never pursued his passion after that. He reacts angrily when another candidate, Alex, points out Will’s hypocrisy for judging people’s lives when he never did anything meaningful with his own life.
=> This could lead to a sharing about missed opportunities, disappointments about beginnings that never led anywhere or were stopped along the way, and reflection on Mary Oliver’s question about how you plan to use your one wild and precious life. 

Candidates for life
Will asks the candidates simple questions about life and has them take notes on what they like or dislike about the lives of others who were chosen. Over the course of the nine days, most of the candidates are dismissed for various reasons, such as self-consciousness and lack of respect for suffering.
=> If those chosen to join the living were selected on their capacity for kindness, compassion and empathy etc, what would the world be like? Is this what the reign of God is like? Discuss.

=> Even the ‘best’ and most talented candidates can be overwhelmed by situations in ‘real life’ and lose heart. Pre-selection of the ‘best’ candidate is no guarantee of a ‘successful’ life. Will’s character carries wounds from his own living, and one of the living takes their own life.
Discuss.

Emma
On multiple occasions, Will’s colleague Kyo (Benedict Wong) indicates Emma’s suitability.  But Will isn’t interested in her, perhaps because of her optimistic charming personality, and the way she is in touch with and expresses her emotions, and her good sense of humour. Will’s perspective comes from his own experience as a human himself. He claims that humankind is not as cheery and kind as Kyo (who has never been human) thinks. Will’s pessimism and overwhelming philosophy of the big bad world seem more realistic; Emma’s optimistic, life-embracing attitude towards the fruits of life doesn’t seem all too weary either. Emma encourages Will to look within and find out more about himself that he has been shutting off for quite some time.

=> Does the world need more ‘Emmas’?

=> Is there a gendered question here about ’emotional intelligence’ eg men are somehow seen as ‘weak’ if they show emotions. They are supposed to ‘man up’ and deal with things. 

Is Will God – arbiter? judge? remote?
I don’t believe in a God up in the sky/ who sits in heaven and never hears me cry.
I don’t believe in a God who’s far away – I believe in Jesus living here with us today.
(Robin Mann, God version 1.0)

“…we do not believe in God, that mythical being who sits on a throne in a far-off perfect land. Nor do we believe in the Monster-God, who lies in wait to punish us for mistakes and crimes.” (Dick Westley, p.85 ‘Redemptive Intimacy’).
Eric Kohn describes Will as ‘a jaded middle-manager trapped in a purgatorial cycle of interviewing souls for the opportunity of life’, a ‘cog in the wheel’. He gives candidates nine days to audition for life while completing a range of tasks he sets before them; the winner won’t remember any of it, but “you will still be you.”

=> Discuss in what ways Will is NOT like God, or aspects that fit our understanding of God?

Doing our theology
Psalm 139 (selected verses) O Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away. You are acquainted with all my ways. You formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.

=> what do you understand about the cycle/circle of life, held in God’s embrace before, during and after our years of living as human persons?

Walt Whitman, Song of Myself poem
The poem is long, and considers the experience of being human among other humans in the natural world. It is part of the climax of the film. It may be something to read at a later time. 

© Rev Sandy Boyce July 2021 Pilgrim Uniting Church, www.pilgrim.org.au
This resource is freely available to download and copy but kindly attribute copyright

Movie discussion resource.NineDays

Breaking Bread (2020)

Published / by Sandy

Movie discussion resource Breaking Bread (2020)
Engage with culture without disengaging your faith.

Genre: Documentary
Rating:
M (coarse language)
Length: 1hour 25 minutes
Starring Dr Nof Atamna-Ismaeel, Shlomi Meir, Ali Khattib
Writer/Director:
Beth Elise Hawk
Release date in Australia: June 3, 2021

Brief synopsis
A feel-good foodie documentary featuring Dr. Nof Atamna-Ismaeel – the first Muslim Arab to win Israel’s MasterChef. She is an Israeli citizen, and speaks both Arabic and Hebrew. She is on a quest to make social change through food. And so, she founded the A-sham Arabic Food Festival in Haifa, Israel, with pairs of Arab and Jewish chefs collaborating on traditional fare from the Levant, the area that includes Israel, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Palestine. The documentary says Arab, not Palestinian, because some of the Muslim chefs are not Palestinian but from other Arab countries. The food includes dishes like kishek (a Syrian yogurt soup), and qatayef (a dessert typically served during Ramadan). The goal is to unite Arabs and Jews over their shared love of cuisine, and invite diners to try dishes not familiar to them. The film is a gourmet guide to the disparate historical shifts that have gone into the making of the country’s multi-faceted population. It is an engrossing film about hope, synergy and mouthwatering fare, with entertaining personalities. It showcases the surprising diversity of views and peoples in Israel. But it is really about more than food, it is about crossing cultural divides through cooking – and enjoying delicious dishes. The film illustrates what happens when people focus on the person, rather than religion; on the public, rather than the politicians.
‘Hummus has no borders’.
‘There is no room for politics in the kitchen’

Questions for discussion

Some general questions might provide enough framework for you to discuss the movie, such as: 

  • What did you love about this movie? What were the highlights?
  • What themes were 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?
  • Are there biblical or theological themes or characters that come to mind? 

Eating at table together
Jesus was guest at many tables, sharing surprising company with the “wrong” sort of people. In the culture in which Jesus lived, to share a meal with someone meant sharing their reputation, linking yourself with them before society and God. In the Gospels, the religious leaders’ most common complaint against Jesus was this: that he ate with tax collectors and sinners* (ie those who were labelled by the religious authorities as outside the boundaries of acceptability). 

=> What biblical stories come to mind that happen around a meal?
=> Share your experiences eating meals with people from different cultural backgrounds. If this hasn’t been your experience, what do you imagine would be the challenges, and joys?
=> how is food a ‘bridge’ that can transcend political and religious divides?

Identity
Culture is the shared characteristics of a group of people, which encompasses, place of birth, religion, language, cuisine, social behaviors, art, literature, music – and food. Culture includes learned patterns of beliefs, attitudes, values, and behaviors. Each of us has personal, social, and cultural identities.
=> How defined/confined is identity based on on these things?
=> What are the challenges to offering generous, inclusive and hospitable space that values diversity and difference, and builds courageous communities committed to truth-telling, grace, hope, and love?

Draw the circle wide
These words by Gordon Light:
Draw the circle wide, draw it wider still.
Let this be our song: no one stands alone.
Standing side by side, draw the circle, draw the circle wide…

Movie quote: ‘This is what’s missing – we don’t know each other enough’
Movie quote: ‘The difference between strangers and enemies is too small’
=> How do you go about widening your circles of friendship? Should there be ‘circles’ at all?

Eric Law: Finding Intimacy in a World of Fear
Eric Law postulates that since 9/11 we live in a climate of fear. He explores his own personal “journey through this landscape of fear” with the hope of helping others get a “handle” on ways to achieve intimacy in spite of the prevalence of fear.
* The climate of fear destroys trust
* Lack of trust reduces life to risk management (a reactive process)
* Life as risk management destroys intimacy
* Lack of intimacy destroys the primary support for facing fears: community
* Community requires the presence of vulnerability and truth telling
=> What is your own narrative through this ‘landscape of fear’ in which we find ourselves? Can you identify ‘sticking points’?

Food
Movie quote: ‘I think they should have given chefs to make peace in the world’
Movie quote: ‘Food can bring us together. Food can be the first step’
Movie quote: ‘You’re gonna use food to bring world peace. No, I’m going to use food to change a few people, that’s it. But if you change a few people and other people would do the same, then maybe we will succeed together to do some kind of a huge change’
“Food may not be the answer to world peace, but it’s a start.” (Anthony Bourdain)
=> Imagine global leaders making and sharing meals together before they begin political conversations. How might that influence the dynamics of global politics?
=> how might hosting and sharing a meal with people from other cultural backgrounds ‘widen the circle’ and contribute to the greater good in the world?

Politics (by absence)
None of the chefs come from the West Bank and it goes without saying that there can be none from the Gaza Strip, although one chef makes a wistful reference to a dessert served at Gaza weddings. The politics in Israel and Palestine are complex, heart breaking, divisive, deadly. And yet Gaza is more than a troubled war zone – people have homes, cook, eat and do their best to carry on as normally as they can, no matter how desperate their circumstances.
=> this may just be for noting, and that the lack of freedom for Palestinian people is a loss for them, and for us all. But there may be a thoughtful conversation to be had about the ongoing situation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. 

© Rev Sandy Boyce July 2021 Pilgrim Uniting Church, www.pilgrim.org.au
This resource is freely available to download and copy but kindly attribute copyright

Movie discussion resource.BREAKING BREAD

Movie Discussion Resource: Son of the South (2021)

Published / by Sandy

Engage with culture without disengaging your faith.

Genre: Drama/biography
In the genre of “MLK/FBI”, the “John Lewis: Good Trouble” documentary, and the outstanding “Selma” of a few years ago (among others).
Rating:
M (thematic content, violence throughout, strong racial Slurs)
Length: 100 minutes
Starring Lucas Till, Lucy Hale, Brian Dennehy
Director: Barry Alexander Brown
Executive Producer: Spike Lee

Brief synopsis
A true story based on Bob Zellner’s autobiography, ‘The Wrong Side of Murder Creek’, set in 1961 in Montgomery, Alabama. A Klansman’s grandson must choose which side of history to be on during the Civil Rights Movement. Defying his family and white Southern norms, he fought against social injustice, repression and violence to change the world around him. Richard Roeper writes: This is an old-fashioned and borderline corny biopic that looks like it could have been made 40 years ago – but it’s also a true-life story about a man who denounced his racist lineage and dedicated himself to the cause, a man who is still with us today, and it’s a story well worth telling. We follow the journey of enlightenment experienced by Bob (Lucas Till) as he transitions from sideline sympathizer to front-line activist in the civil rights movement, in an emotionally charged story that packs a solid punch, serves as a valuable history lesson and, sadly, reminds us that more than a half-century later, we still have a long, long way to go. We pick up Bob’s story in Montgomery, Alabama, as he’s just a few months from graduating from a Methodist college, at which point he’ll head north to the Ivy League school of his choosing – quite an achievement for a wrong-side-of-the-tracks son of a preacher and a schoolteacher. Bob is a movie-star handsome, well-liked guy who’s engaged to the beautiful Southern belle Carol Anne (Lucy Hale), who comes from a moneyed family and is just tickled pink about their prospects together. As one of Bob’s good ol’ boy buddies says as they clink beers in a honky tonk: “To Bob: free, white and 21.” Bob believes in the burgeoning civil rights movement, but mostly in an academic sense, literally. For a thesis on race relations, Bob and a handful of classmates make the journey to meet Rev. Abernathy (Cedric the Entertainer) and Rosa Parks (Sharonne Lanier), who are amused by Bob’s naivete but graciously welcome the group. This sets off a chain of events where Bob bears witness to the horrific racism perpetuated by government officials, police and white citizens on Black activists, and changes the course of his life to join the movement. Bob’s grandfather (Dennehy) plays Bob’s Klan leader grandfather, who is horrified by his grandson’s actions. Sixty seconds after this guy appears onscreen, we detest him – and of course, that’s a testament to how quickly Dennehy could own a part. The fight for equality isn’t over, and this story is as relevant today as it was back when Bob Zellner’s college friends didn’t see anything oppressive or offensive about celebrating someone as “free, white and 21.”

Questions for discussion
The film may be a catalyst for conversation leading into deep sharing and mutual support. Some general questions might provide enough framework for you to 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 experience?
  • Are there biblical or theological themes or characters that come to mind? 

Watching on the sidelines; the journey to activism and change
UK Film Review: “the film is… a message to well-meaning white America that good intentions mean nothing if they’re left on the sidelines.” What’s important is to have the courage to do the right thing 🙂 in the moment. Rosa Parks said, “Not choosing is a choice.” Bob made a choice – a costly choice. He was earnest and well intentioned. But he needed saving himself and went through hell and back. Aligning himself with the Civil Rights movement, he was beaten up, and risked loss of future prospects and status, and so much more. Bob decided what side he would be on and how involved he would get. 
=> Share your own experiences of ‘watching on the sidelines’. There may also be stories of the journey to activism to share.

George Floyd – 25th May 2021 is the one year anniversary of his death
George Floyd died while being detained by Minneapolis police officers. Sixty years after the ‘Son of the South’ story unfolded, we still have racism and horrific violence perpetrated against people of colour. The fight for equality is far from over. Indigenous people are treated overall much worse by the police and prisons in Australia’s judicial system than black Americans are in the U.S. Adult Indigenous Australians are 11 times more likely to be in prison than other Australians, whereas black Americans are “only” three times as likely to be in prison as the average American. The death rates in “police custody” (before getting to prison) are seven times higher for Indigenous Australians than all Australians. In Australia in 2020, 4.7% of Indigenous men were incarcerated, compared with 0.4% of all men. For the population as a whole, those numbers are 2.6% of Indigenous people, and 0.2% of all people.
=> Sixty years on from the historical setting of the film, has much changed? Are there signs of hope? Whose interests are being served by the ongoing, deeply entrenched systems of inequality and racism? 

Wrong side of history/Right side of history
The saying ‘right side of history’ is a relatively new phrase. US President Obama frequently used the phrase, eg “I am confident we will succeed in this mission because we are on the right side of history.” Western culture assumes each shift in the values of the dominant culture constitutes moral progress. Is that so? There have been massive societal and social changes (though not really the subject of the movie) but ‘progress’ has never been a predictable forward leaning phenomenon, where each change gives way to a new stage in human progress, from darkness to enlightenment. We love the rhetoric of Martin Luther King Jr: ‘The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice’ (delivered in a sermon at the National Cathedral on March 31, 1968, though the words were from Theodore Parker). But is this assertion true? Sometimes it feels like treading water, and history repeating itself. MLK Jr King was a hopeful realist who believed that because God is just and righteous, so justice and righteousness would prevail. If justice is to prevail, people who hope for justice must also become and be advocates for justice.
=> how do you respond to ideas like the ‘right side of history’, and ‘the moral universe bends towards justice’.  What experiences and biblical insights shape your thinking?

Courageous leadership
We stand on the shoulders of workers, organizers, advocates, and leaders who have fought for a more just world. In the movie there are several Civil Rights leaders who are assigned ‘minor’ roles. James Forman Sr. was a prominent African American leader in the American Civil Rights movement during the 1960s. As executive secretary of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee for much of the 1960s, he played an essential role in many of the seminal events of the Civil Rights movement, including the freedom rides, the Birmingham movement, and the Selma-to-Montgomery marches. John Lewis led the Freedom Riders. Rosa Parks was depicted as the subject of an interview by Bob and some senior College students as part of their thesis on race relations. 
=> Who are some of the courageous leaders you appreciate, and who inspire you?

© Rev Sandy Boyce 22nd May 2021 Pilgrim Uniting Church, www.pilgrim.org.au
This resource is freely available to download and copy but kindly attribute copyright

Land (2021)

Published / by Sandy

Movie discussion resource Land (2021) 

Engage with culture without disengaging your faith.

Genre: Drama
Rating:
M (thematic content, brief strong language, and partial nudity)
Length: 89 minutes
Starring Robin Wright, Demián Bichir, Sarah Dawn Pledge, Kim Dickens
Director
: Robin Wright (directorial debut)

Brief synopsis
“A story of humanity, in the face of uncertainty.”
The poignant story of one woman’s search for meaning in the vast and harsh American wilderness. The nature of her grief is revealed only in flashbacks and visions about her husband and son. Edee (Wright) finds herself unable to stay connected to the world she once knew in a big city. She retreats to the magnificent, but unforgiving, wilds of the Rockies. A local hunter Miguel (Demián Bichir) finds her starving and dehydrated and brings her back from the brink of death. Then, Edee must find a way to live again.

(One critic wrote: “Wright’s directorial debut might capture the beauty of Wyoming but the story will put you to sleep”. Hmmm, maybe don’t watch it when you’re tired then?)

Questions for discussion
The film may be a catalyst for conversation leading into deep sharing and mutual support.
Some general questions might provide enough framework for you to 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 experience?
  • Are there biblical or theological themes or characters that come to mind? 

Grief – ongoing
Counsellor: Edee, how are you feeling, right now. What are you feeling?
Edee: That it’s really difficult to be around people, because they just want me to be better.
Counsellor: So you’re not able to share what you’re feeling with other people?

Perhaps her own character traits of arrogance and egotism make her grieving more difficult. Nevertheless, Edee’s inner pain is evident and hope seems elusive. She feels alone, conflicted, defeated, unable to share her deepest feelings.
The pain and grief of someone living with loss continues, long after the external markers of sorrow seem to diminish. People breathe a collective sigh of relief when someone seems to be ‘better’, almost as if it relieves them of any caring responsibilities. 

=> Discuss your own experience – a time that has been difficult and challenging, or when you have been supporting someone else.

Losing oneself in the landscape
The beauty and grandeur of the winter landscape of the Rocky Mountains is also harsh and unforgiving. The landscape seem to externalise Edee’s inner world. She tries to lose herself physically in the vastness of the landscape. There is a deliberate recklessness in her lack of preparation to live in the wild, as if she anticipates her life will end with her death at the hands of Mother Nature. A slow suicide. She ignores the kindly advice of the man who suggests that it’s safer to have a vehicle in the isolated spot she has chosen to live. She throws away her phone. She doesn’t have enough provisions nor does she know the basics of survival. She doesn’t care about safety or her own well-being. She anticipates death will eventually come and swallow her up. Edee says to Miguel, “I’m here in this place because I don’t want to be around people,” and he responds, in a gentle voice, “Only a person who has never been hungry thinks starving is a good way to die.”
Psalm 8.4 wonders about the relationship between God and humanity, about God’s love and concern for mortal beings. In the scheme of things, in the vastness of the universe, what is a single life? And yet, rather than diminish the worth of each human life, the Psalmist reminds us that each one has value and dignity and significance.

=> Discuss how Psalm 8.4 (and similar) may give a sense of ‘being held’ in times of grief when life seems to have no purpose and no worth. Are there other biblical references that come to mind?

Alone, together
The film suggests that rather than finding resolution through isolation in the face of pain, grief and loss, connection is what matters. Miguel becomes a gentle ally, companion and teacher for Edee. She asks him, “Why are you helping me?” He says, “You were in my path”. He teaches her basic tools for survival. As their friendship grows, each of them has an opportunity to find healing. Their relationship shows that there is a deep yearning for human connection and companionship through the human journey, even in the midst of challenges. Sometimes that connectivity may best be honoured with silence and a commitment to journey with a person rather than fill the void with words.

=> Reflect on ways you have received/given helpful support in times of need. 

Tears for Fears: Everybody wants to rule the world
Miguel sings the song a few times. It includes the lines “Turn your back on mother nature” and “It’s my own design/It’s my own remorse,” both of which resonate with Edee’s story. There’s a line in the chorus that is also important to remember when it comes to depression and grief, emotions that can sometimes feel like they’ll never end: “Nothing ever lasts forever.” (Brian Tallerico, adapted)

=> What songs would you choose to be on a soundtrack for this film?

‘Retreats’
Many people find ‘retreats’ to be helpful, including ‘silent retreats’, with space to learn, connect personal beliefs, values and goals, and find a deeper meaning in life.
“I calm and quiet my soul. I dwell deeply and richly in this present moment. I surrender what has been. I let go of what might be. I am here. God is living this moment with me. I look at the sky. Contemplate eternity. Remember the billions of years that lie before and ahead of this universe. I relax. There is plenty of time”. (from Living from the Stillpoint:Prayers and meditations for ordinary days by the Stillpoint Spirituality Network, SA Synod)

=> Compare and contrast spiritual ‘retreats’ with Edee’s ‘retreat’ from the world.

First Nation peoples and healing
When Miguel finds Edee dying in her cabin, he brings a local nurse, Alawa (Sarah Dawn Pledge), to help revive her. Alawa is a First Nations woman. There are other First Nations people who appear in one of the final scenes at Miguel’s home, performing a ritual. This part of the storyline is undeveloped, but there is a richness there to explore further.

“Indigenous health systems view the earth as a source of life rather than a resource (Looking Horse)”. 

“Traditional psychology treats patients in the context of their immediate social context and tends to focus solely on human relationships. Eco-psychology places the psyche in the context of the more than human world meaning the complex, interconnected web of humans, animals, plants, microbes, rocks, oceans and stars” (Larry Robinson).

=> Reflect on western health, ‘eco-psychology’, and insights about healing rituals of Indigenous peoples. 

The ending
‘The ending comes out of nowhere, rushed as the end credits abruptly appear on the screen. After visiting Miguel at his home, Edee is ready for the first time in two years to reach out to her sister. This undermines the character’s complete grieving process, showing something much too tidy to be the end result of the same situation that was introduced in the opening moments”. (Shea Vassar)

=> Discuss whether you found the ending satisfactory, or whether it served as a neat and tidy way to finish the film. How else might it have been finished/reach a conclusion?


© Rev Sandy Boyce 22nd May 2021 Pilgrim Uniting Church, www.pilgrim.org.au
This resource is freely available to download and copy but kindly attribute copyright

Steve Parker and Geoff Boyce discuss ‘Land’ in the World Service#4, and the episode includes a beautiful song by Jackson Browne, Human Touch. This episode of the World Service focusses two related themes – grief, isolation and loneliness and the necessity of human contact, form the backbone of this episode.

 

 

Download pdf here Movie-discussion-resource.Land2021.pdf

June Again

Published / by Sandy

Movie discussion resource June Again (2020) 

Engage with culture without disengaging your faith.

Genre: Drama
Rating:
M (coarse language)
Length: 99 minutes
Starring Noni Hazelhurst, Claudia Karvan, Stephen Curry, Nash Edgerton
Director
: J.J.Winlove (debut feature)
Release date 6 June 2021

Brief synopsis Yet another in a run of movies about dementia. Noni Hazlehurst leads this heartwarming Australian tale as a woman who we meet as an elderly, nursing-home bound woman. She has a sudden burst of clarity that restores her faculties, lust for life and headstrong, meddling personality. She has a few days to bring her estranged children together and save the family business (and maybe rekindle an old flame). Much to their amazement, June re-enters the lives of her adult children, Ginny (Karvan) and Devon (Curry), and learns that ‘things haven’t gone according to plan’. With limited time but plenty of pluck, she sets about trying to put everything, and everyone, back on track. When her meddling backfires, June sets out on a romantic journey of her own and discovers she needs help from the very people she was trying to rescue.

Questions for discussion
Some general questions might provide enough framework for you to 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 experience?
  • Are there biblical or theological themes or characters that come to mind? 

An Australian take
It’s great to have an Australian take on the movies about dementia released this year.  Casting actors with a comedic pedigree, actors much loved by Australian audiences, changes the way the story is told (in contrast, for instance, to the brilliant movie The Father, with its multi-layered, dramatic telling of the story from the perspective of a man with dementia).
=> What did you appreciate about having a uniquely Australian way of telling the story?

If I could turn back time’
Many families would love a reprieve for their loved one living with dementia. “If I could turn back time” comes to mind – and ‘if only’: to live again, and love again. Watching loved ones ‘fade away’ is heart wrenching. 

Although, of course, a reprieve would also mean the sometimes unhelpful dynamics of family life also resume, so it’s not all plain sailing. June’s daughter Ginny says to her: ‘Can’t you act like a normal mother for once. I have really missed you, you know!’

Memories of difficult conversations and situations may be stirred:
If I could turn back time
If I could find a way
I’d take back those words that have hurt you
And you’d stay
I don’t know why I did the things I did
I don’t know why I said the things I said
Pride’s like a knife, it can cut deep inside
Words are like weapons, they wound sometimes (Cher, If I could turn back time)

=> this might be an opportunity to share experiences about friends and family living with the reality of prolonged and profound loss associated with dementia
=> discuss family dynamics whereby family members with complex histories are now in a reverse dependent/carer relationship, needing to set aside past hurts, disappointments etc to provide the care for elderly parents.

That difficult conversation
(from James Wigney, The Advertiser) Claudia Karvan has a theory as to why Australia – and western society in general – makes so few movies for older generations: we’re scared of dying. ‘I don’t think we like to reflect on our own mortality. I think we are very interested in our individual power and agency and we are very uncomfortable with the fact that we are going to die. And not only are we going to die, we are going to age and we don’t know how we are going to age or what’s going to take us out. It’s a difficult conversation because it can be so confronting and so bleak’.
=> What is your reflection on Karvan’s ‘theory’?

Phenomenonal
John Travolta in Phenomenon, an average guy who becomes a genius for a short time. Inexplicable at first, but turns out he had a deadly brain tumor that had stimulated his phenomenal brain functions. It is a short interlude before the inevitable demise from his terminal condition but he sets about doing good work with those around him. 

In ‘June Again’, the lead character is gifted precious but limited time to be with family, to make amends. She sees herself as coming back ‘just in time’, to intervene in her adult children’s lives and put things right. 

=> Imagine yourself in the same situation as June – what would you want to do with the precious time to ‘live again, love again’? How does that impact upon how you live now?

‘Fun Friday’
Aged care homes do their best to provide opportunities to gather, play games, do crafts, sing, listen to music etc. (And there are excellent facilities that provide safe and caring environments). But what about the generation that grew up on The Beatles and Rolling Stones, events like Woodstock, the Vietnam War protests etc., who won’t know the words to ‘Daisy, Daisy’ or other sing-a-long songs. The dissonance is very real and disconcerting.
Years ago, a friend suggested her group of friends should buy houses in the same street so they could build their own community network of support rather than face the prospect of going into aged care where they feared losing independence and indeed, for some, their sense of personhood (‘old people all look the same, right?’).
Might the prospect of going into aged care feel a bit like going into someone else’s constructed reality?
Who cheered on June as she ‘did a runner’ from the aged care home?
=> How do you respond?

‘The Dresser’
Devon to June: ‘What is it about the dresser?’
June replies: “It was the one piece of him that I kept”.
There are multiple losses that happen with dementia and sometimes ‘things’ (like ‘the dresser’) provide a tangible link to people and places that remain dear to one’s heart and soul. When people move into aged care, and into a small room with only space for nick nacks, it can be hard to leave behind familiar things that were more than simply ‘objects’. Indeed, families in cleaning up a house after a loved one has moved into care, often have no time for sentimentality and sometimes don’t know the worth of an object (financially or emotionally).
Baby Boomers tell their parents they don’t want the furniture and collectibles accumulated over the years but which must now be thinned down or parted with altogether as they move to smaller quarters. The ‘grown kids’ recoil with something close to horror at the thought of trying to find room” for their parents’ collections, including complete sets of fine china and crystal. For their parents, to have a lifetime of carefully chosen treasures dismissed as garage-sale fodder, can be downright painful. And the same will happen as Baby Boomers downsize and move into retirement villas and aged care. Adult ‘kids’ don’t want the ‘stuff’ their parents have accumulated. Many of today’s millennials are not even interested in keeping the awards, trophies and other memorabilia from their own school days, which their parents have carefully boxed and stored for them. When the kids do eventually look at that stuff, it’s often while taking it out to the trash. Millennials are living their life digitally and that’s how they are capturing their moments. Their whole life is on a computer; they don’t need a shoebox full of greeting cards.” (https://www.redeemer-cincy.org/uploads/files/0820-riseandshine_86.pdf ). Research shows 78% of Millennials prefer to spend money on experience over material possessions and ‘apartment style’ living means younger generations are accumulating far less things.
=> Discuss your own approach to ‘things you treasure’ and perhaps your own experience of treasures being discarded by family to the op shop.

© Rev Sandy Boyce 28th April 2021 Pilgrim Uniting Church, www.pilgrim.org.au
This resource is freely available to download and copy but kindly attribute copyright

Nomadland

Published / by Sandy

Movie discussion resource Nomadland (2020) 

Engage with culture without disengaging your faith.

Genre: Drama
Rating: M (nudity)
Length: 139 minutes
Starring Frances McDormand (and real life nomads in the cast)
Director
: Chloé Zhao
Based on Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century by Jessica Bruder.

  • This film won the Oscar for best director (first woman of colour, and only second woman director to do so), and best picture in the 2021 Oscars. Frances McDormand, took out the award for best actress in a leading role (for the third time in her career).

Brief synopsis
Fern (Frances McDormand) has lived in a rural town in Nevada for years with her husband. He has died recently. Fern’s work as a substitute teacher finishes when the gypsum mine is closed, and with it, the whole town. Fern, now in her 60’s, finds herself forced out of her home and faced with an uncertain future. She sells most of her belongings and buys a second hand van (nicknamed ‘Vanguard’). She has kept some sentimental items like the dishes her father purchased at a garage sale. She sets off on the road exploring a life outside of conventional society as a modern-day nomad. She travels from town to town, state to state, searching for work oppportunities: ‘I need work. I like work’. She takes a seasonal job at an Amazon fulfillment centre, and also finds a variety of work including as a camp host at an RV park, and hourly paid work in a restaurant. A friend and co-worker (Linda) invites Fern to visit a desert winter gathering in Arizona which provides a support system and community for fellow nomads in their senior years where Fern learns basic survival and self-sufficiency skills for the road. The film features real nomads Linda May, Swankie and Bob Wells as Fern’s mentors and comrades. This is a remarkable odyssey of a feisty woman who finds community and her true self in her home on the road.

Questions for discussion
The film may be a catalyst for conversation leading into deep sharing and mutual support. Some general questions might provide enough framework for you to 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 experience?
  • Are there biblical or theological themes or characters that come to mind? 

‘You have a go, you get a go’
In 2014, Joe Hockey’s declared ithat Australia was a nation of “lifters and leaners” (those who were dependent on the government, and everyone else who does the work). In 2019, the Australian PM said, “I believe in a fair go for those who have a go. We make a contribution and don’t seek to take one. When all Australians do that, that’s when we get the fair go mentality and culture that has made our country strong today. So under our policies, if you’re having a go you’ll get a go. We will always be backing in those Australians who are looking to make a contribution not take one and, together, that’s how we make our country stronger.”
… and what about those who do everything they can do ‘have a go’ but can’t ‘get a go’?
Writing in The Guardian, Katharine Murphy responds to the idea that some categories of people are inherently more deserving than others; that those who find themselves on the bottom rung of the ladder are apparently lacking individual imagination and work ethic, rather than a set of circumstances that governments might look at correcting for the good of society as a whole. The idea that opportunity is ‘equal for everybody’, and some people just ‘squander opportunity because they are lazy’. lf you accept the rhetoric, it gives a free pass to governments. If being stuck in a poverty trap is the fault of the individual, then governments, fortuitously, are off the hook. There is no need to investigate whether we are making a choice in this country – either consciously or unconsciously – to fail a group of fellow citizens, and in doing that, failing an important ideal of ourselves”

Nickled and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich followed low-income workers in their desperate attempts to make a living wage in 1988. She concluded that even hard workers could not get out of poverty.

Squeezed: Why Our Families Can’t Afford America by Alissa Quart presents a sad picture of financial vulnerability of middle-class families who are strapped for money due to the 2008 financial crash, unemployment, high child care costs, and the lack of paid family leave. 

=> Discuss the impact of financial vulnerability in a global economy and the impact on people forced to give up their homes due to financial insecurity.  This has also been evident in 2020 with COVID 19 and businesses having to close with subsequent significant job loss. 

Dealing with change and crisis
‘The moment you accept the troubles you’ve been given, the door opens’ (Rumi) ‘Not everything that is faced can be changed; but nothing can be changed unless it is faced’ (James Baldwin). Fern tells people she is ‘okay’. She’s a hard worker, resolved, resilient. She’s a survivor, ready to meet the challenges. But not everyone has the self-determination or capacity to manage the unexpected and sometimes dire circumstances in which they find themselves. 

=> Discuss examples of your own or people you known. This may include the experience of refugees who flee danger, into an unknown future, who require courage, tenacity, resilience to meet the challenges. 

Ripening
Fern learns about the concept of ‘ripening’ from a fellow nomad. ‘All of life, at any age, is about ripening. Life is about doing every age well, learning what we are meant to learn from it, and giving to it what we are meant to give back to it’ (Joan Chittister)
=> Discuss the idea of ‘ripening’.

The landscape
Discuss why you think the director included those lingering wideshots of the landscape. 

Home Is Where the Heart Is, but Where Is “Home”?
When someone suggests she is now homeless, Fern responds, “I’m not homeless; I’m just houseless. Not the same thing, right?” One fellow worker at an Amazon warehouse explains a tattoo on her arm: “Home is not just a word, but something you carry around within you.” These workers are letting go of old definitions and old ways of trying to control their lives. 

People form strong emotional attachments to the places where they live. ‘Home’ is closely tied to our sense of who we are. “Home” is the place where you feel in control and properly oriented in space and time; it is a predictable and secure place.  “Home” is the primary connection between you and the rest of the world.
=> When the world is collapsing around you, and memories are all that is left, what happens when home is no longer a place? Where is ‘home’ for you (not necessarily your current address)? How would you manage if you had to sell what you have and ‘hit the road’? How might this resonate with people moving into aged care who must leave behind their home, belongings and sense of place?

Human yearning
There is a deep yearning for human connection and companionship through the human journey amidst challenges such as illness, loss, and fear of death. Fern is good listener to Swankie who is dying of cancer and has considered suicide. Fern’s gift of just being present with her is something Swankie will remember for as much time as she has left. 

One person says ‘there’s no final farewell. I’ll see you down the road. And I do. I see them again’. There is community in this group of nomads on the road between ‘here and there’.
=> Discuss the way the film presents both the strong independent individual, as well as deep connections in community.  Read Psalm 23, and discuss the way the psalm depicts God journeys with us as companion, guide, provider, etc.

© Rev Sandy Boyce 26th April 2021 Pilgrim Uniting Church, www.pilgrim.org.au
This resource is freely available to download and copy but kindly attribute copyright

Supernova 2021

Published / by Sandy

Movie discussion resource Supernova (2021)
Engage with culture without disengaging your faith.

Genre: Romance drama
Rating:
M (coarse language)
Length: 93 minutes
Starring Colin Firth, Stanley Tucci, Pippa Haywood, Peter MacQueen
Writer-director: Harry Macqueen

Brief synopsis
Oscar nominee Stanley Tucci (Tusker) stars in this romance drama as a man diagnosed with early-onset dementia. Academy Award winner Colin Firth (Sam) co-stars as his partner of 20 years, comforting and caring for the love of his life. It’s a ‘roadtrip movie’ as we follow their travels across the Lakes District in England in their old camper van, visiting friends, family and places from their past. The trip unearths some confronting questions that must be answered before the illness fully takes hold. The movie gently explores the dementia journey – the gradual, long-term and irreversible deterioration, the decline in physical capacity, the emotional toll of confronting mortality, psychological manifestations, difficulties in communication, depression, as well as moral choices including reasons for taking one’s own life. It also tenderly explores the role of the carer, in this case one who has shared many years of love which grounds the caring and gives context for the burden he accepts. 

Questions for discussion
Some general questions might provide enough framework for you to 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 experience?
  • Are there biblical or theological themes or characters that come to mind? 

The film may be a catalyst for conversation leading into deep sharing and mutual support.

Dementia/Alzheimer disease
Tusker knows what lies before him. We see his difficulties in memory, confusion in physical coordination, the inability to write or do up shirt buttons. We see him lose his ability to remember where he is and conceive of stories, and even the coordination required to write legibly. Sam must live with the slow-coming sorrow of inevitable loss. A difficulty of terminal illness is that you may begin to mourn the dying – who are still alive, still here – as if they are already dead. “You’re not supposed to mourn someone before they die.” (Tusker)
=> The conversation may centre around the experience of watching loved ones on that journey, or your own fears of entering that journey.

‘One liners’

‘If you had one wish in the world, what would it be?’ ‘I wish this holiday wouldn’t end’.
‘Can you tell, that it’s gotten worse?’
‘I need to be remembered for who I was, and not for who I am about to become’ (Tusker)
‘It’s not fair to you (Tusker)/it’s not about fair, it’s about love’ (Sam)
‘We will not starve for lack of wonders, but from lack of wonder’.
‘Being sad when something is gone, just means it was great while it was there. right?’
“Am I strong enough? Can I do it?” (Sam)
“I’m becoming a passenger. And I am not a passenger. This thing is taking me to a place where I don’t want to go.” (Tusker)
=> What thoughts and ideas stood out for you in the movie, for further reflection?

Imagery of supernova
(noun: a star that suddenly increases greatly in brightness because of a catastrophic explosion that ejects most of its mass)
Supernova is used as metaphor for human life. The movie begins with gazing at the stars in the night sky, with a small dot growing brighter and flaring vividly, then disappearing, dying.
“People are like grass; their beauty is like a flower in the field. The grass withers and the flower fades”. (1 Peter 1:24, New Living Translation)
Pat Brown, SlantMagazine.com: “There is a visual metaphor more suited, and literally more grounded, than the one about exploding stars: the landscape with trees and denuded mountaintops reflected in placid lakes. Reflections in water, their clarity marred by slight, unpredictable perturbations, evoke the relation between outer and inner worlds, the mystery of the fragile human consciousness”.
(Is this a less obvious but equally meaning metaphor?)

The two main characters have each had their times of brightness in their professional fields – Tusker as a respected novelist, and Sam as a well known concert pianist. And still, even the best and the brightest will fade away, and relationships will come to an end through death. But we so often resist talking about dying as part of our living. 

=> Discuss your own (or family and friends) reticence to discuss death and dying, and put in place advanced care directives, and make plans for living in the midst of dying. 

When I consider the heavens…
When I consider the heavens, the work of God’s fingers, the moon and the stars, which God has ordained; who are we that God takes thought of us? (Psalm 8:3,4)
=> The vastness of the universe helps these two amateur astronomers cope by showing the smallness of human lives and fates. Recall a time you have experienced the wonder of the stars and planets in an expanding universe, and your place in the universe.

Dying to Know
75% of us have not had an end of life discussion. 70% of us die in hospital despite most preferring to die at home. We all have the right to be involved in what the end of our life looks like. How do we bring to life conversations and actions around death, dying and bereavement and to grow the capacity of individuals and groups to take action toward end of life planning, to develop ‘death literacy’ (the practical know-how needed to plan well for end of life).
* Die-alogue cafes/Death Cafes are a meeting place for people to talk about death before it becomes the next event on the agenda, and  for those who may be seeking directions at a difficult time and a safe place to learn and share. Would you welcome such an opportunity to talk about death and dying in an informal, relaxed setting?
* Dying to Know Day, August 8 each year, is a national event designed to bring to life conversations and actions around death, dying and bereavement and to help grow the capacity of individuals and community groups to take action toward end of life planning. www.dyingtoknowday.org
Dying to Know: Bringing Death to Life, a book by Andrew Anastasios

Developing a theology of dementia and the love of God for human persons
Tusker dreads losing his memory and his sense of self.  The psalmist says all personhood is given by God, because human life is God’s gift. The psalmist said, ‘For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works.’ (Psalm 139:13–14)
Sam’s sister Lilly says: ‘You’re still you Tusker. You’re still the guy he fell in love with’. Tusker replies: ‘No. I’m not. I just look like him’.
We are made in the image of God; nothing can take that away. For a person with dementia, their personhood hasn’t ceased or mysteriously disappeared because of the disease’s influences upon them.
=> what biblical stories and verses help you to reflect theologically on the decline of a person’s capacity – mentally, physically, psychologically, and yet affirms they are still held in the love of God?

© Rev Sandy Boyce 21st April 2021 Pilgrim Uniting Church, www.pilgrim.org.au
This resource is freely available to download and copy but kindly attribute copyright

Movie discussion resource – Download pdf

 

The Father (2020)

Published / by Sandy

Movie discussion resource The Father (2020) 

Engage with culture without disengaging your faith.

Commences in cinemas on April 1 in Australia
Genre: Drama
Rating:
M (for distressing language and themes)
Length: 1hour 37 minutes
Starring Academy Award winners Olivia Colman and Sir Anthony Hopkins
Novellist, Playwright, Director: Florian Zeller

  • In the 2021 Oscars, Anthony Hopkins won best actor for his role in The Father.

Synopsis
Anthony Hopkins plays a strong willed 80 year old Englishman, also named Anthony, who ‘has his ways’ and refuses all assistance from his daughter Anne (Olivia Colman) as he ages, even when he recognises his progressive memory loss and disorientation. Kurt Jensen notes: ‘Anthony isn’t quite “losing” his mind. Rather, his brain functions like an ancient radio in which the tubes are blowing out one at a time’. It’s a depiction of things falling away. As Anthony tries to make sense of his changing circumstances, he begins to doubt his loved ones, his own mind and even the fabric of his reality.

This movie is told from Hopkins’ perspective as he ages and his memory fades. Things get confusing – for him and for the viewer with the fractured storytelling. The viewer has to piece everything together – characters, timelines, location. Some scenes repeat themselves with completely another character replaced, some elements from the set are altered or entirely disappeared. Even the house Anthony is living in may change completely. In this way, viewers experience the dementia that is affecting Anthony and his sense of perception. It is designed to mimic what an aging brain experiences. Only towards the end does the viewer get an opportunity to make sense of it all.

SimonsRants’s Review says, ‘The confusion, the anger, the regret, the brutal honesty and lack of self awareness, the fear, the bipolar nature was all so frighteningly accurate that I forgot many times that I was watching a film not a documentary or even real life’

Jade Pietro describes it this way: We witness Anthony’s mental decline directly as we are transported to his ever-changing world. It is a jarring and disturbing view. Scenes are flipped and repeated by different characters, timelines are repeated. Actors trade roles and utter familiar dialogue heard before. Items are lost or found and settings are slightly askew with changes in decor hinting at his mental disarray and anguish. As moviegoers, we cannot recognize the real from the surreal and the film accomplishes what no other film has done before…we become as dead to the real world, just as Anthony has, lost in a parallel universe and unable to find an easy escape. The emotional upheaval is palpable and moving.

This movie is emotionally powerful, beautiful crafted, moving and sad. Not for the faint hearted. It will be confronting for many who watch it, particularly those with a lived experience of dementia. But there is no doubt of how impactful it is – it is a beautifully crafted film with powerful performances that will stay with you. It captures the very real and devastating journey of dementia for so many people – and their loved ones. Olivia Colman as the carer for her father, is brilliant.
(Other movies in a similar genre include Armour, Still Alice, and Iris)

Questions for discussion
Some general questions might provide enough framework for you to 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 experience?
  • Are there biblical or theological themes or characters that come to mind? 

The film may be a catalyst for conversation leading into deep sharing and mutual support. Recommended to families with elderly parents and friends, Ministry agents and Chaplains. 

Dementia/Alzheimer disease

This movie is told through the perspective of an elderly man entering into the painful journey marked by loss of memory. 
=> Perhaps the conversation may centre around caring for loved ones on that journey, or your own fears of entering that journey.

Behaviours
Dementia is a result of changes that take place in the brain and affects the person’s memory, mood and behaviour. In other instances, changes may be occurring in the person’s environment, their health or medication. Sir Anthony Hopkins brilliantly portrays the confusing world for someone with dementia and Olivia Colman is brilliant as his daugher Anne who just wants what’s best for her father. She struggles to deal with his deteriorating condition as he journeys from a charming, warm good natured father to someone who cajoles, bullies, demands attention and doesn’t hold back on his pent up frustrations. He sheds tears, gets cranky and flies into fits of rage, as he slowly losing his grip on what’s happening.
=> Perhaps this may be a conversation that offers a listening ear for those whose journey as a carer has been tough, trying to understand and support people with dementia. 

Nursing home/aged care
This difficult decision is one that many people have had to make for elderly loved ones, moving from ‘at home’ caregivers to supported aged care when more resources are needed than family can provide on their own. 
=> Sharing some of those experiences may provide some support, insight and consolation. 

A theology of dementia

  • All personhood is given by God, because human life is God’s gift. The psalmist said, ‘For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works.’ (Psalm 139:13–14) Our whole person or being is made in the image of God and as such nothing can take that away. For a person who has dementia, their personhood hasn’t ceased or mysteriously disappeared because of the disease’s influences upon them. Personhood under God, as it is given by grace, holds high honour and respect, as he wants to be in relationship with us.
  • St Paul writes: “I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39)
  • What does it mean to be a disciple – when you have forgotten who Jesus is?
  • John Swinton writes: ‘When I worked as a mental health chaplain, I was always struck by the way in which people with severe dementia who were withdrawn and assumed to be unable to communicate for the majority of their lives would change when drawn into participating in spiritual practices. People would very often “spring into life” when asked to pray the Lord’s Prayer, their words clear and coherent in ways that were deeply dissonant with their normal day to day communicational responses. When I offered people the Eucharist their bodies reached out and responded even when their minds no longer seemed able to grasp the intellectual complexities of the practice. When we greeted one another with the peace of Christ, people would respond and embrace, even if only for a brief moment, in ways that they simply didn’t respond in other contexts. My medical colleagues tell me it is nothing more than procedural memory: the product of long term memories of skills that were well learned and ingrained into people’s memories in ways that more recent memories were not. I have come to realise that memory is not just what we recall. Memory is, in fact, something that lives within our bodies; our memories are our bodies and our bodies are our memories. Memory is all that we are.’

© Rev Sandy Boyce 24th March 2021 Pilgrim Uniting Church, www.pilgrim.org.au
This resource is freely available to download and copy but kindly attribute copyright

Sojourners article: ‘The Father’ is a portrait of grief and belovedness.