Journal of Religion and Film

Articles from Vol. 17, No. 1, April

After Tiller
Directed by Martha Shane and Lana Wilson(Documentary Competition)The title of the documentary AfterTiller refers to the future of late-term abortion in the U.S., embodied by the four providers who remain in the wake of the murder of their friend and...
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Benh Zeitlin's first feature length film has made quite an impact in critical circles and among the public, sufficient to collect a large number of awards and nominations, among them Academy Award nominations for Best Director and Best Screenplay. Reviews...
Bible Quiz
Directed by Nicole TeenySlamdance Documentary CompetitionThe high-concept pitch for this well-observed documentary by Nicole Teeny might be "Spellbound" meets "Jesus Camp." Like that well-received look at participants in the national spelling bee competition,...
Blood Brother
Directed by Steve HooverU.S. DocumentaryBlood Brother is clearly intended to be a savior movie. At the very beginning of the movie, Rocky's grandfather tells a story about a cat that has been badly injured. Rocky won't kill the cat, but nurtures the...
Cloud Atlas
The ambitious and epic Cloud Atlas is written for screen by Lana and Andy Wachowski (The Matrix Trilogy, V for Vendetta), along with Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run). It is based on the complex and popular book by David Mitchell which follows six interconnected...
C.O.G
Director-screenwriter: Kyle Patrick Alvarez(based on the essay by David Sedaris)(U.S. Dramatic Competition)Sundance was quite abuzz in anticipation over the first filmic adaptation of a David Sedaris work. The story follows privileged and preppy Yale...
Facing Forward, Looking Back: Religion and Film Studies in the Last Decade
Joe Kickasola: IntroductionGood morning. My name is Joe Kickasola. I teach at Baylor University and I'm privileged to introduce this panel and share my perspective on it, which may be somewhat different from those that are here in the room. I come at...
Fill the Void
directed by Rama Burshtein(Spotlight)Shira is an 18 year old girl, in the process of seeking an arranged marriage within her ultra-orthodox Jewish community in Tel Aviv. There is talk of a match to be made with a boy her age, and she looks forward to...
God Loves Uganda
directed by Roger Ross Williams(US Documentary Competition)Many people in the US know that extensive violence has been directed against homosexuals in Uganda, and they may also know that a bill was introduced in the Parliament there to criminalize homosexual...
Good Karma $1
Directed by Amy Laslett and Jason BergerSlamdance Documentary ShortWhen you are walking through the streets of a city and get asked for a little money, "anything, any amount will help," what goes through your mind? When you come to a stop at an intersection...
Google and the World Brain
Directed by Ben LewisWorld DocumentaryIf you are reading this review on the Web, and particularly if you found it by "Googling" some set of search terms, you are participating in an unprecedented information utopia that continues to revolutionize what...
Holocaust Cinema
Historical Dictionary of Holocaust Cinema, by Robert C. Reimer and Carol J. Reimer. (Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, Inc. 2012)."Holocaust Movies," by Guy Matalon, in The Bloomsbury Companion to Religion and Film, edited by William L. Blizek. (London:...
Holy Motors
In The Gay Science, Friedrich Nietzsche writes, "Either we have no dreams or our dreams are interesting. We should learn to arrange our waking life the same way- nothing or interesting." With his extraordinary movie Holy Motors, French director Leos...
Homeric Heroes in Ethan and Joel Coen's the Hudsucker Proxy (1994), the Big Lebowski (1998) and No Country for Old Men (2007)
Introduction 1Ethan and Joel Coen's film O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000) begins with the sound of a prison chain-gang splitting rocks in unison and singing 'Po Lazarus'. Against this soundtrack some words from Homer's Odyssey burn onto the black screen:O...
Il Futuro (the Future)
Directed by Alicia SchersonWorld Dramatic CompetitionFar from the hopeful ways people tend to talk about the future, the characters in Il Futuro cast it in much smaller and pragmatic terms. Orphaned by their parents' car accident, nineteen-year-old Bianca...
Interior. Leather Bar
Directed by Travis Mathews and James Franco(New Frontier Film)Actor James Franco explains that the driving force behind the film he codirected with Travis Mathews to be a book he read while a graduate student at Yale, Michael Warner's The Trouble with...
Jest in Time: The Problems and Promises of the Holy Fool in Francesco, Giullare Di Dio, Ordet, and Ikiru
"If you remain at the surface, a thing may appear absurd; but if you pierce through to the spiritual meaning, you will adore the divine wisdom."Erasmus, The Sileni Alcibiades1I. IntroductionRoberto Rossellini's Francesco, giullare di Dio (The Flowers...
Jug Face
Directed by Chad Crawford Kinkle( Slamdance Special Screening)Jug Face is clearly intended to be a horror film. A young woman, Ada, is trying to avoid death. It is her turn to die, because Dawai, a potter in the area has created a jug with Ada's face...
Life of Pi
"He said you had a story that would make me believe in God." So sets the stage of Ang Lee's exquisite portrayal of Yann Martel's epic novel Life of Pi. The narrative is set in motion with a middle-aged Pi recounting his youthful experiences to a Canadian...
"O Great God!" Humility and Camera Movement in Roberto Rossellini's the Flowers of St. Francis
One of St. Francis of Assisi's chief characteristics is his humbleness. His communion with lepers and sermons to birds are legendary because they demonstrate his ability to identify with the lowest of creatures. It comes as no surprise then that films...
Resurrection Slope
Directed by Tamara Feldman(Slamdance: Narrative Short)Resurrection Slope is the name of the hillside on which the boy's mother is buried. She was an alcoholic who thought that she might be a country/western singing star. The boy loved her dearly and...
Salma
directed by Kim Longinotto(World Cinema Documentary Competition)Salma grew up in a Muslim village in South India in which it is traditional for girls to marry as soon as possible after they begin menstruating. In the interim, they are frequently locked...
Satanic but Not Satan: Signs of the Devilish in Contemporary Cinema
Scholars have been discussing cinematic Jesuses and Christ-figures in film for some time. These are distinct categories. In the first are movies that are explicitly about Jesus in his historical setting, such as The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965), Last...
Shinto and Buddhist Metaphors in Departures
Departures is a 2008 Japanese film about an unemployed musician who takes a job as undertaker, mistakenly thinking that this new job has something to do with traveling. The film opens with the scene of a car driving through a blinding blizzard. This...
Shugendo Now
Shugendo is a traditional form of Japanese mountain asceticism thought to have long since reached its peak of prominence. Jean-Marc Abela and Mark Patrick McGuire's Shugendo Now offers a 90 minute exploration of this tradition as it has survived into...
Soldate Jeanette
Soldate Jeanettedirected by Daniel Hoesl(World Cinema Dramatic Competition)In his feature directorial debut, Hoesl contrasts the world of Fanni as one of urban wealth and privilege with that of rural Anna, who lives and works on a simple farm. Few words...
Spirit(uality) in the Films of Terrence Malick
IntroductionThough Terrence Malick's diverse cinematic career spans a number of decades, his work over the last fifteen years or so has manifested a noticeable interest in religious ideas and themes. For instance, The Thin Red Line (1998) utilizes the...
Sundance and Slamdance 2013
Sundance Film Festival 2013Once again, Journal of Religion and Film reviewers attended the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, and we saw many of the fine films shown there. These included documentaries that dealt with a clear religious subject...
The Bitter Buddha
The Bitter BuddhaThe Bitter Buddha is the story of comedian Eddie Pepitone. Audiences love Eddie. More importantly, comedians think of Eddie as a comedian's comedian. But, Eddie is bitter and his comedy is filled with anger. That anger is not directed...
The Dark Knight Rises
Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins enjoyed financial success, but with Heath Ledger's untimely death in 2008, in The Dark Knight Nolan truly resurrected the Batman franchise. Both films earned glowing reviews from critics, largely based on stellar performances,...
The Gatekeepers
Directed by Dror Moreh(Spotlight)This documentary film was making the rounds of film festivals before it was shown at Sundance. So, it has had plenty of time to stir up feelings in Israel and around the world. And that it has done, whichever side of...
The Institute
Directed by Spencer McCall(Slamdance Documentary Feature)The Institute is a mind- boggling documentary (or is it a documentary...?) about a live game (or is it real? or is it art?) purportedly played out in the cityscape of San Francisco (henceforth...
The Problem of Evil and Humans' Relationship with God in Terrence Malick's the Tree of Life
"Beauty will save the world"- Fyodor Dostoevsky, The IdiotIntroductionTerrence Malick's 2011 film The Tree of Life defies any attempt to be summarized in a few pat sentences. The movie tackles significant theological issues as it tells the story of one...
There Will Come a Day
There Will Come a DayDirected by Giorgio DirittiWorld Dramatic CompetitionTragedy and loss bookend this beautiful and honest depiction of the quest for spiritual recovery in the life of a young Italian woman. Augusta's (Jasmine Trinca) dark journey of...
The Sins of Leo McCarey
I CATHOLICISM AND COMMUNISMLeo McCarey's Catholic background undoubtedly colored his artistry, particularly his notions of sin and atonement, but few critics and historians have discussed this issue, or many of the other particular issues that arise...
This Is Martin Bonner
This is Martin BonnerDirected by Chad Hartigan(NEXT)This is Martin Bonner is a dual character study about reinventing yourself at mid-life and the unexpected partners who keep you honest and incarnate hope. This is Chad Hartigan's second feature film...
Touchy Feely
Touchy FeelyDirected by Lynn SheltonU.S. DramaticTouchy Feely is the story of Abby and her brother, Paul. She is a massage therapist who seems to be a free spirit. Paul is a dentist who is about as uptight as a person can be. He is controlling, dependent,...
Virtually Heroes
Virtually HeroesDirected by G. J. Echternkamp(Midnight)Like a live-action Wreck-it Ralph, Virtually Heroes explores the existential condition of being a video game character from one of their own points of view. In this delightfully silly and surprisingly...
Wajma (an Afghan Love Story)
Wajma (An Afghan Love Story)Directed by Barmak AkramWorld Dramatic CompetitionIt's a tale as old as time - young love turns family cataclysm after an unintended pregnancy "dishonors" the family name. While the tense drama Wajma, "based on several true...
When I Walk
When I WalkDirected by Jason DaSilva(Premiere Docs)When I Walk is a moving, honest portrayal of one young filmmaker's grappling with a devastating diagnosis: Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis. Jason DaSilva, a vibrant filmmaker in his mid twenties...
Where I Am
Where I Am(Slamdance: Documentary Feature)Directed by Pamela DrynanOn January 31, 1999, American writer Robert Drake was brutally assaulted by two men in his apartment in Sligo, Ireland. Since Drake was well known as a writer on gay topics and as an...
Who Is Dayani Cristal?
Who Is Dayani Cristal?Directed by Marc Silver(World Documentary)Who Is Dayani Cristal? is a well-intentioned but disjointed documentary-drama on immigration. It all began in 2008 when Gael García Bernal, Marc Silver, Thomas Benski and Lucas Ochoa decided...
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