World Cinema Reveals Multifaith Experiences

By Pacatte, Rose | National Catholic Reporter, June 21, 2013 | Go to article overview

World Cinema Reveals Multifaith Experiences


Pacatte, Rose, National Catholic Reporter


World cinema can enable profound learning experiences for audiences about the lives of others. To the extent that these stories are about the human experience, they reveal people's faith.

World cinema films are smaller and more artistic than American blockbuster movies that preference action over story. Similar to American independent films, world cinema invites us to walk in the shoes of people we might not otherwise meet. The meaning of the films rises from the relationships of the characters with one another, their society their environment and beliefs. It is in these stories' exquisite expressions of human love that God is revealed for the characters and for the audience.

Israel

"Fill the Void" (2013) is a microscopic look inside an ultra-Orthodox Jewish family in Tel Aviv, Israel, through the eyes of 18-year-old Shira (Hadas Yaron) whose older sister has died in childbirth. Shira wants to marry a young man but is pressured to accept her late sister's husband. Yochay (Yiftach Klein), so that he will not leave the country to find a willing new wife to raise his son. The film was conceived, written and directed by Rama Burshtein, who admits to a fascination with the novels of Jane Austen, read before she embraced Orthodox Judaism as a young woman.

The setting is mostly the closed apartment where Shira lives with another unmarried sister, her parents and a spinster aunt. Their small community extends to the rabbi's house and a preschool where Shira plays her accordion for the children. While it seems at first glance that tradition and pressure from her mother limit Shira's freedom, we see from the rabbi's counsel that the choice is Shira's. "Fill the Void" is a story of the heart at the center of an observant Jewish community.

At a press day with the director, a journalist asked if Orthodox women in Israel would get to see the film. Burshtein replied that though she did not make it for them, but for those outside their community, she knows there is great interest and that many will see the film on DVD.

Tibet

"The Cup" (1999) takes place in a remote Tibetan refugee village in Himalayan India. It is a comedy written and directed by a Buddhist lama, Khyentse Norbu, and tells the story of two novices who are obsessed with soccer. They go to great lengths, under the constraints of monastic life and duties, to rent a television so that they and the other novices can watch the 1998 World Cup. The lama of the monastery contemplates his responsibility for his charges and the incursion of the world into a monastery exile. All the while, we see and feel the ambiance and peace of Buddhist spirituality through cinema.

Iran

"The Circle" (2000) is a critique of the way women are treated in the closed Islamic society of Iran. The Iranian government banned the film, and in 2010 its director, Jafar Panahi, was convicted of making propaganda against the government and banned for 20 years from making films.

The dominant motif of "The Circle" is a circular stairway from which women, no matter what they do, cannot escape. It begins with a woman in a delivery room who gives birth to a girl, even though the ultrasound had shown it would be a boy. …

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