One of my favorite recent trends in church is the desire to tackle “hot” issues from the pulpit. It’s interesting to see how far is too far for a pastor in terms of the edge-factor, and it’s also interesting to see what kind of insights they can pull from Scripture in order to tackle nuanced modern issues like systemic racism, feminism, gender and sexuality, mental illness, violence, oppressive religious mindsets, etc. Our North American Christian worldviews can often cloud our ability to adequately approach tough subjects. Film is a medium through which we can experience the worldviews of other people; we can put ourselves in the shoes of someone in a totally different social, political, religious, or historical context, and live their story for a short while. Here are some (of my favorite) films that I think are more effective at making you think deeply about a subject than any sermon your pastor will give on Sunday morning.
Get Out (2017). This film may be one of the greatest thrillers ever made, even in terms of strictly technical aspects of film making. It also brilliantly tackles issues of systemic racism, cultural appropriation, and white privilege in a uniquely horrifying and enthralling way. The Sunken Place is a truly devastating depiction of the experiences of systemically oppressed people.
Cidade de Deus (City of God) (2002). Not for the faint of heart. This film depicts stories of children and teens living in the slums of Rio de Janeiro based on real events. City of God forces us to experience the terrifying reality of living through adolescence in a violent and poverty stricken neighbourhood. At the same time, we see these characters as real people, experiencing the same feelings and angst that anyone experiences during the formative stages of life.
Calvary (2014). “I think there’s too much talk about sins and not enough talk about virtues… I think forgiveness has been highly underrated.”
American Beauty (1999). “You’re way too uptight about sex!”
It’s Such a Beautiful Day (2012). “And as the sun continues to set, he finally comes to realize the dumb irony in how he had been waiting for this moment his entire life, this stupid awkward moment of death that had invaded and distracted so many days with stress and wasted time.”
Her (2013). “Sometimes I think I have felt everything I’m ever gonna feel. And from here on out I’m not gonna feel anything new. Just lesser versions of what I’ve already felt.”
Night of the Living Dead (1968). The original American zombie film, which subtly (and inadvertently) deals with the horrors of racism via the casting of one of the first black male leads in a non-ethnic part.
The Witch: A New England Folktale (2015). A dark film which portrays the psychological horrors brought on by starvation and superstition, The Witch accurately paints a terrifying picture of the religious landscape of 17th century America.
Obvious Child (2014). “We live in a patriarchal society where a bunch of weird old white men get to legislate our c***s.”