Call and Response: Journeys in UU Lifespan Faith Development

Movies, Movies, Movies: Enjoy, Discuss, Connect

By Jessica York

Raymond Atterson, projectionist at Film Forum, New York, N.Y.

Raymond Atterson, a movie projectionist in New York, NY, photographed by Joseph O. Holmes.

I love movies.

Correction: I LOVE movies!

I watch them on cable. I watch them on Netflix – streaming and DVD rental. Through my desktop, tablet and Wii (but not on the phone – you’ve got to draw a line somewhere!).

I love to watch them best in a theatre, eating popcorn, surrounded by other people…people watching the same film, but having different interpretations and reactions. I want to be sucked in, to live the movie. Then, when the credits are done and the lights come up, I enjoy analyzing the film: from the story to the actors to the directorial successes and failures. I come by this love honestly, not just because of years spent in college, in graduate school and working in professional theatres but also by living in a family of movie and theatre lovers.

For the past three years, my family and I have attended the Toronto Film Festival (TIFF). Canadian residents give us confused looks when we explain that, no, we are not in the business – we just like movies and, yes, we are willing to travel hundreds of miles and spend a lot of money to see movies at TIFF before they hit the theatre. Last year, I came back crowing about 12 Years a Slave and Half a Yellow Sun, disappointed by Gravity, and unhappy that I couldn’t fit The Lunchbox in my schedule. Did I mention The Schedule? Every year, I take my and my family’s “Want To See” list, coordinate viewings and put everyone’s schedule in a color-coded spreadsheet, complete with movie title, time, theatre’s name/address and who from our family will accompany you. The Schedule helps you get the most out of your experience. My current record is five movies in a day.

This year, I was frustrated over Black and White’s glossing over the real issues of white people raising children of color. I cried more than once during A Good Lie, fell asleep watching The Equalizer, and posted on Facebook that everyone should go see Ruth and Alex. Most importantly, I watched movies that were ABOUT SOMETHING. One of my favorites? Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet.

This animated feature length film is a great way to introduce young people to the wisdom of The Prophet. It is a visual tour de force: nine directors from all over the world use different animation styles to illustrate chapters from the book. The chapters are held together by a new narrative of a young girl who befriends a poet who has been imprisoned by the state because he is dangerous. Yes, the movie says, words are dangerous. Even beautiful words. Even words of peace of love….perhaps, especially words of peace and love. Salma Hayek, the producer, says, “It’s a right time to make a movie like this…It’s extraordinary that there is a Lebanese author who brought religions together, and talked about peace and death in such a beautiful way.” The Prophet doesn’t yet have a distributor, but if it comes to a theatre near you, find a young person and introduce them to the power of words, the power of images, the power of film. You might help encourage a future filmmaker….or just a movie lover like me.

What are some of your favorite movies to discuss with young people?

Next Steps!

In an article in Variety magazine, Hayek talks about how The Prophet reminds her of her grandfather. Add the film to your watchlist on IMDb so you won’t forget to look out for its theatrical release. There is a discussion guide on the book, The Prophet, on BookRags. If you choose to watch The Prophet with youth, make use of the session on “beauty” in the youth program, Exploring Our Values Through Poetry.

Teach with Movies offers discussion guides for movies to engage all ages.

The UUA’s Tapestry of Faith resources include study guides for movies such as Milk. Also in Tapestry of Faith, find suggestions for movies to teach with. The adult program Wi$dom Path: Money, Spirit, and Life offers this list of “money movies.”

About the Author

Jessica York

Jessica York is the Director of Congregational Life at the Unitarian Universalist Association. During her fifteen plus years as a religious educator she has served on the Liberal Religious Educators Association’s Integrity Team, the MidSouth District’s RE Committee, and the...


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