A priest and performer considers religion, the arts, and the often thin space between sacred and secular, church and culture, pulpit and pew.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Gospel in Cinema: Redefining Family

The gospel for the Second Sunday after Pentecost-B (Mark 3:20-35) is rich in so many ways that it’s difficult to pick which thread to pursue for preaching and discussion. At its conclusion, in what would become a message of hope for the early Christian community, Jesus redefines what it means to be family. Having already offended the religious authorities and embarrassed his relatives, he takes it all one step further when friends come to tell him that his mother, sisters and brothers are outside waiting for him. Jesus looks around at the group that is with him and says, "Who are my mother and my brothers? Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother." (NRSV)

“Family” isn’t always those to whom we are related by blood, legal adoption, or marriage. Healthy, functional families are often able to open their arms wide to include non-relatives; others, however, may have to escape those blood and legal bonds in order to become part of a unit that will offer them loving, wholesome, life-giving relationships. Pondering Mark’s gospel this week in preparation for preaching on it has led me to think of some films that also redefine family. I’ve listed a trio of them below. None of these films are overtly religious. (Heck, none of them are even covertly religious!) Nonetheless, each one illustrates the grace of human relationships that supports and sustains those involved, through times both good and difficult.
Antonia’s Line (Marleen Gorris, director; Dutch, 1995) On the last day of her life Antonia recalls the time she and her teenage daughter returned to her small Dutch village at the end of World War II. Over time she becomes the de facto matriarch for the village, bringing relatives and friends both eccentric and ordinary into her fold, wherein there is room for all but the most wicked among them. This film won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film in 1995.

MicMacs (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, director; French, 2009) In this fantastic, surreal movie, a group of societal misfits, each with his or her own unique talent, have constructed a dwelling under a garbage dump in a French town. When the central character, a simple, homeless young man named Bazil is invited to join them, they become his family, and help him bring down the arms dealers responsible for his father’s death and his loss of job and home.
My Afternoons with Margueritte (Jean Becker, director; French, 2011) The illiterate Germain, whose relationship with his own mother has imploded, meets the elderly widow Margueritte on a park bench in their small town. As they encounter one another on a daily basis, she gradually opens him up to the beauty of literature. When Margueritte’s family decide to put her in a “home”’ some miles away, Germain takes drastic action to help the older woman regain her independence and enjoyment of life.

And there are so many others….what films come to mind for you?

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