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Theology and Film: Challenging the Sacred/Secular Divide

ISBN: 978-1-4051-4438-4
264 pages
January 2008, ©2008, Wiley-Blackwell
Theology and Film: Challenging the Sacred/Secular Divide (1405144386) cover image
This introductory textbook uses appreciation of film to explore debates between theology and contemporary culture. It examines both method and theory and features a range of film examples throughout.

  • Explores how film can enrich our study of theology, opening up debates surrounding contemporary culture and theological inquiry
  • Addresses a broad range of themes, including religion and the sacred, human dignity, eschatology, war and peace, violence, justice, feminism, and the environment
  • Includes sections on methodological considerations as well as theoretical perspectives
  • Features examples from a range of films, including Unforgiven, The Passion of Christ, An Inconvenient Truth, Jarhead, Something’s Gotta Give, and Vanilla Sky
  • Accompanied by website resources available at www.blackwellpublishing.com/theologyandfilm.
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Preface.

Acknowledgments.

Part I: Methodological Considerations.

1 Theology and Film.

Part II: Theological Perspectives and Filmic Themes.

2 Introduction.

3 Woman as Spectacle: Theological Perspectives on Women and Film.

4 The Green Screen: Theological Perspectives on the Environment and Film.

5 A Time to Kill?: Theological Perspectives on Violence and Film.

6 The Final Verdict: Theological Perspectives on Justice and Film.

7 Dark Beauty: Theological Perspectives on War as Cinematic Mythology.

8 Heaven, Hell, and the Sweet Hereafter: Theological Perspectives on Eschatology and Film.

9 Conclusion: Theological Perspectives on Cinematic Storytelling.

Bibliography.

Filmography.

Index

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Christopher Deacy is Head of Religious Studies and Lecturer in Applied Theology at the University of Kent and has written a number of publications exploring the interface between religion and film, including Screen Christologies: Redemption and the Medium of Film.

Gaye Williams Ortiz teaches Communication Studies at Augusta State University in Georgia. She has served as vice president of SIGNIS, the World Catholic Association for Communication, and is co-editor of Explorations in Theology and Film (Blackwell, 1997).

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  • Explores how film can enrich our study of theology, opening up debates surrounding contemporary culture and theological inquiry
  • Addresses a broad range of themes, including religion and the sacred, human dignity, eschatology, war and peace, violence, justice, feminism, and the environment
  • Includes sections on methodological considerations as well as theoretical perspectives
  • Features examples from a range of films, including Unforgiven, The Passion of Christ, An Inconvenient Truth, Jarhead, Something’s Gotta Give, and Vanilla Sky
  • Accompanied by website resources available at www.blackwellpublishing.com/theologyandfilm.
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“The authors do an admirable job of culling various authors … .[They] reaffirm that films contribute to fundamental questions and keep the debate going. Recommended.” CHOICE<!--end-->

"Ortiz and Deacy offer a singularly rich analysis of the ways that theology and film interlace. Using Niebuhr's Christ and Culture as an interpretive model, they put their fingers on the theological pulse of thousands of contemporary and classic, pop and art films with stunningly insightful success. Their command of both film language and divergent currents in contemporary theology allows them to respect each film as an artistic work in its own right which illuminates issues such as violence, women's rights, the environment, and apocalyptic discourse. I highly recommend this thoughtful book for classroom use and just plain reading pleasure." Sara Anson Vaux, Northwestern University

"It should hold much relevance for film students interested in theology, and vice versa, as it offers a range of challenging ideas and perspectives on the subject." M/C Reviews

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Useful Websites
Websites of authors:

Christopher Deacy:
www.kent.ac.uk/secl/thrs/staff/deacy.htm
Gaye Ortiz:
www.aug.edu/communications/pages/ortizbio.html


Chapter 1

Theology and Film

  • What is the most suitable method by which theologians should attempt to engage with film? Must a film be exclusively religious in intention, content and form in order to comprise a site of theological activity? Or should films that challenge and subvert, rather than illustrate or bear witness to, theological paradigms be given serious critical attention? How fluid are the boundaries between the sacred and the secular, theology and culture? Can a film challenge our reading of theology as much as theology can be used to challenge our reading of films?

P10: Taylor, 1996, http://christiananswers.net/eden/purpose.html
P10: Downs, 1999, www.christiananswers.net/spotlight/movies/pre2000/theomegacode.html
P11: Willis, 2004, http://christiananswers.net/spotlight/movies/2004/thepassionofthechrist.html
P11: Kozlovic, 2004, www.usask.ca/relst/jrpc/art8-cinematicchrist.html
P23: BBC News, 2005, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/film/4365999.stm
P24: Soencksen, 2006, www.christiananswers.net/spotlight/movies/2006/rv2006.html
P25: Medved, 2006a, www.michaelmedved.com/pg/jsp/eot/review.jsp?pid=2925
P25: Medved, 2006b, www.michaelmedved.com/pg/jsp/eot/review.jsp?pid=2865
P27: McEver, 1998, www.unomaha.edu/jrf/McEverMessiah.htm
P33: Arendt, 2006, www.bbc.co.uk/films/2006/05/16/poseidon_2006_review.shtml
P34: French, 2006, http://film.guardian.co.uk/News_Story/Critic_Review/Observer_review/0,,1789840,00.html
P57: Rettig, 1998, www.christiananswers.net/spotlight/movies/pre2000/i-pleasantville.html
P61: Rose, 2005, http://film.guardian.co.uk/News_Story/Critic_Review/Guardian_review/0,,1487760,00.html
P61: Papamichael, 2005, www.bbc.co.uk/films/2005/09/21/what_the_bleep_2005_dvd_review.shtml
P61: Stein, 2005, www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2004/07/23/DDG257QTL41.DTL#what
P62: GOD TV, http://www.god.tv
P63: BBC News, 1999b, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/558321.stm
P63: BBC News, 1999c, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/562955.stm
P64: BBC News, 1999a, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/503675.stm
P64: www.god.tv/partner/UK/businessangel.aspx

 

Chapter 3

Woman as Spectacle: Theological Perspectives on Women and Film

  • Have contemporary female characters in films transcended or simply confirmed sexism in society? What are the ramifications of gender identity and a culturally inscribed objectifying portrayal of women for the pursuit of theology? Can any parallels be drawn between feminist critiques of theology and that of the film industry? How do (to cite one specific example) Iranian filmmakers address the limitations imposed upon the representation of women in film as well as the religious values within which they operate?

P100: Hinton, 2002, www.crosscurrents.org/Ruetherspring2002.htm
P107: Lay, 2004, www.qantara.de/webcom/show_article.php/_c-310/_nr-101/_p-1/i.html
P110: Makhmalbaf Film House, n.d., www.makhmalbaf.com/articles.php?a=335
P112: Lauzen, 2006, www.moviesbywomen.com/marthalauzenphd/stats2005.html
P112n: Frederick, n.d., http://home.comcast.net/~theennead/bean/conclusion.htm
P112n: Schulman, 2004, www.goddard.edu/about/inaug.html
P113n: Submission Part I can be viewed at http://www.ifilm.com/video/2664111

 

Chapter 4

The Green Screen: Theological Perspectives on the Environment and Film

  • In the light of creation care ethics, to what extent are environmental films capable of warning us of the dangers that humanity faces when it ignores the power of nature or subverts the natural world for its own convenience and financial gain? Are such pictures a sign of the times, able to prompt the film industry to assume the (perhaps unwilling) role of prophet?

P115: Ebert, 2006, http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060601/REVIEWS/60517002/1023
P116: Mahon, 1996, www.caw.ca/whatwedo/health&safety/newsletter/4.8.aug96.asp#xtocid110768
P116: National Resources Defense Council, 1997, www.nrdc.org/health/pesticides/hcarson.asp
P116: Adam, 2006, http://environment.guardian.co.uk/climatechange/story/0,,1958602,00.html
P116: Casselman, 2006, www.seedmagazine.com/news/2006/10/climate_changing_scifi.php
P117: Bertrand, 2005, www.latrobe.edu.au/screeningthepast/reviews/rev_18/IB2br18a.html
P117: Henderson, 2006, www.grist.org/advice/books/2006/03/15/henderson
P118: Park, 2006, www.carnegiecouncil.org/viewMedia.php/prmID/5043
P118: Ebert, 1979a, http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/19790101/REVIEWS/901010309/1023
P118: NASA Facts, 1997, http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/spacenews/factsheets/pdfs/history.pdf
P118: Gu, 1994, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&list_uids=12319286&dopt=Abstract
P119: Alexander, 1999, www.bizjournals.com/albany/stories/1999/09/06/smallb2.html?t=printable
P119: Chadwick, 2005, www.emagazine.com/view/?2861

 

Chapter 5

A Time to Kill? Theological Perspectives on Violence and Film

  • Can violence be redemptive? Are there grounds for interpreting violence not merely as a destructive and disruptive force, but as something potentially efficacious and even liberating? If so, where does this lead those conservative media critics for whom there is a disjuncture between the ostensibly peaceful values of Christianity and the alleged glorification of violence in TV and films? In light of the controversy surrounding The Passion of the Christ (Mel Gibson, 2004), can one condemn violence in one context but condone it in the other?

P126: Ebert, 1994, http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/19941014/REVIEWS/410140304/1023
P126: Ebert, 2001, http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20010610/REVIEWS08/106100301/1023
P126: Reinhartz, 1999, www.unomaha.edu/jrf/scripture.htm
P127: Brooke, n.d., www.imdb.com/name/nm0000247/bio
P128: Puig, 2004, www.usatoday.com/life/movies/reviews/2004-02-24-passion_x.htm
P128: Wilmington, 2004, http://metromix.chicagotribune.com/movies/mmx-040225-movies-review-mw-thepassionofthechrist,1,1280116.story
P128: Quinn, 2004, http://enjoyment.independent.co.uk/film/reviews/article66016.ece
P129: Greenville Advocate, 2001, www.greenville.edu/backup/publications/news/medved321.shtml
P130: Medved, 2005, www.michaelmedved.com/site/product?pid=20002
P130: Medved, 2004a, www.christianitytoday.com/movies/commentaries/passion-prejudice.html
P130: Medved, 2004b, www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/editorials/2004-03-14-medved_x.htm
P130: Medved, 2004c, www.beliefnet.com/story/140/story_14054_1.html
P130: Medved, 2004d, www.csmonitor.com/2004/0202/p09s01-cogn.html
P130: Medved, 2004e, www.taemag.com/issues/articleid.17815/article_detail.asp
P130: Robinson, 2004, www.religioustolerance.org/chrgibson6.htm
P130: Fredriksen, 2003, www.moviecitynews.com/notepad/2003/030722b_tue.html

 

Chapter 6

The Final Verdict: Theological Perspectives on Justice and Film

  • What are the compromises and limitations of justice? How is the dichotomy between earthly and heavenly justice, as expounded by St. Augustine, reflected – if at all – in ‘secular’ courtroom dramas? Is there a barrier, in cinematic depictions of the law, between the celestial and terrestrial? Does conscience have a role in justice and law-making?

 P144: Ebert, 2002, http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20020721/REVIEWS08/207210301/1023

 

Chapter 7

Dark Beauty: Theological Perspectives on War as Cinematic Mythology

  • What religious baggage do we bring with us when we watch war films? In light of the recent emphasis on the ‘war on terror,’ particularly in documentary films, do films reflect a shift in the Christian ‘Just War’ tradition? How do films about war (and for that matter peace) affect the ability of theologians to respond to questions about the morality and necessity of warfare?

P163: Thompson, 2004, www.webdelsol.com/SolPix/sp-peace.htm
P164: Ekklesia, 2004, www.ekklesia.co.uk/content/news_syndication/article_041012bsh.shtml
P166: Ebert, 1979b, http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/19790309/REVIEWS/903090301/1023
P167: Sony Classics, 2005, www.sonyclassics.com/whywefight/main/html
P169: Toumarkine, 2004, http://uk.rottentomatoes.com/m/1135882-uncovered_the_war_on_iraq/reviews_users_article.php?articleid=1312999
P169: Swietek, 2004, www.oneguysopinion.com/Review.php?ID=1431
P171: Brussat and Brussat, 2004, www.spiritualityandpractice.com/films/films.php?id=8568
P172: Moltmann, 1976, http://warc.ch/dt/erl2/01a.html
P177n: Niman, 2004, http://mediastudy.com/articles/av7-15-04.html
P177n: Jarrar, 2003, http://civilians.info/iraq

 

Chapter 8

Heaven, Hell and the Sweet Hereafter: Theological Perspectives on Eschatology and Film

  • How have films depicted traditional eschatological ideas concerning life and death, heaven and hell? To what extent have cinematic portrayals of the afterlife tended to use earthly realities as the point of departure and visualized the transcendent through the lens of this-worldly phenomena? How does this impact upon debates in modern theology about mind-dependent worlds and the de-sacralization of the apocalypse with its emphasis on human, rather than divine, agency?

P184: Berardinelli, 2001, www.reelviews.net/movies/v/vanilla_sky.html
P186: Ostwalt, 1998, www.unomaha.edu/jrf/OstwaltC.htm
P187: Ostwalt, 2000, www.unomaha.edu/jrf/armagedd.htm
P188: Flannery-Dailey, 2000, www.unomaha.edu/jrf/Messiah.htm

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