Posts Tagged 'movie reviews'
Category: Issues Volume 15 Number 07
Published on Tuesday, 05 July 2011 17:00
Written by Jews for Jesus
Forbidden Peace: the Story Behind the Headlines
Jews for Jesus
What would make a Palestinian man, who hated Jews with a passion, embrace a former Israeli soldier as his brother? Why would an Israeli woman, whose son was brutally attacked, look at his assailants with forgiveness in her eyes?
How is it possible that in one of the world's most volatile regions, a small group of Israeli and Palestinian children play together, unaware that they should be enemies? The first two of these questions were explored in this edition's lead article. Several similar inquiries are examined in Forbidden Peace: the Story Behind the Headlines, a brand new video and DVD.
Forbidden Peace offers a bold new perspective on the Middle East conflict, one that is sure to raise some eyebrows. The central claim to the documentary-style film is that lack of peace in the Middle East is not a political or social predicament, but a spiritual one. The Israelis and Palestinians profiled in Forbidden Peace all maintain that they have found peace with one another by finding peace with God through Jesus - faith traditionally forbidden to both groups of people.
The opening footage of violent images from the Middle East is effectively juxtaposed with faces and voices full of hope, as the viewer is introduced to Tass, a former PLO Fatah fighter; Rahel, an Israeli who hosts gatherings of Israelis and Palestinians in her home regularly; Shmuel, an Arab man who leads a messianic Jewish congregation,1 just to name a few. Most moving are the segments involving Lisa, whose son Asaf was savagely beaten while serving in the IDF and Abigail, a young believer in Y'shua who was killed by a suicide bomber. Both stories can be seen as tests of faith and one cannot help but be impressed at the way those featured hold fast to their beliefs in the midst of crisis.
From a technical perspective, Forbidden Peace is skillfully filmed and scripted. One can either argue that some of the content is repetitive or conversely, that the stories' similar themes serve to reinforce the position of the film. One thing is for sure: these words and faces will be difficult to dismiss.
There are those who will approach this film with skepticism, and given the numerous peace plans proposed, it's no wonder. However, a companion study guide called Forbidden Peace: an Invitation to Recall, Reflect and Respond allows viewers to delve deeper into the ideas presented in the film.
Broken into six chapters plus introduction and conclusion, the booklet raises such questions as, "What is the origin of conflict?"; "Why do our attempts at peace fail?"; "If Jesus is the Messiah then why isn't there peace on earth?"; and "Is peace through Y'shua worth risking relationships?" The study guide makes for challenging, thought-provoking reading.
The current Middle East situation demands that we consider any possible antidote to the violence that threatens the region. The solution presented in Forbidden Peace is not a quick fix; it's not a national resolution, but a personal conclusion that will take time and courage. But after all, are we not in times that call for courage?
Published on Wednesday, 17 April 2013 17:00
Written by Arielle Rothbard
No Place on Earth (2012)
-reviewed by Arielle Rothbard
Last Friday, on opening day for Janet Tobias' No Place on Earth, I had several presuppositions upon entering the theater. I imagined that the film would be solely narrative, being that the events were over seventy years old. I expected the first showing to be well attended. I assumed No Place on Earth would follow the obligatory, self-explanatory path of Holocaust cinema. Despite a small turnout, the distinctive film delivered.
It put dynamite to my assumptions. No Place on Earth whisked the handful of us viewers out of our San Francisco seats onto a New York City subway train where Chris Nicola, a New York native, explained his love for spelunking (exploring caves) and his incredible discovery in Western Ukraine in 1993. He found a cave in which 38 Jews hid for a year and a half while one million of their lantzmen who were slaughtered. The film glides between Nicola's cave exploration, several surviving members of the Wexler and Stermer clans, and a cinematic rendition of their memories of cave life. "We didn't tell it to others because it was just too incredible," one of the daughters recalled. It's a life on the edge of reason.
The vignettes of hardship and tragedy in their underground fortress were artfully presented. The family recreated their home in the worst of circumstances. Close ups of bedrooms and food preparation tools dimly lit by candle conveyed the warmth of strong familial love. Esther Stermer, the maternal rock, is not dissuaded even when carried off by German soldiers, craftily escaping their grasp and regrouping with her children. Somehow, despite their abysmal situation, this crew of survivors—ranging from two to 76 years old—reached freedom just as their last drops of water dissolved. They were part of the five percent or fewer who survived the Germans in their country.
This tenacious band endured German forces bent on carrying them off to death camps and neighbors who wouldn't assist them and even attacked their hiding place. Passively, the group endured derelict conditions. They were without adequate light, food, warmth, water, and filled with fear. Their psyches were beaten down. Chris Nicola noted that even the most decorated cavers with the most advanced technology and tools, would be hard-pressed to make it as long as these Ukrainian Jews. No one holds a similar record. Nor, it seems, would they want to.
After watching the re-enactment of each unique instance of miraculous intervention, I had one thought that neither the survivors nor the film addressed. How could a cave, a natural structure in which this band took shelter, have had the supernatural power to sustain them? Why is the cave anthropomorphized and praised for their survival? What did the one Yom Kippur service they held mean to them, if nothing but a day to willingly choose self-deprivation? God's intervention went unacknowledged, especially at the end of the film as the elderly survivors retraced their steps in the Priest's Grotto Cave—the second of their two inhabitances—with their American grandchildren. The 91-year-old survivors literally thank the cave for keeping them alive.
Arguably, the participants of this miracle experienced such immense adversity as to lose all hope in anything but their own inventiveness. However, as an outside viewer, much as in the story of the biblical Esther, I see something else. In this, another true story of Jewish survival despite all odds, God must have interfered with the forces at work to preserve his people. During this season of remembrance, I could not help but notice the parallel between Esther Stermer's resolute fervor for her charges and the fearlessly faithful love of God for his chosen people.
Published on Sunday, 20 January 2013 16:00
Written by Ruth Rosen
I just saw the 2012 version of the movie Les Misérables. I am also a quarter of the way through the unabridged audiobook. I think the question “the book or the movie?” is more complex with Les Mis than it is with some other titles. (“The Hobbit,” for example, in which the film version gives added meaning to “an unexpected journey” if you “expect” the film to follow the book).
On the one hand, the amazing depth and many facets of Victor Hugo’s characters are barely hinted at in the movie. To be fair, character development usually is not a strong suit of movies, much less musicals. (I’m not hating. I’m a fan of many movies and musicals.)
On the other hand, do we need to guard against what my nephew calls “book bias”? He feels that movies, as art in their own right, should be judged on their own merits. My question is, does the entertainment or even artistic value outweigh the author’s intent?
But here’s something else to consider in the “book or movie” debate. Honestly, how many people would know the epic tale of Les Misérables had it not been brought to stage and screen? How many people today are willing to listen to 50+ hours of audiobook or read 900+ pages of text? For those folks who can’t or won’t get to the book, the movie is superbly better than nothing.
If I could only listen to the audiobook or only see the movie, I would take the book narrated by Frederick Davidson in a heartbeat. With the book, you get everything the author intended. It takes more than a movie screen or a stage to hold the enormity of Hugo’s words. It takes an open mind and heart -- and Hugo’s book will change the minds and hearts of those who give it room. But then, maybe the abbreviated versions can change people too, because even at a fraction of the original, the story is so full of grace.
What do you think? How important is the author’s full intent versus our expectations/entertainment/catharsis? What if the author wanted more for us than we want for ourselves? Can we afford to be satisfied with less? And . . . did he have to use so many words?
Hugo’s story of despair and redemption is almost, but not quite, incomparable. But it’s not sheer volume that makes it so. A much shorter story not only compares to Les Misérables, but exceeds it (and every other story, I believe) as the source of all true redemption. Yes, I am thinking of the story of Y’shua, Jesus.
Jesus is described as “The Word become flesh” in the Gospel of John. The God who spoke the world into existence enfleshed himself to be seen, heard, touched, loved, hated, crucified . . . risen. If he sang or danced we don’t have it captured on film. But his life, death and resurrection was a real life drama that was faithfully penned in a very unintimidating style and a very manageable length. And though the gospel is not a long story, it is changing hearts, minds and destinies as it creates new life and new stories every day.
Many movies have been based upon it.
Have you read the book?
Have you seen the movies?
Did you get all that the Author intended?
Can you afford to be satisfied with less?
Category: Havurah Volume 09 Number 03
Published on Wednesday, 06 July 2011 13:12
Written by Yoel Ben David
Ushpizin” is the Aramaic word for “guest.” It is also the title of a 2004 Israeli film, directed by Gidi Dar and written by Shuli Rand. Rand, who also starred in the film, won the Best Actor award from the Israeli Film Academy for the role of Moshe. On a side note, Shuli Rand is a Hassid in “real life” and Michal Bat Sheva Rand, the woman who plays his wife in the film is—his wife! This viewer would never have guessed that “Ushpizin” was her first film. Bat Sheva Rand’s debut is owing to the fact that as a Hassidic Jew, Shuli Rand is not permitted to touch any other woman.
The movie is set during the festival of Sukkot. Moshe, a Breslover Hassidic Jew, has been reformed from his past life as a “bad guy.” He lives and studies at a Yeshiva near the market in central Jerusalem. With barely enough money to provide for his wife and himself, he wonders how he can fulfill the obligations of Sukkot: building a sukkah, obtaining arbat haminim (the four species), and entertaining ushpizin. The money for the items comes to him miraculously. Then, two guests arrive: convicts (one a friend from Moshe’s past) who take advantage of the holiday to seek asylum. This situation creates tension between Moshe and his wife. As the tension rises, Moshe has to deal with feelings of anger and stress during a time when Jews are commanded to be joyful. Throughout, we see Moshe praying and bringing his struggles before God.
Part of the film’s appeal to me is very personal. For a time, I was a Hassidic Jew living in the very area where the story takes place. My wife and I lived in a tiny apartment and struggled to pay our rent at the end of each month, much like Moshe and Michal. I loved seeing the place and people with which I was once so familiar.
Viewers who are unfamiliar with the Hassidic community will find that the film opens a porthole into a fascinating world. Some Jewish believers may be surprised by some of the concepts and attitudes the film reveals as typical of the Hassidic community. Despite the radical differences in lifestyle, I think most viewers will be able to identify with the film’s characters on a very human level.
We see the gritty realities of a man and a woman who rely on their belief in God for survival. We get a glimpse of how the ultra- Orthodox deal with stress, anger and trust in God, just as we all do.
The characters in the film challenge our misconceptions if we think that believers in Jesus hold a monopoly on trusting God. Many people of different religions have some understanding of God’s providence and various other aspects of His character. They experience legitimate feelings of joy and thanksgiving as they contemplate Him. Unfortunately, they do not know the truth of the Kingdom of God and cannot enter into it without Y’shua.
We also see something of how trust in God is commonly mixed with superstition in the Hassidic community. It seems paradoxical that a man who believes in God with all his heart would also believe that the near perfect etrog (the citrus fruit of the four species) that he purchases for 1,000 shekels, the equivalent of about $250, will help his wife give birth to the son they have been trying to conceive. How are we to understand the way in which a wonderful belief in God’s provision can be paired with this unbiblical, perhaps even pagan trust in fruit charms?
In Romans, Paul writes that our Jewish people “are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.” Moshe Bellanga is one of these people; a man who loves God and tries hard to observe the Torah as he understands it. Sadly, while he may honor God with his lips, his heart is far from Him because he has received the precepts for loving and obeying God from the commandments of men (Isaiah 29:13).
We might ask ourselves if we have the reverse problem that Paul described: knowledge of God without zeal. Believing viewers may see Moshe’s zeal for holiness, and be led to strive for such zeal in their devotion towards Messiah.
I recommend the film not only because I found it entertaining and interesting (especially as Sukkot approaches) but because I think this film can inspire some of us to see the Hassidic community in a different light. It shows much that is good in this community that we may ordinarily see simply as those who are closed to the gospel or even those who would persecute us for our faith in Y’shua. As we look through their eyes and hear the heart of their prayers through the character of Moshe, may we be led to take the risk to prayerfully and faithfully tell them about Jesus. We may not be able to discuss matters of Talmud and we may feel at a loss in our knowledge of certain traditions—but we know Messiah and the words of the prophets; we know God personally. May we be zealous to pray and do what we can that others might know Him, too.
Actually, the tomb containing the ossuaries was discovered way back in 1980, so it's hardly a new discovery. And there is precious little evidence that the folks whose bones these belonged to were related in any way to Jesus of Nazareth. For a good response from someone who's worked with Jacobovici, visit Ben Witherington's blog. Concludes Witherington's : "So my response to this is clear - James Cameron, the producer of the movie Titanic, has now jumped on board another sinking ship full of holes, presumably in order to make a lot of money before the theory sinks into an early watery grave. Man the lifeboats and get out now."