As with so many aspects of world culture, religious dialogue in pop America tends to be woefully shallow. Politics and religion are often cited as the two primary subjects to be avoided in “polite conversations” and it’s almost standard protocol on film discussion boards to ban any explicit mention of the two realms.
But given contemporary world events and the public language used to describe them, I personally can’t think of more vital subjects to identify in art these days, especially since intelligent and productive examples of this are few and far between.
For ten years, the City of the Angels Film Festival has brought together a wide spectrum of theologians and religious organizations in the hopes of screening important films and sensitively addressing spiritual and social issues in a variety of post-screening dialogues. I’ve attended a few times over the years, and have usually found the event to be intelligently devised, without the sort of indoctrinating or grandstanding approach one might expect. (Even the alternative L.A. Weekly has sung its praises.)
For its 10th anniversary (October 23-26), the festival has chosen to screen “the most revolutionary films from each decade of cinematic history” based on results from its online poll, and even if I don’t think its line-up comes anywhere near to justifying this claim (my friend Darren Hughes notes there are no Asian films at all–neither are there Middle Eastern or Eastern European or Central/South American films), at least somebody’s trying.
I’ve been invited to serve on the panel discussion for FranÁois Truffaut‘s The 400 Blows (1959), and although I’d argue Godard’s Breathless or Resnais’ Hiroshima mon amour or Cassavetes’ Shadows (all three released in 1959) are more “revolutionary” aesthetically, historically, and ideologically, I admire Truffaut’s film a lot and hope it will give me an opportunity to mention AndrÈ Bazin and the underpinnings of the French New Wave, subjects which remain close to my heart.