The Most Spiritually Literate Films of 2007
By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
When we attend (a good word that means to be present, to heed, to pay attention to) a film, we go with open minds and receptive hearts. We remind ourselves to be hospitable, approaching it without expectations, just as we would a person we were meeting for the first time. This year we have met 40 extraordinary people who have impressed us immensely. They include a zealous abolitionist, a precocious and pregnant teenager on a mission of love, a military man who comes face-to-face with the folly of the war in Iraq, an idealistic teacher, a guilt-ridden young man, and a law firm "fixer" with a conscience. We've empathized with a couple facing challenges to their long marriage and with two young musicians who discover the joys of collaboration. We seen how a community connected by a café explores the many paths of love and how a church rallies around a lonely young man.
Attending foreign language movies this year we've traveled to India, Israel, and Iran. We've been inside a Paris bistros, hospitals, and nightclubs. We've seen how politics brings changes in people's lives, and how music and imagination transforms them.
Documentaries have reminded us of the best and the worst that can happen among peoples and to our earth. We've learned about the crisis in Darfur and the threats to the environment. We've been inspired by priests, health care advocates, gay and lesbian activists, and a U.S. former president. And we've been privileged to visit inside a monastery where silence reigns.
In even more films, we've met characters dealing with tradition and nonconformity, love and war, aging and grief, and much more. The Most Spiritually Literate films of 2007 offer a treasure trove of ideas and ideals which deepen and enrich our sense of connection with others and our world. We are pleased to announce our picks for the best films of the year. Click on the title to read a full review.
The Ten Most Spiritually Literate Films of 2007
(20th Century Fox Home Entertainment) is an inspiring drama directed by Michael Apted about a zealous abolitionist in eighteenth century England who models moral heroism.
Away from Her
(Lions Gate Home Entertainment) is a subtle, poignant, and superbly acted drama about a long marriage that is tested externally by Alzheimer's disease and internally by the chords of attachment.
Feast of Love
(MGM) is a positively enchanting romantic drama adapted from a novel by Charles Baxter that speaks volumes about love and challenges us all to grow a bigger heart.
(Fox Seachlight) is a bright and funny comedy with a delicious performance by Ellen Page as a precocious and big-hearted teenager on a mission of love.
The Kite Runner
(Paramount Vantage) is a memorable and moving drama about the pain of lost friendship, the yearning for forgiveness, and the freedom that comes from making amends.
Lars and the Real Girl
(MGM) is about the love, kindness, and hospitality extended to a lonely young man first from his Christian church and then from his whole community.
In the Valley of Elah
(Warner Independent) is a riveting film that evokes compassion for the soldiers who have served and are serving in Iraq at great danger to their bodies, minds, and souls.
(Warner Bros.) is a poignant and powerful thriller about corporate malfeasance that reveals what it is like to face life-shattering moments.
(Paramount Home Entertainment) is an inspiring drama about an idealistic teacher who breaks down the walls separating her students from each other and enables them to celebrate their unity in diversity.
(Fox Searchlight) is a charming and endearing Irish film about two down-and-out individuals who collaborate on a musical project that deeply enriches them both in surprising ways.
The Ten Most Spiritually Literate
Foreign Films of 2007
After the Wedding
(Denmark - Genius Productions) is a substantive film about an idealistic Danish aid worker who is forced to direct his love and compassion in new channels that both surprise and challenge him.
The Band's Visit
(Israel - Sony Pictures Classics) is a deeply spiritual comedy about the bridge-making effects of hospitality and the ways music serves as a universal language drawing people together.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
(France - Miramax), based on a classic in the literature of illness, salutes the firepower of imagination as a life-giver and a life-sustainer.
(Iran - Sony Pictures Classics) is an animated autobiographical masterpiece about one Iranian woman's intense quest for the holy grail of freedom.
Blame It on Fidel
(France - KOCH Entertainment Distribution) is an extraordinary French drama about the reactions of a conservative nine-year old girl to changes brought into her life by her parents' radical politics.
The Lives of Others
(Germany - Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) is a riveting German film about spying and the fear, distrust, and betrayal that come with it.
The Willow Tree
(Iran - New Yorker Films) is a spiritual masterpiece on gratitude, transformation and surrender to God by the gifted Iranian filmmaker Majid Majidi; Rumi would love it!
(France - Velocity/THINKFilm) is a charming French film about the yearnings of an ordinary young woman and the rich and famous celebrities she encounters waitressing at a famous Paris bistro.
La Vie en Rose
(France - Warner Home Video) features an astonishing performance by Marion Cotillard as the legendary French chanteuse Edith Piaf whose life was a rollercoaster ride of exhilarating highs and incredibly depressing lows.
(Switzerland - Sony Pictures Classics) is an enchanting Swiss movie about a musical prodigy and his loving grandfather who nurtures his dream and gives him the space to be himself.
The Ten Most Spiritually Literate
Documentaries of 2007
(Warner Independent/Participant Production) is an inspiring documentary about six courageous and creative activists who are doing what they can to help the suffering people of Darfur.
The Price of Sugar
(Uncommon Productions) is a portrait of a modern-day saint, a courageous Spanish Catholic priest in the Dominican Republic with a ministry of compassion to poor, enslaved Haitian immigrants.
(Weinstein Company/Genius) is a blistering documentary designed to spur reform for a new system of universal health care in the United States.
For the Bible Tells Me So
(First Run Features) is an important and edifying documentary designed to convince people to open their hearts and minds to support gay and lesbian equality.
Jimmy Carter Man from Plains
(Sony Pictures Classics) follows former President Jimmy Carter on his book tour as he displays his political wisdom, Christian faith-based service, and emotional literacy.
(Paramount Home Entertainment) is an extraordinary documentary that heightens our connection with the lives and destinies of an Arctic polar bear and a walrus.
The Devil Came on Horseback
(New Video Group) is one of the most searing and emotionally shattering documentaries ever made about the indifference of the world to genocide.
Into Great Silence
(Zeitgeist Films) is an exquisite meditative journey inside a Carthusian monastery where silence is practiced as a way of honoring the mystery and the majesty of God.
God Grew Tired of Us (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) is an inspiring documentary about three immigrants from the Sudan and their strong connection to their African roots and values.
The 11th Hour (Warner Independent) offers a road map to a sustainable future, challenging us to change our consciousness and transform our lives by living lightly on the Earth in harmony with nature.
Ten More Spiritually Literate Films
Beyond the Gates
(20th Century Fox Home Entertainment) is a compelling drama about the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and the moral heroism of a compassionate priest.
(Film Movement) is about an Orthodox Jewish woman and a Muslim woman who become friends when they both decide to stay with the traditions of their faith.
(THINKFilm) is a comedy masterwork that touches the heart with its portrait of the survival tactics of an abandoned orphan and the loving ministrations of a widowed science fiction writer who adopts him.
(20th Century Fox Home Entertainment) is an astonishing film about a Bengali family and their experiences in Calcutta and Manhattan as they deal with divided loyalties and yearn for love, freedom, and meaning.
(Fox Searchlight) is a razor-sharp depiction of all the complications of a brother and sister reunion when they need to put their estranged father in a nursing home.
Into the Wild
(Paramount Vantage) is the engrossing true-life drama of an idealistic young man who yearns to live alone in the Alaskan wilderness and to reap the soulful benefits of solitude in the spirit of Thoreau.
(Shadowcatcher) is a tour de force comedy/drama about the positive effects of cross-cultural understanding and spiritual openness.
Things We Lost in the Fire
(DreamWorks) is a deeply emotional film that gives us a deeper respect for those trying to recover from the loss of a loved one or from enslavement to addiction.
(Fox Searchlight) does what a great romantic comedy should do: steal your heart and send you on your way rejoicing.
The Great Debaters
(MGM) is an inspiring and well-acted film about an extraordinary African-American debating team and the determination that drives them in the 1930s to excel.