There is a sadness afoot in our times that is a strange mixture of personal fear and disappointment with the way things are and a lack of public confidence that the nations and organizations of the world can solve the intractable problems of poverty, hunger, class warfare, climate control, and economic decline. Many of the Most Spiritually Literate Films of 2012 speak in healing, helpful, and uplifting ways to this personal and the public mood of sadness.
We salute the handful of movies about older people coping with life's challenges (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, The Magic of Belle Isle, Amour, I Wish, and All Together). Three films explore sexuality and spirituality (The Sessions, Take This Waltz, Hope Springs). Filmmakers ventured into new territory with complex depictions of faith (Life of Pi, Salmon Fishing in Yemen), the arts of survival (The Hunger Games, Searching for Sugar Man), forgiveness (Les Miserables), compassion (The Intouchables, Monsieur Lazhar), and middle age (This Is 40).
Questions surrounding the fate of the world are examined in films about the nature of leadership (Lincoln, The Lady), corporate misconduct (Promised Land), religious hatred (Where Do We Go From Here?), the AIDS crisis (How to Survive a Plague), violence in its many forms (Bully, Five Broken Cameras, The Invisible War, The Gatekeepers, Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God) and the lure of freedom (Moonrise Kingdom, This Is Not a Film).
Perhaps the best antidote to the pervasive sadness everywhere is the lilting and uplifting melodic strains of "Three Little Birds" whose "sweet songs" fill singer/songwriter Bob Marley with hope. In the chorus we hear the refrain: "Every little thing is gonna be all right." From this inspired counsel in Marley we leave our shelter and step into the energy streams of the wheel of life in Samsara.
And last but not least, we clasp hands with Hushpuppy, the fearless little girl in Beasts of the Southern Wild. She has the secret elixir which will banish our sadness: "The whole universe depends on everything fitting together just right." She connects with what created her: "When it all goes quiet behind my eyes, I see everything that made me flying around in invisible pieces." When things get busted, she takes up the challenge of tikkun olam, repairing the world. And after all that she goes through, she can still testify: "I see that I'm a little piece of a big universe, and that makes things right." See our full list of "The Most Spiritually Literate Films of 2012."