The 2009 film season ended with Avatar, a magical science fiction extravaganza that transports us to another world where an ordinary man is transformed by the ancestral teachings and ecological activities of an alien rainforest race. This thematically rich and visually impressive movie gives us cosmology totally in sync with contemporary spirituality movements with their focus on reverence for the Earth as a living being and Oneness consciousness that celebrates the interconnectedness of all.
But Avatar is only one of many 2009 films that we consider to be spiritually literate because their stories reveal and reflect the search for meaning and purpose, their characters demonstrate the application of spiritual qualities in daily life, and their themes raise our consciousness to a fuller engagement with our world.
The other films making our Ten Most Spiritually Literate list convey the diversity of challenges and opportunities in today's world. They include the story of an unattached man who reassesses his lifestyle; a delicious comedy about two women who discover their true selves through cooking; a portrait of Nelson Mandela and his campaign to reconcile the races in South Africa through the power of forgiveness; a hopeful account of a resilient Palestinian mother and her young son creating a new life in America; an appealing tale of a couple who go on a quest to find the perfect home to raise their child; a thought-provoking drama about a man who confronts the mystery of God and the futility of seeking answers; and an emotionally poignant drama that demonstrates how loving, kind, and compassionate people can be catalysts for real change for an African-American teenager. Finally, two very different dramas focus on the fallout from the Iraq War: one deals with the addiction to war evident in the leader of a team of bomb experts in Baghdad, and the other shows how a war hero's heart is opened through his encounters with the grieving relatives of the war's casualties.
We are always impressed with the variety and seriousness of Foreign Language Films. Although they are set in faraway places, we feel deeply connected to the experiences and aspirations of their characters. Many of this year's bests deal with women: an artistic wife who dies and leaves a legacy that takes her husband to Japan and wonderful new experiences; a Jewish woman who discovers the healing power of empathy when she moves next to a Palestinian orchard; an enthusiastic woman who brings freshness and novelty into the life of a longtime maid; a working-class mother who breaks through the barriers of gender, class, and time to express her creativity; a deeply religious cleaning woman who becomes a talented painter; the nurturing matriarch of a family who tries to match her wishes for an art collection to the needs of her family; and a six-year old Korean girl who takes on adult responsibilities by looking after her little sister after they are abandoned by their mother. Another film explores the rise of fascism, and two more trace the journey of transformation of a man in Japan and another in Iran.
Last year, we added a new Category to our Most Spiritually Literate Films: Animated Films. This year's winners tell stories about an old man and a young boy who become friends during a high-flying adventure; an extended family of animal friends who go through some changes together; a resourceful girl who becomes a hero in her own right; a goldfish who changes into a girl and the little boy who loves her; and a charming fox who proves to have real leadership abilities.
Documentaries get better and better each year as filmmakers take on edgy subjects that are not being covered in depth by the media. They also put the accent on human stories of hope, love, and courage. Check out the hard-hitting critiques of the oil industry, the unregulated food industry, Japanese fishermen who are killing dolphins, the urban politics and policies which savage the poor, the human rights violations in Burma, and the ranchers in Brazil responsible for the assassination of a nun who was a rainforest activist. For the other side of the coin, watch out for the documentary about an American Idol-like TV show in Afghanistan that captures the interest of the public, the up-close and personal portrait of the world's most famous Sufi singer and his spiritual vision, a quest to find a reincarnated Tibetan master, and the emotionally-affecting portrait of three senior citizens who serve as airport greeters for soldiers leaving or returning from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Our look back at the best spiritual films of 2009 includes Ten More Spiritually Literate Films. These are some of the interesting and special characters you will meet in these movies: a journalist whose compassion for a homeless street musician illustrates the varied textures of this spiritual practice; extra-terrestrials experiencing the consequences of prejudice in South Africa; an imaginative and nonconformist little girl; a nine-year old boy who comes into a close encounter with his wildness and anger; a courageous African-American woman who speaks out against racial prejudice; the lover of English poet John Keats; a young couple experiencing the heights and depths of a romantic relationship; a New York City actor who seeks an outlandish cure for his suffering; a man who learns that honesty can heal and harm; and English politicians who live by putting a spin on everything they do. See our full list of "The Most Spiritually Literate Films of 2009."