Films for Educating and Evangelizing Young People

Hello. I’m in the process of adding a ‘youth resources’ page to www.soulfoodcinema.com (see soulfoodcinema.com/youthresources/youthindex.html). I’ve collected together a selection of films that may be good for educating and evangelising to young people.

Are there any films you think I’ve forgotten about? Or any in the list that you would question their inclusion?

The lists include: Akeelah and the Bee; October Sky; Kes; Les Choristes; Billy Elliot; Au Revoir Les Enfants; Escape from Sobibor (TV); The Diary of Anne Frank; Rabbit-proof Fence; Tsotsi; Freedom Writers; Antwone Fisher; Remember the Titans; Wall of Silence (TV); Marvin’s Room; Central do Brasil; Dear Frankie; Evelyn; Gracie’s Choice (TV); Stand by Me; Breaking Away; Say Anything; Promises (DOC); Little Women; Juno; Karol – A Man Who became Pope; Therese; Song of Bernadette.

Any suggestions you can provide will be most appreciated. The list is aimed at 12-18 years olds, though not all films will be suitable for the younger ones of this group. God Bless, Mark.

Hello. I’m in the process of adding a ‘youth resources’ page to www.soulfoodcinema.com (see soulfoodcinema.com/youthresources/youthindex.html). I’ve collected together a selection of films that may be good for educating and evangelising to young people.

Are there any films you think I’ve forgotten about? Or any in the list that you would question their inclusion?

The lists include: Akeelah and the Bee; October Sky; Kes; Les Choristes; Billy Elliot; Au Revoir Les Enfants; Escape from Sobibor (TV); The Diary of Anne Frank; Rabbit-proof Fence; Tsotsi; Freedom Writers; Antwone Fisher; Remember the Titans; Wall of Silence (TV); Marvin’s Room; Central do Brasil; Dear Frankie; Evelyn; Gracie’s Choice (TV); Stand by Me; Breaking Away; Say Anything; Promises (DOC); Little Women; Juno; Karol – A Man Who became Pope; Therese; Song of Bernadette.

Any suggestions you can provide will be most appreciated. The list is aimed at 12-18 years olds, though not all films will be suitable for the younger ones of this group. God Bless, Mark.

I would add:

The Lord of the Rings
A Man For All Seasons
Titanic (original, b/w version)

I’ll try to think of more later.

‘A Night to Remember’ (1958) - very good film that ‘Titanic’ doesn’t even measure up to. ‘A Man for all Seasons’ is good and in my Top 100, but I’m thinking more of films that feature young people as well, that they are more likely to relate to. Also that for instance a teacher may be able to justify showing in class - I’m not sure LOTR would qualify for that!

I would scratch “Akeela and the Bee”, even tho it is a good movie. This is because the money quote (the one in the picture frame at Laurence Fishburne’s house), is attributed to Marianne Williamson’s "A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles” " which is errant theology. The film doesn’t give its attribution, but the attribution is easy to find thru an Internet search.

I would recommend “The Miracle at Morgan’s Creek”, tho…

Nick

Are you thinking of the same Titanic I am? :slight_smile: Not that monstronsity with DeCaprio.

I’m not sure LOTR would qualify for that!

I’m not sure of that. LOTR has numerous profound Christian themes.

I just went over my whole DVD collection. If I were to show movies with teenagers, and hope to draw out a spiritual discussion, it would be the following (mix of classics, contemporary and foreign):

12 Angry Men
Ace In the Hole
The Apartment
Black Narcissus
Bon Voyage
Cool Hand Luke
The Elephant Man
E.T.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Groundhog Day
Hoop Dreams
Lone Star
Lost Horizon
The Matrix (my set has commentary from postmodern spiritual seekers)
Notorious
The Passion… of Joan of Arc
The Rookie
Run Lola Run
Searching for Bobby Fischer
Star Wars (there was an excellent documentary that was on last year that conveyed every single theme–mythological and religious–in every one of the six movies… forced us to get #1-#3.)
Sullivan’s Travels
Superman: The Movie
Tampopo
The Third Man
Time Bandits
To Kill a Mockingbird
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
Wings of Desire

FWIW…

I think you probably do mean ‘A Night to Remember’, it scores a well-deserved 8/10 on IMDB.

I will look further into Akeelah and the Bee, though it was on CT’s Top 10 list for 2006 as well as the USCCB’s and at present I’m inclined to agree with them.

LOTR does have Christian themes but it’s back to the question of whether it has pagan themes too (another whole thread!). I’m hoping to get some essays up on this in the near future - do consider writing one yourself.

I appreciate the other suggestions, though the likes of The Elephant Man (in which he commits suicide at the end) and the profoundly violent Matrix are questionable.

What I’m really looking for though are films that have young people as their central characters. The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek, Hoop Dreams and Searching for Bobby Fischer are all possibilities.

Does anyone have any other suggestions? With the amount of teen dramas released recently it’s a shame that only a handful are really suitable.

Keeping young people as the central focus, there are a number of films that are very very good, that can work.

Before I go there… I failed to mention “Beauty and the Beast”–the original French version from 1946. An absolute must see, absolutely one-of-a-kind, and the kids will get into it because they know Disney’s take.

Have you considered films from the Dardenne brothers? La Promesse, Rosetta, Le Fils, and L’Enfant… they are Cannes Film Festival darlings, and they have youth/young adults at the forefront of their cinema verite dramas… (I’ve seen two of these, and own the other two)… tough films, but good discussion starters.

I also must re-submit “Run Lola Run”. It’s rated R for language, so if you want to get a TV-version, be my guest. But the film has grown into a post-modern film classic, it is incredibly made, and it raises questions about fate and decision-making that are quite worthy of discussion. Plus, it’s great fun, and won’t bore them. ETA: the turning point of the story, btw, is when the lead protagonist, with no other place to go, prays for help.

I can understand your reticence on including films with super-harsh hard-R material… but if the film’s point is ultimately noble, perhaps it’s worth considerring. Three films in this regard, that I highly recommend (that have teens/young adults as central characters): Magnolia - raising great discussion starters about pain, sins-of-our-fathers, and grace; Requiem For a Dream - a visually inventive but strong warning about the dangers of drug addiction; Four Months, Three Weeks, Two Days - this last film got the best reviews of all last year, and one journalist wrote how it had changed his views on abortion… but… a long, uncut shot of a simulated abortion–in all its revolting ugliness–would do that, I guess.

THAT SAID… here’s some films (good, very good) that have youth/young adults as central characters:
Romeo & Juliet (Zefferelli) and
Hamlet (any version, I prefer Zefferelli or Branagh, but Ethan Hawke’s tepid version is probably the one most relatable to teens)
Hope and Glory
Empire of the Sun
Lucas / Ferris Beuller’s Day Off
The 400 Blows
West Side Story
Stand And Deliver
Red River
Fanny and Alexander
The Last Emperor
East of Eden / Rebel Without a Cause / Giant
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Time Bandits
To Kill a Mockingbird

A question about Breaking Away–just saw this again a few weeks ago. I love that film dearly, I think it’s a lasting work of art–but how do you wish to handle the couple of throwaway lines that are specifically anti-Catholic? (I’m thinking of the mother’s quip “Don’t turn Catholic on us”), and the subtle-slam about a negative Confession experience…

Lastly, you may want to discover www.artsandfaith.com– a site I visit regularly. They have compiled a list of the Top 100 spiritually edifying films, including some challenging ones you may not have ever heard of (“Ordet”, “Au Hazard Balthazar”, “Day of Wrath”, etc). Check it out…

Lastly, you may want to discover www.artsandfaith.com– a site I visit regularly. They have compiled a list of the Top 100 spiritually edifying films, including some challenging ones you may not have ever heard of (“Ordet”, “Au Hazard Balthazar”, “Day of Wrath”, etc). Check it out…

I just revisted their Top 100 list. The films on that list, that I recognized, that had youth/young adults as central characters (and didn’t mention yet):

Yi Yi
Millions
Big Kahuna
The Night of the Hunter
The Sweet Hereafter (this film, iirc, has an R-rated scene)
Fiddler on the Roof
The Song of Bernadette
Waking Life

Also, they seem to rate this film very highly:
The Miracle Maker (that claymation Jesus movie from a few years back)

FWIW.

I can’t think of the actual name, because my mind is not working this morning. But its a movie on St. Maria (last name starts with a G I think). Anyways the movie is about a young Italian girl who is poor and the son of a man who lives with the family tries to rape. She resist and he ends up killing her. But before she dies she forgives him. I’m sure someone has to know what I’m talking about I just am drawing a blank. But its a wonderful movie that promotes a lot of discussion.

Historybrat

Thanks for the comprehensive reply and suggestions Nick - I’ve seen the majority of films you mention. It’s late here in the UK now though, so I’ll reply properly tomorrow.

Historybrat, I think you mean Maria Goretti (2003) (TV), I just looked it up on IMDB, I’m not sure whether it will be available on DVD though.

Okay. I’ve a little time to respond now Nick. You mentioned a lot of films so I’ll have to keep my answers short – I hope I don’t sound abrupt.

Films you mentioned that I have seen:

Hope and Glory – saw a long time ago so I will watch it again soon.
Empire of the Sun – saw a long time ago and liked it, I’ll add this to the list.
Ferris Beuller’s Day Off – like it but not sure could justify showing it in class!
The 400 Blows – felt the end was quite depressive; heavy film for young people
West Side Story – felt this had a bit of a dark side to it, good songs though!
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – good film but a little heavy and dated
To Kill a Mockingbird – I think I will add this on to the list, very good film
Rebel Without a Cause – not sure of the redemptive message here
Millions – I will add this one to the list also
Au Hazard Balthazar – interesting film but a bit melancholic
The Sweet Hereafter – need to watch again, maybe a bit depressive
Fiddler on the Roof – too long, not sure how central the younger characters are
The Song of Bernadette – on my list already
Beauty and the Beast – too heavy for youngsters I think
Run Lola Run - seen it once, didn’t notice the praying before, will watch again
Requiem For a Dream – USCCB have it as morally offensive and I agree
Magnolia – again agree with USCCB usccb.org/movies/m/magnolia1999.shtml

Films you mentioned I have not seen:

Romeo & Juliet (Zefferelli) – I will watch this one
Hamlet (any version, I prefer Zefferelli or Branagh, but Ethan Hawke’s tepid version is probably the one most relatable to teens) – Will also to look to watch one of these
Lucas – Sounds okay but higher priorities to watch
Stand And Deliver – I tried looking for this the other day but couldn’t remember the title, will definitely look to watch it
Red River – will wait for it to come on TV
Fanny and Alexander – doesn’t appeal to me
The Last Emperor – on USCCB’s list for 1988, will look to watch this
East of Eden – looks okay but dated
Giant - ditto
Time Bandits – looks a little odd
The Miracle Maker – on my waiting list already
Ordet – looks as if it could be heavy one, will wait for it to come on TV
Day of Wrath – sounds heavy
Yi Yi – looks interesting, will wait for it to come on TV again though
Big Kahuna - ditto
The Night of the Hunter – sounds a little heavy, will wait for TV showing
Waking Life – this is on TV soon so will catch it then
La Promesse / L’Enfant / Le Fils / Rosetta – they look as if they could be tough as you say. I’ll start with La Promesse and see how I go
Four Months, Three Weeks, Two Days – on my waiting list already

Breaking Away – I don’t remember the subtle slam about a negative confession experience, I do remember the “Don’t turn Catholic on us” remark, but I actually took this as a positive; the way that only a close friend could say something to you or about you without taking it personally. It’s on my Top 100 but isn’t a staple.

Arts and Faith List – I have big problems with a lot of films on this list and many are listed by the USCCB as being morally offensive, the list is actually titled ‘spiritually significant films’ and I think we should remember that just because something is spiritual it doesn’t mean it’s from God (1 John 4:1).

Thanks again for all of these suggestions Nick, I will add a few to the list a.s.a.p and will add a few more to my ever-growing waiting list of films to watch also.

Mark
www.soulfoodcinema.com

Our former associate Pastor was very enthusiastic about the Exorcism of Emily Rose for older teens.

shudder. Not for the faint of heart.

Christianity Today had that in one of their Top 10 annual lists, but the USCCB left it out. From what I have read the film is okay but I’m not sure it paints a balanced picture of exoricsm and the Church. Another one to watch when it comes on TV.

One of the great things about cinema art is that some films are open to interpretation. Different eyes have different perspectives, and I always welcome a good, healthy debate.

It should also be noted that the USCCB movie system is not written in stone. It is a largely lay-run organization that is hired by the USCCB, after the Legion of Decency had folded. Much of this came to light when a positive review of “The Golden Compass” came from the USCCB, and New Line Cinema used this endorsement to represent the opinions of all the Catholic bishops, who did not put it to a vote. So I take their critiques with a grain of salt.

  1. I can look at a film like Magnolia or Requiem for a Dream, recognize the unsavory, offensive moments for what they are, and ask the deeper question–does a film’s portrayal of a sin equal endorsement of that same sin? Indeed, sometimes that portrayal of a sin is so strong, that it leads others to temptation (which is why I did not include “Breaking the Waves”). But in both instances above, I felt that the postitve aspects were so overwhelmingly strong, and that the negative aspects were portrayed as hideous and ugly for what they are, that I had no problem with it.

But then, a youth worker may not want the added pressure of parents breathing down their necks. Fair enough…

  1. Breaking Away: the confession dialogue is short, but it had Dennis Christopher and Jackie Earl Haley walking towards the town’s Catholic church. From imdb:

Dave: Did you ever go to confession?
Moocher: Twice.
Dave: Did it make you feel better?
Moocher: Once.

That’s it. I took this as a slam on confession, because it didn’t appear that Moocher was going to confession anymore, probably since that negative experience, and because he was, for lack of a better phrase: “living in sin” --altho towards the end of the film he tries to remedy his situation. I still think this is a great film, and a negative confession experience of a single character is simply not the point of the film–I just think that if this film were to make your list, it needs to be cleared upfront, so youth leaders can be prepared.

  1. I would not recommend La Promesse as your first Dardenne film. I’d try L’Enfant. It’s a little heavy, and it’s cinema verite (which can be challenging), but it’s also a great film. It even has a couple of cool chase sequences.

  2. While I do not agree with every film on the artsandfaith list, you should know that I do not agree with every film on the Vatican 45 either (I mean… have you seen the Mickey Rourke “Francesco”? Blecch!!!). But I would definitely read some of their analysis before you rule off their decisions entirely. Steven D Greydamus, of www.decentfilms.com and the National Catholic Register, is one of the top Catholic critics in the country, and he has enormous respect on that board.

The Night of the Hunter – sounds a little heavy, will wait for TV showing

It’s nothing but. It’s very dreamlike, like a fairytale.

Yi Yi – looks interesting, will wait for it to come on TV again though

The drawback is that this film is loooonng.

Red River – will wait for it to come on TV

I think this film is a stellar example of a typical Western, that has a young adult protagonist at its center. My fave Western is High Noon, and it’s similar to something like “On the Waterfront.”

The Last Emperor – on USCCB’s list for 1988, will look to watch this

Be prepared with this one too–I believe it has a love scene between two women (nothing shown).

East of Eden – looks okay but dated

That’s the challenge, isn’t it? Great movies, teen/young adult central characters, and not being dated–tough to find all three…

Time Bandits – looks a little odd

This one has God as a major character, played by the late Sir Ralph Richardson. There’s even a quick dialogue as to why there’s evil in the world. But it also has a shock ending that will certainly liven up discussions!!

Ordet – looks as if it could be heavy one, will wait for it to come on TV

Just saw this for the first time. I think every Catholic film reviewer has to see this, just for what it is. Doesn’t mean that it’s for teens, tho.

Big Kahuna - ditto

Danny DeVito in a heavy film? You’re not serious. This film, as cinema, is a filmed play–but the dialogue is worthy of interesting discussions, especially in light of teenagers coming to understand what the work world is like.

Waking Life – this is on TV soon so will catch it then

This film is quite heavy. It works in small doses.

Good luck for your board, and I hope you get a lot of interest on your site.

Nick

Thanks Nick, I’ll take some time in prayerful consideration of all your comments and suggestions; you’ve certainly seen a good many films.

I do agree that films are open to interpretation which is one of the main reasons for the essay format on soulfoodcinema; I’m hoping that movie fans will take some time to articluate their thoughts on various films in written word, hopefully having read a range of reviews and done a little research, if needed, beforehand.

In my own experience I’ve had many films that were favourites of mine in the past, but when I came to try and succinctly put my point of view down on paper and tackle opposing points of view, I found I couldn’t justify a lot of my own opinions. If, as I’m hoping, up to three different essays are written for a film, people will be able to read a variety of opinions and see which one most rings true with them. I know many a good write-up has changed my opinion of a film.

If you have the time please do consider writing an essay yourself, especially for any films whose interpretation is seen as contentious.

Thanks for the invite. I’ve written reviews in the past, for www.HollywoodJesus.com, as well as for imdb’s newsgroups and re:generation monthly. My movie reviewing days have been greatly sidetracked due to my focus as a Catholic novelty artist, but if you have any particular film that you have in mind, I’ll see if I can squeeze it in.

Excellent - I’m glad you replied Nick. After suggesting that maybe you write about a contentious film, I had the thought over the weekend of why not ask you to write about ‘Breaking Away’. You mentioned how you do like the film but that it shouldn’t be recommended without a proviso about the confession mark, and I agree.

Maybe you could use it to draw out the Catholic teaching about relationships, or friendship, or pursuing a goal - whatever angle most speaks to you.

With respect to the two issues you mentioned, maybe say that some see the “don’t turn Catholic on us” remark as anti-Catholic, others see it as light-hearted, maybe even friendly, banter. And then the other point about confession (thanks for pointing that out by the way) could be a springboard to talk about confession not necessarily being there as a tool to make us feel better about oursleves (though in the long-term this usually is the case) and about how important the sacrament is. Also that these two points aren’t necessarily reasons to dismiss the whole film, but are worth being aware of.

Just some thoughts anyway. I can’t offer any payment at present, though I’m sure God will bless you, and there is also the space at the bottom of every essay for biographical information which can include a reference to your own work, and any associated website/s.

All I ask is that the overall balance and focus of the essay is kept on Jesus and Church teaching.

Yeah that was it. Sorry I was at work and couldn’t remember the last name. It is out on DVD. I think it came out in March. Its also got some discussion questions that come with it, that are aimed for teenagers. We showed it at my parish,and it got a lot of kids interested and involved in the discussion.

Histoyrbrat

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