Truth in Film

film Over the last few years I have been creating and developing some resources for use in conversations on leadership and spirituality. Here’s a partial list of some clips I have used or plan to use.

Braveheart. Sure, it's gory. But what a story of courage and a willingness to fight for a just cause, and it sometimes feels like "Band of Brothers." 1. The Scots have just defeated the English at Stirling, and Wallace is knighted. But the nobles main interest is in succession: who will rule? Wallace is leaving and is stopped at the door. Why is he leaving? He tells them, "You think the people exist to provide you with position. I think your position exists to provide those people with freedom. And I go to make sure that they have it."

Brother Sun, Sister Moon (Franco Zefferreli’s highly romantic take on St Francis) 1. Francis is with Bernardo and as Bernardo is talking about his disillusionment Francis takes note of a rugged stone sitting on the floor and asks if he can use it to rebuild the old church - he quotes Peter “O come let us be built as living stones..” values - rebirth/redemption; seeing beauty and the possibility of holiness in ordinary things/people, etc. 2. Francis working on the wall when Bernardo arrives and Bernardo declares he wants to help, Francis responds that “there was a time when I believed in words.”lessons - practice vs theory; relationship of love, passion and prayer; information vs formation, etc

Bruce Almighty … three scenes I have used.. 1. Bruce is complaining to Grace how he is the victim and God is enjoying his suffering. lesson - our view of God may be distorted by our circumstance, we need to clean the lens; 2. Bruce prays a typical prayer and God asks what he really cares about. lesson - getting to our heart, getting beyond religion.

Chocolat. An outstanding film/myth that contrasts faith and religion. Perhaps best summed up in a quip from Reggie McNeal. Jesus did not say, “I have come that they might have church, and that more abundantly.” The scene I have used is with the Comte in the window of the chocolaterie. This is a great study of how “us” vs “them” is profoundly destructive to communities and learning and how vulnerability is critical in leadring change.

Field of Dreams. The movie is great, the book was even better. Several possible scenes where Ray is wrestling with the reality of the spiritual vision he is pursuing. Self doubt is a normal part of the walk of faith. Will we be obedient to the inner vision? More.. early in the film Rays’ vision becomes a shared vision. lesson - how does an inner vision become communal? God’s future always involves a community of people.

Hero. This rather amazing art film out of Japan has some scenes that will grip your senses, very powerful in a younger crowd who are more image based. But the broader story is also gripping.. the leader sacrifices himself for a greater good. 1. the scene where the sword master is painting a word and the painting itself is an act of power/creation. The description following is that if the hero can learn this word he will have power over the sword master. In a world where we respect ideas we have lost this sense of the power of the word to renew reality. lessons - what is the word God has spoken in our hearts? have we heard it deeply? Has it transformed us? do we know how to wait for the word? Watch the movie you will find your own lessons.

film Joyeux Noel. An incredible film based on a true story: the Christmas truce of December 1914, depicted through the eyes of French, Scottish and German soldiers. A moving testament to the futility of war. 1. the scene where the German tenor overhears the music coming from the Scottish trenches and boldly steps out of the trench as he sings. Leadership takes courage. 2. the scene near the closing of the movie when the French and German officer shake hands and then all the German troops leave the French trenches for their own while the Scottish pipers play Auld Lang Syne.

The Last Samurai (what a great film) much about honor in here. 1. the scene where Nathan and Katsumoto first meet, and Nathan pushes for answers. Katsumoto refuses after they exchange names and closes with “this is a good conversation.” lesson - we want to rush the process and get to closure. We need to learn to honor time and process or we will miss the greater lessons.

Lady in the Water. Shyamalan's myth about story, leadership and change. It's difficult to find a single scene - this is a story about Story. It is equally about community and memory and finding purpose as about leadership. I am reminded of Romero's "We are prophets of a future not our own."

The Lion King (another classic) 1. the scene where the now teenage Simba meets Rafiki the wise one and gets smacked with the stick. This conversation and confusion picture liminality - the uncomfortable and in-between space where we aren’t who we were, and not yet all that we will become. Everyone experiences these transitional places as they journey and grow with God.

The Lord of the Rings (part 1 of trilogy) the scene where the company is in chaos and Frodo steps forward offering to take the ring to Mt Doom, “though.. I do not know the way.” lesson - vulnerability, humility in leadership.. it doesn’t mean we have the answers or even that we are "the great leader." We are committed and available.

The Mask of Zorro. The scene where Don Diego first meets his new apprentice. “When the student is ready, the master will appear.” Sure, it comes from zen, but it also seems to be a piece in God’s plan for making disciples. Amazing how many times in our lives someone comes along at the right time with a word for us. When this becomes a learning mentorship it’s that much more powerful.

The Matrix (did I say “classic?”) 1. the scene where Morpheus offers Neo the choice - blue pill, red pill - and describes the world we see as real versus the hidden real. Careful with this one we don’t want to support dualism - but so much that the world tells us / sells us is a lie. What is your real identity in the eyes of God? 2. the scene where Neo has saved Morpheus and Mopheus tells him, “there is a difference between knowing the path.. and walking the path.” Again, careful to not reinforce dualism of between matter and spirit, but to acknowledge that we live in this dualism of information vs formation, knowledge and practice and we have to unite these worlds. The meaning of incarnation. 3. The third matrix movie in the train station where Neo discovers that “love” is a signifier - a picture of a larger reality.

Newsies. Sometimes leadership just requires raw courage. But raw courage rarely exists apart from community. Leadership is always embedded. If you love stories about courage and justice, and if you love musicals, find this film.. based on a true story at the turn of the century in New York.

Prince of Egypt. "How do you measure the worth of a man..." The song "Through Heaven's Eyes" is filled with insight.

film Return of the King (part 3 of trilogy) 1. the scene where Aragorn honors the small leaders (hobbits) and the entire assembly bows to them.. values - humility, recognition that leadership isn’t always founded in identified roles, honoring work and sacrifice, etc. 2. Elrond presents Aragorn with the remade sword and offers a lesson in destiny and metamorphosis, calling Aragorn to a kind of rebirth. Aragorn responds with both hope and despair. lesson - every kind of gain involves a certain loss and grieving. We have to do both parts of the work as we grow.

Seabiscuit. One of my favorite films, all about compassion and hope restoring broken people. 1. the scene beginning with Harold outside his brand new bike shop and a steam engine car pulls up. The future has arrived unexpectedly. The scene ends with black and white footage with a narrator describing a national migration in a new portable “home” .. the car. Lesson - transition, liminality, vision and imagination. 2. memorable line, “he is small but mighty.”

Shrek. The scene where donkey and Shrek are off on their quest and Shrek is trying to describe the complexity of Ogres. Ogres have layers :) Don’t we all? But this is also true of theology, learning, spiritual growth etc. just when you think you have reached a stable place you discover something you hadn't seen before.

Simon Birch. Does God have a plan for your life? Simon asks the priest who hasn't got an answer. The rest of the movie works it all out.

V for Vendetta. The Wachowski brothers are best known for the Matrix trilogy. But this one is a must-see. I don’t even want to tell you about it. Ok, think postmodern Zorro on steroids. A quote from Eric Hoffer: “Moses wanted to turn a tribe of enslaved Hebrews into free men. You would think that all he had to do was to gather the slaves and tell them that they were free. But Moses knew better. He knew that the transformation of slaves into free men was more difficult and painful than the transformation of free men into slaves…Moses discovered that no spectacle, no myth, no miracles could turn slaves into free men. It cannot be done. So he led the slaves back into the desert, and waited forty years until the slave generation died, and a new generation, desert born and bred, was ready to enter the promised land.” Diary entry, May 20, 1959

The Two Towers. At the Frodo feels it's all hopeless. Sam tells him him about the great tales and how actually living them must have been so confusing. But the heroes kept believing in a better world.

Whale Rider. There is so much happening in this film. For leaders and teachers there is a lesson in lenses themselves and how they both limit and empower us. A second lesson involves the importance of recovering tradition - reaching back in order to move forward. For leaders this means becoming rooted again in the narrative sequence of Scripture, but simultaneously becoming listeners and learners in the communities where we are rooted (Roxburgh’s lens of “poetic” leadership).

For more ideas see the Wildland Leadership Development Site

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• © 2005-2008 Len Hjalmarson.• Last Updated in May, 2008