An American Conscience: The Reinhold Niebuhr Story – Exclusive clips from PBS

A provocative new one-hour documentary, An American Conscience: The Reinhold Niebuhr Story, directed by Martin Doblmeier (Chaplains, Bonhoeffer, The Power of Forgiveness) is airing on PBS stations in April. The film explores the life and continued legacy of the influential Niebuhr, who spent most of his life on the FBI watchlist and whose writings influenced political figures including Pres. Obama, Hillary Clinton, John McCain and Jimmy Carter, civil rights leaders Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and … [Read more...]

The Shack: Christian Film with a Catholic Touch

My feature story on the new film "The Shack" is now live at St. Anthony Messenger!Be sure to click through to read the entire story. (I have posted just a few opening paragraphs here.)The film opens on March 3, a great film - and just in time -  for Lent.In 2007, Canadian author William P. Young, with the help of two minister friends, self-published The Shack, a novel that he had written as a Christmas gift for his six children. It became a USA Today and New York Times best seller … [Read more...]

Liam Neeson sees God as love, not a stern master (interview)

Actor Liam Neeson plays the apostate Jesuit priest Fr. Ferreira in Martin Scorsese's new film "Silence."  I interviewed Neeson by phone on Jan. 18. It was a short interview (about twelve minutes). You can read my interview with Matt Malek, an executive producer on the film and my review at Sister Rose Movies and at the National Catholic Reporter.NCR: Have you seen the film?Neeson: Yes, twice in fact.What did you think of it?When you've worked on a film and see it for the first tim … [Read more...]

‘Birth of a Nation’ offers lots to talk about

"Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever." --Thomas JeffersonThomas Jefferson wrote these words in Paris in 1785, in his only full-length book, Notes on the State of Virginia. These same words are on the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C., and they open Nate Parker's first film as a director and writer, "The Birth of a Nation."This film -- which won an Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival in January and which Fox … [Read more...]

Netflix: The light of grace in human stories

 When Netflix was launched by Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph in 1998 as a DVD rental service by mail, late fees applied and the company had fewer than 1,000 titles to loan.A year later, the company began a monthly subscription service and by early 2000 began its flat fee with unlimited rentals, without due dates, late fees or shipping costs. It was a completely new entertainment business model.The demise of Blockbuster and other brick-and-mortar video rental services was just a … [Read more...]

‘Gleason’ and two other summer movies about fathers: Hunt for the Wilderpeople & Captain Fantastic

 Fathers are a theme that keeps emerging in this summer's movies. We always complain about how women are portrayed in films but how often do we consider the role of fathers? Here are three worthy films that probably deserve more analysis on how fatherhood is presented that I provide here, but if you like meaningful movies, these might be a good choice for you.'Gleason'Steve Gleason played defense for the New Orleans Saints for seven seasons and is famously remembered for a punt … [Read more...]

‘Thelma & Louise’ 25 years later still poses a challenge to male entitlement

I first saw "Thelma and Louise" while studying for a master's in education in media studies in London in 1995. We gathered to watch the film and not one male student of the 12 or so in our class showed up for the screening. Not one. What were they afraid of? When we asked some of them, they just shrugged. "Thelma and Louise" was hugely successful when it opened in 1991. It is critically acclaimed as a feminist, or neo-feminist film, or a road trip film for women.At least one convent critic … [Read more...]

Stories that invite us to be cultural mystics

After more than six decades of life, I am still startled by the profound empathy for humanity often revealed in stories told through sight and sound. Cinema, and increasingly episodic stories on television and the Internet, brings the human face of my brother or sister up close and personal so that I experience the joy and pain of all human living and make a difference in the world.The fact is cinema has a sacramental quality, outward signs of inner realities, that Sr. Nancy Usselmann,* a … [Read more...]

Pope Francis invites us to reflect mercy in our speech and in Tweets for World Communications Day 2016

 One of the best-kept secrets of the Catholic Church is that we have a beautiful tradition of teaching about communication and media that goes back to the 1930s and continues through today. This teaching covers speaking with one another in the family, parish and community, to evangelization, to all the means of communication including radio, television, movies, social media and the culture they create.Back in 1963 one of the Second Vatican Council documents issued by Pope Paul … [Read more...]