’13 Reasons Why’ could save lives

 This morning a friend, a father of a family, posted on social media that mean kids and adults suck. We had a conversation on Messenger where he explained that his child, a preteen, was late for school because she couldn't stop sobbing. Yesterday the child's friends, the ones she thought were closest, did something really embarrassing to her. The dad said that it is a heartbreaking situation for his child, and for his wife and him.Sound familiar? Perhaps we all went through … [Read more...]

“The Promise”- a too familiar world

In the early 1900s, an estimated 1.5 million Armenians lived within the borders of the dying Ottoman Empire, led by what is now modern Turkey. The Ottomans had annexed a large portion of Armenia as far back as 1555 but allowed the people to generally govern themselves, until political entanglements within the empire and European complexities and alliances of World War I led to untold tragedy.In 1915, when the Ottomans perceived that the ethnic Armenians within their borders supported the … [Read more...]

‘Cries from Syria’: J’accuse! Airs tonight 3/13/17 HBO

The opening scene of Cries from Syria is of a two-year old baby laying dead on the sea shore, the rippled waves washing over him, because the boat bringing him to Europe capsized. This new HBO Documentary film (it premiered at Sundance in January) by Oscar and Emmy nominated director Evgeny Afineevsky premieres tomorrow night on television. The tragedy of the Al-Assad regime’s oppression and genocide is guaranteed to shock even an audience habituated to graphic war violence on television, in f … [Read more...]

Scorsese’s ‘Silence’ is his most Catholic film

(Andrew Garfield, left, plays Fr. Rodrigues, and Shinya Tsukamoto plays Mokichi in the film "Silence" by Paramount)Shûsaku Endô (1923-1996) was a Japanese Catholic novelist whose extensive writings probed the conflicts and paradoxes of faith. He was born in Tokyo, lived in Manchuria, then returned to Japan and was baptized at about the age of 11. After university, he married, had a son and lived in France. The novelist Graham Greene, with whom Endo has often been compared, said h … [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...]

‘Queen of Katwe’ tells of a mighty girl chess prodigy from Uganda

(This is from my column but I loved, loved, loved, this movie because Phiona is a mighty girl - and her mother a mighty woman)In Katwe, a slum outside of Kampala, Uganda, Phiona (Madina Nalwanga) drops out of school at a young age to help her widowed mother, Harriet (Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o), support the family. Meanwhile, Robert (David Oyelowo) takes a low-paying job at a Christian youth center in Katwe since he cannot find a job as an engineer.Phiona follows her brother to the c … [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...]

‘The Innocents’ tells a story of trauma, grace

At last, the long night of World War II is over in Europe, but for a Benedictine monastery of nuns in northern Poland, the nightmare continues. During vespers one evening, a white-veiled novice hears screaming. She puts on her coat against the cold and snow and, sneaking out a hidden door, runs across the fields to a nearby town. There, she asks a street urchin to take her to a doctor -- just not one who is Russian or Polish. The young boy leads her to the French Red Cross, where the staff is … [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...]