Thursday, March 10, 2011

Religion and film I

Watched two amazing movies today, each of which resonated with one of the courses whose midpoint we've just reached. (Next week is Spring Break.) This post is about the one I showed in "Aboriginal Australia," the next about a new film which exemplified something we discussed in "Exploring Religious Ethics." Today's film was Warwick Thornton's "Samson & Delilah," the first Aboriginal-made film to win prizes from Australia to Cannes. It's not an easy movie, but powerful. (And great cinema too, especially in its use of music.)

"Sampson & Delilah" balances, or perhaps balances out, the idealized image of a whole Aboriginal world of the film with which the course began, "Ten Canoes" (which is also Aboriginal-made, though the director was Balanda). Thornton's world is very decidedly not whole - he says the film was a wake-up call to Aboriginals to tend to a generation of youth which was getting lost (Sampson, above, is a glue-sniffing addict), and I understand that the sort-of happy end was tacked on so as not to be too depressing.

In the context of our course, it marked a turning point in several ways. From images of the Aboriginal past, whether Aboriginal or scholarly-white, we turn now to the difficult present. And from the Dreaming in putatively timeless rituals we'll turn to contemporary ethnography, art and politics. What about religion? It's still there, complicated by the changes in ritual resulting from dislocations, stolen generations and sedentarization. "Sampson & Delilah" also introduces another important factor in contemporary Aboriginal life: Christianity.

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