Video Clips

Blog March 2009

Have enjoyed doing the Resurrection with my 3rd Year students. Apart from reading the gospel accounts and doing the theological content I showed the Resurrection scenes from Jesus of Nazareth and from BBC's Passion. Students did well at figuring out what was left in or left out or added for the video. On the BBC version they had no problem with the different actors playing Jesus after the Resurrection, a novel way to get across the idea of Mary Magdalen and the disciples on the road to Emmaus not recognising him at first, but they weren't too keen on the way Mary Magdalen looses the cool and starts throwing stones around when she finds the empty tomb. Though I've seen both versions several times I still find them very moving.

Last Sunday I tuned into the second episode of RTE's new monthly religious programme Spirit Level, and again I was quite pleased with the content. The formula was the same - a mixture of discussion and musical items. Not exactly an innovative format (it reminds me of BBC's now defunct Heaven and Earth show), but hey, it's "easy like Sunday morning", and in my book it works. I was curious to know what musical items would feature this time - appropriately there was a less familiar than usual Ave Maria by singing group Acabella, and at the end a song by Ronan Keating from a new album of his mother's favourites. I'm not a Keating fan (boy bands yuk) but he sang one of my favourite songs, Cyndi Lauper's Time After Time so I was conflicted. It was well sung, but was a music video, which lost the sense of immediacy and presence of a live performance. The two shows broadcast so far can be viewed here.
Still on the artistic beat there was an item about the new film The Secret of Kells, an animated feature about a young boy working on the famous book. Director Tomm Moore accepted it wasn't a religious story as such, but of course it had religious symbolism. He had set his story at a crossover point between the old pagan ways and the new Christian way and, as he put it, wanted to be respectful to al that was going on then. In reflective mode he felt a bond between the original illuminators of the book and the present day animators. Certainly judging by the clips shown it is a beautifully animated work. Robin Adams of Trinity College Library that is home to the Book of Kells was happy to be associated with this project as he felt the book was treated with respect in Moore's work. The film's website has resources for schools, trailers and lots more. See also News page.

Had my best laugh of the week watching the world premier of a new Simpsons episode In the Name of the Grandfather - it's a special on Sky 1 for St Patrick's Day (7.30 pm), but I got an invite to an advance screening today in the Lighthouse Cinema, Smithfield Dublin.
Best of all was getting to meet Nancy Cartwright (voice of Bart), James L. Brooks, (Producer) and Al Jean, (Executive Producer). They were really good humoured people who obviously still enjoyed their work. Getting paid to play! There wasn't a lot of time for detailed discussion but I asked Brooks about the way the show portrayed religion, and he said that they just wanted to show a regular family that watches TV and goes to Church every Sunday! With around 15 writers working on the show I didn't get the impression that there was any party line on religion. I asked Al Jean about the target audience - yes it was originally conceived as an adult show, but it was obvious considering the format that children would be drawn to it. And while they didn't aim the show directly at children, they didn't intend to do anything "R" rated. Cartwright was really enthusiastic about her work and obliged with a few of the funny voices. Interestingly she lamented the lack of positive role models for young people today, but accepted that Bart Simpson wasn't quite what she had in mind.

As for the episode itself - of course you'd expect a rake of Irish stereotypes as the Simpsons came to Ireland - and it would be churlish to complain. They did it quite cleverly - having most of the Oirish clichés in Grandpa Abe Simpson's flashback to when he spent great times on the Emerald Isle, and so there were pints galore, dancin' in bars and cabbage on tap as runny as the beer. So now as he returns years later (on a Derry Air plane) all is changed as the Celtic tiger has transformed the land (this was written last summer!) - Abe's favourite pub is empty, the owner (voiced by Colm Meaney) can't even remember how to pronounce pub or pint, and everywhere you look there's signs of dubious progress - we get glimpses of the Hewlett Fitzpackard and Mick R O'Soft companies, and yupprechauns walk the streets. As they tire of this new bland Ireland they are encouraged to stay by a busker - yes, it was Glen Hansard from the film Once in one of the funniest turns in the episode.
Homer and Abe revive the pub by letting people defy the smoking ban - until they are busted by the gardai - the scriptwriters' research slipped up here with "Police" instead of "Garda" signs. As usual there were a few crude bits, but no religious content. When it does do religion it can range from gentle mockery to support, but whatever the case it amazes me how the show can keep the standard of writing so fresh and funny for twenty years and around 450 episodes.


Today I was covering the theme of search for meaning in modern culture with a 2nd year class - I normally do this kind of thing with senior classes, so I wondered how I'd fare out. We looked at examples from music today and will look at film and TV next week. One resource I found useful in class was the music download site 7Digital - as I was referring to search for meaning, especially spiritual meaning, in the songs of the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Van Morrison, Bob Dylan etc. I was able to play clips of these songs using the preview facility on the site. Actually, necessity was the mother of invention as I'd forgotten my CDs! One student suggested Heal the World by Michael Jackson, but unfortunately I couldn't find it. Found it later though by first checking which of his albums it came from (Dangerous). I've found 7Digital a great resource for finding individual songs for class. They only cost around 99 cent, and many come in MP3 format with no digital rights restrictions, so they should be easy to burn to CD or transfer to memory stick for classroom use. I've rarely searched for a track in vain, and the sites includes a huge range of gospel/spiritual/religious music. You can pay per song rather than having to pay a subscription per month as with some download sites.

Have started on my module about religious themes in poetry with Transition Year students. Fortunately the course poems for Leaving Cert 2011 are available so I'm able to include the incentive that these poems relate directly to their Leaving Cert course. Kavanagh and Hopkins are on for that year so I'm spoiled for choice - started with three Kavanagh poems - Advent, Canal Bank Walk and A Christmas Childhood. It was hard to get the students' enthusiasm going, but their discussion of the poems was perceptive. Hopkins next week! That'll be an even greater challenge.


Have just come across a beautiful Stations of the Cross presentation online that could be used in class as part of the preparation for Holy Week. Stained glass artist Richard King produced this work which is available as an online slideshow - the pictures move on rather quickly so you may want to use the pause button. The original work is in Swinford Church. See it here.

Writer Christopher Nolan figured in religion texts in the 80's. Nolan had to write with his mother's help using a "unicorn stick" on a word processor, a witness to human dignity showing great creativity despite his disability. Unfortunately Nolan died recently. I came across a nice tribute to him from fellow blogger Raymond Arroya. Check it out here.

Yesterday I wrote about my Religious Themes in Drama module in Transition Year. I used many of the same resources as last year (check out the drama archive - link on left). One new resource I used when doing the section on animated drama was Give Up Yer Aul Sins - animated versions on Dublin youngsters from the 60's telling gospel stories. It went down really well with my students (15 year old boys). Fortunately this is now readily available on YouTube. The one I used, about the death of Jesus is the video on left.


Yesterday in school we had our annual visit from the Covenant Players, a group of travelling Christian actors. This was part of the Religious Themes in Drama module in Transition Year. Once again it went well - apart from some interesting and entertaining plays the actors involved the students in various drama exercises.

On other fronts I'm doing the last days of Jesus as part of the 3rd Year exam course - we read the different scriptural versions and then after each segment I show the relevant clip from Jesus of Nazareth for the most part. I used the Last Supper scene from the BBC Passion, with Joseph Mawle as Jesus. When I get to the Resurrection I'll use that again as it presents it in an unusual way - with two other actors playing Jesus - to convey how Mary Magdalen and the disciples on the road to Emmaus didn't recognise him. For the arrest, trial and passion of Jesus the Robert Powell portrayal in Jesus of Nazareth is fine.It's interesting to see how the different gospel accounts are blended. The clip on left is of the questioning of Jesus before the Sanhedrin and also Peter's denial.

Have just finished doing the Sacrament of the Sick with 6th years. Among the resources I used were Hopkins' poem Felix Randal which shows in a very personal way the priest administering the last sacrament. I also played the song Now is the Time for Tears by Charlie Peacock from the excellent Coram Deo album - this is based on Job, and imagines a bereaved person asking his friends to grieve with him rather than try to fix him. Had also planned to play John Michael Talbot's beautiful Healer of My Soul but ran out of time.