Video Clips

Was looking at religious themes in films today in Transition Year class. In a previous class I had broken the students in groups, each to list films with religious themes in various categories - horror, serious drama, comedies, biographies, and weird (films about cults, dodgy preachers etc). Today I followed up this exercise with clips from relevant films. The clips went down well I think: from Ken Loach's Raining Stones the scene where the Irish priest (Tom Hickey, excellent) tries to persuade the main character not to spend too much money on his daughter's first communion dress; the sermon from The Field where the priest (Sean McGinley, very unsympathetic) lambastes the locals for hiding a murderer; a similar scene from On the Waterfront, where the priest (Karl Malden, very sympathetic) encourages the dockers to stand up to the mob and reveal who killed one of their members; the few scenes from Sister Act were enjoyed, especially the scene in Church where the new choir gets its first outing - corny I know; I felt I had to give an example of a Biblical epic (can't stand 'em) so I showed the parting of the waters from The Ten Commandments (great skit on that in the soup parting from Bruce Almighty). The students were attentive, made some very interesting points in discussions between clips and laughed at the more subtle humorous moments (I've had classes that have sat stony faced watching Fawlty Towers (English class!). Next week we're doing films on the life of Jesus.

Finally saw Walk the Line last night - the Johnny Cash biopic. More could have been made of the importance of religion in his life, but there were some nice moments - his brother Jack getting familiar with scripture to get ready for life as a preacher while Johnny listened to country music on the radio. There's a funny incident when Johnny sings a gospel song for a record producer who finds it too ordinary and unconvincing - Cash misinterprets this as the producer thinking he, Cash, doesn't believe in God! It's clear all along that both Cash and future wife June Cater were inspired by gospel songs from an early age, and when she gets him to leave behind the drink and pills it is suggested by a Church visit that religion has a part to play in this turn around. But Cash is shown warts and all, and his cheating on first wife Vivienne is particularly painful. The film well deserves all the accolades it got, especially tghose for the two performances at the heart of it - from Reese Witherspoon and Joacquin Phoenix.

The inservice day in Laragh went well I think, at least I enjoyed it. The setting didn't seem so idyllic with the rotten weather. But I met some old friends and some new teachers signed up for the faitharts email list. The session was about using Music DVDs in religion class, either to illustrate themes under discussion or as a study of religious themes in music, or the search for meaning in modern culture (Part A of the NCCA's framework document for non-exam classes at senior cycle). The teachers seemed to enjoy the music and came up with some good ideas for dealing with this material in class. I can send the materials I used as Word document attachments on request (see contact link on left) - song words, worksheets, full list of songs used and on what DVDs. Might put these on site as download anyway.
Just found out last night that the James Taylor video Squibnocket is being released on DVD in October - I'd highly recommend it, partly because the song Shed a Little Light is performed really well, even prayerfully, on that one. It's a country studio setting, better than the concert setting in the Pull Over DVD. Best price seems to be on where it can be pre-ordered.

Blog Sept 2006 Finally getting a bit of free time to get the blog going again. During the summer I managed to get CD versions of tapes I have found really useful over the year - mostly on Ebay. No more winding and rewinding and missing the right song for prayer room sessions. Songs From the Loft has an excellent selection of songs suitable for school and features various artists from the US contemporary Christian music scene, including Amy Grant, Kim Hill, Ashley Cleveland and Wes King. Coram Deo is along similar lines but more reflective, and features Michael Card among others. Standout tracks are Lord of Love (great for prayer services on the Trinity) and Now Is the Time for Tears, a wonderful piece on bereavement. Brother to Brother is also excellent - Michael Card and John Michael Talbot sing each others songs - plenty of material for prayer and reflection sessions. Also picked up a music DVD guest starring Amy Grant (Peter Cetera is main performer) and it was worth the price to get her version of El Shaddai, a beautiful prayer song written by Michael Card. Bringing my first class to the prayer room this week so I'll surely use some of this material. Tomorrow I'm doing an inservice workshop for the Dublin Diocesan Advisors in the idyllic setting of Laragh near Glendalough. Based on a section of the NCCA's non-exam syllabus I'm looking at the search for meaning in modern music, using a selection of music DVDs for the purpose. Have prepared some materials (song words, worksheets, resource lists etc) which I'll send to anyone on request (Word attachments). Will write about how I get on in a day or two.

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May 2006