The Spiritual Experience of Viewing Great Films.

Departures

From the website gratefulness.org, there are links to a tremendous source of recommended films from the Esalen Institute. At the Institute, they regularly offer film seminars with the overall theme, Renewing Wholeness: The Spiritual Experience of Viewing Great Films.

Some of the highlights are lists on these themes: forgiveness, the feminine, hope for the future, and wisdom & compassion. And then there is the top 20 list: beautiful films, old and new, American and foreign, they all make a statement about the enduring necessity of living connected to others, with love and grace, as difficult as that is much of the time.

From that list I watched three films that are new to me and I am glad I discovered them.
Departures, a Japanese film about a young man who answers a job ad for a company called “Departures”, thinking it is a travel agency, only to discover it is all about preparing people (both dead and alive) for the final journey. King of Masks, a Chinese film about an itinerant mask artist, who performs street theater in 1930s Szechwan, and the abandoned child he adopts so he can pass on his theatrical legacy. And, The Burmese Harp, the classic anti-war film made in Japan in 1956, about one man’s challenge to live humanely in evil circumstances.

Gasland

Gasland, a film about Hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," is a Sundance Film Festival Special Jury Prize Winner and was nominated for a 2011 Academy Award for Best Documentary.

In 2009, filmmaker Josh Fox learned that his home was on top of a rock formation containing natural gas. He was offered $100,000 to lease his land to undergo Halliburton’s controversial extraction process of hydraulic fracturing. He questioned the safety of fracking, and wanted to dig deeper, leading him an a cross-country, truth-seeking mission to answer some questions: Is the process safe? What are the effects on humans and the Earth? Fox learned fracking has caused everything from illness to flammable water. The film is an educational journey that is both disheartening and warm-hearted.

As part of AADL’s ongoing series of Films & Discussions, cosponsored by the University of Michigan Community Scholars Program, Gasland will be shown at the Downtown Ann Arbor District Library on Thursday, November 17, at 6 PM. A discussion led by the faculty and students of MCSP will follow the film. The event is recommended for grade nine to adult.

Film & Discussion: Freedom Riders

6:00 - 8:30 PM | Downtown Library | Thursday, October 27 | Grade 9-Adult

In 1961, more than 400 black and white Americans risked their lives--and many endured beatings and imprisonment, for simply traveling together on buses and trains as they journeyed through the Deep South. Deliberately violating Jim Crow laws, the Freedom Riders met with bitter racism and mob violence along the way, testing their belief in nonviolent activism.

Leading the post film discussion is Rev. Dr. Bernard Lafayette, Jr., who was a Freedom Rider. He is a longtime civil rights activist, organizer, and an authority on nonviolent social change. He co-founded the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1960, and he was a core leader of the civil rights movement in Nashville, TN, in 1960 and in Selma, AL, in 1965.

From award-winning filmmaker Stanley Nelson, the film features testimony from a cast of characters: the Riders themselves, state and federal government officials, and journalist who witnessed the Rides firsthand. This two-hour documentary is based on Raymond Arsenault's book Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice.

This event is co-sponsored by the University of Michigan Community Scholars' Program and the Ann Arbor District Library.

Film & Discussion: Telling Amy's Story

Monday October 24, 2011: 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm -- Downtown Library: Multi-Purpose Room

In observance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, AADL and SafeHouse Center present a special screening of the award-winning documentary Telling Amy's Story.

The film, hosted by actress and advocate Mariska Hargitay and told by Detective Deirdri Fishel, follows the timeline of a domestic violence homicide that occurred in 2001. The victim's parents and co-workers, law enforcement officers, and court personnel share their perspectives on what happened to Amy in the weeks, months, and years leading up to her death.

While the ending to Amy's story can never be changed, it is hoped that it's telling can change outcomes for the millions of victims, survivors, and loved ones affected by domestic violence every day. A discussion (led by SafeHouse Center) will follow the screening of the 43 minute film, which is not rated.

Film Screening & Discussion: City Dark: A Search for Night on a Planet that Never Sleeps

In this award-winning film, filmmaker and amateur astronomer Ian Cheney starts with the deceptively simple question, Do we need to see the stars? City Dark explores the disappearance of darkness and the myriad implications of light pollution, from the deaths of thousands of animals disoriented by city lights to humanity's more abstract disconnect from the wonder of the cosmos hidden from view behind the orange haze of its cities.

In this thoughtful film, Cheney passes over both environmental rants and nostalgic pleas to engage us in a more meditative reflection on our relationship with the night sky with stunning astrophotography and a cast of eclectic scientists, philosophers, historians and lighting designers.

The University Lowbrow Astronomers are co-sponsoring this screening and members of the group will be on hand to answer questions following the film.

City Dark | Tuesday, October 11 | 6:30 p.m. | Downtown Library Multi-Purpose Room

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