Monday, January 30, 2012

for those i cant hold

The weight of grief and chaos is palpable...the goodness of my heart aches with the cracking heartache captured across telephone wires and fiber-optics. I understand the loss and accompanying depression, the desperation that comes with being alone in the gauntlet thrown down by the school of hard knocks. Yet I can't hold this, I can't hold this aching breaking you on the other end of the line. Full up here on the unintended blood suckers who are so broken they leech off others in their attempts to survive the tsunami like waves. There are those whom I am willing to wade into the depths of the ocean's darkness with and those for whom it's another's deep ended journey. Stability is my shallow cord and I don't have enough of it to offer you. Yes it's true I have played the savior at times, badly poorly and ineffectively mind you, but in two minutes of conversation I know I have nothing to offer that pain. What I have to give is for another, I am not noble or self less enough to ask for absolutely nothing in return to give like Mother Teresa in utter abundance. No, I do require a cost of some kind and that's a toll that you are unable to pay. Yours are not tears or shutters that I can hold. My body is unwilling to be offered as a means of distraction and care to your ache. This is not a relationship that will go beyond a phone call...I do not wish to try and hold grace in  my naked attachments. For some I would offer body and heart as a balm for restoration and hope but you are not him and so I must go.


cinematic ghosts

I watched you on a movie screen tonight in a crowded theatre, they even got the soundtrack and self centered despair tempered with guilt and regret right. It wasn't you it was an actor playing a character...but there were moments when I swear to God I saw you. Stalked via art and grief and life, I start to wonder when the tears and the shaking will stop. That weighty realization that I might have fallen in love, pulls down like a millstone dragging me into an uncharted ocean. What I want is impossible, stupid and foolish. The wagon is filled with voices all saying something different, calling out various futures for my little life. Yet all that I see is images snapshots of you, cinematic and real. They haunt and inspire me and offer a cathartic space to process.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Sundance reflections day 1

I am still shocked that currently I am sitting in a pub in Park City, Utah attending the Sundance film festival. Being here at this event has been something I have dreamed of for years, given the fact that it is one of the central spaces for film. To some extent it is like entering a Mecca of film culture, like entering the Sistine Chapel or the Tate or the Louve Galleries, or the Mormon Temple down the hill in Salt Lake. There is this are of reverence and awe that happens when one finds them self in a space of inspiration and encounter with the divine. Part of me is so enraptured with the whole sense of the place that I want to burst into tears and make my mark. Another part of me just wants to sit back and watch it all happen, smoke my cigarettes have a drink and wait for some beautiful person to walk by or some serendipitous encounter to take place. I have that same mealy little voice battling back and forth saying "how the fuck did you get here (what makes you so damned special)" and "you need to get out there, take the city by storm, run wild in the streets, get into some star-studded party, and make your mark on this city". So instead I sit here for a bit of reflexion and thoughtfulness before going wild. How often are we offered chances of a lifetime and get to caught up in the chaos and over-thinking in turn failing to really experience the moments being offered. I find that there is the subtle disappointment that is worming it's way into my perception of this event. But I think that if I can stay in the moment it will die off and loose the power it's trying to gain. Maybe that is the key to life living fully into each little moment of our stupid little lives to paraphrase a previous Sundance film (American Beauty) and in that we catch the wonder of a whole life because it is not longer about pushing through but engaging with what is offered. Seeing God as the goodness in each moment instead of that which condemns and brings destruction.

Blessing and opportunity are swirling around me like the snow that came here two days ago. I'm so saturated in the abundance that I can't see the forest for the trees. To be given over the last year and a half so many things that I had dreamed and hoped and thought to be impossible, and here I stand in the evidence of this not believing that all the other dreams and hopes and impossibilities can happen. Yes if I choose to work for it I can come back here to this place of film wonderment with an entry. Traveling and creating and telling stories IS the path not the hoped for path of my little life. I am encased in the arms of love not hidden outside it's reach. Perspective shifts are running at me full force and I am here to open my arms to their transforming place.

Monday, January 23, 2012

shatters

my heart it keeps breaking over and over and over again...into little shards of a thing. just when i think it can't be broken anymore empathy wields compassion like a battering ram and chink another crack in my heart. it's the child who's so fried from adult things way beyond their pay scale that they cannot understand play anymore, the depth in which poverty hits shatteringly taking lives that could have been easily saved with clean water and good food, the horrific acts that pour out of one who's fists only have the capacity to hold hatred and abuse, the acts of passive violence and active war that quickly and slowly poison the person body and soul and the damnedness of my own souls willful wantings. it's the looking at those you can't save but desperately want to, watching friends fall down the rabbit hole and wondering if they'll leave the looking glass in one piece. it breaks when i look into his eyes and hope that i was something more that what i think i might have been...the means to getting over another nothing more than a quick distraction. 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

old lovers muse

old lovers hold a pieve of me broken away as is the way. i in turn hold a part of them, dear to my heart brought out in a moment to remember them. a different conduit for each catches me off guard at the oddest times and spaces, a smell, a chord, a touch, a word...transports my heart back in space and time when there was still a we and I was a beautiful things to behold. as i jolt back in the present reality my tender need aches. i want to be desired and wanted and new all over again. a creature mysterious and unknown. the gypsy lover who walked away first the johnanna of visions and unforgetability. i want to be that woman he could never forget who's power rolls around in his heart and mind, not the shadowed creature who is easily forgotten and left behind like the cracking and greying of old photographs hidden under the bed's back corner. the perpetual muse and long lost lover, goddess of all imagined desire who still thirty years later sets you heart and stomach aflutter with desire.


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

jealous of..

i've decided right now at the witching hours of the night that i no longer want to be jealous of anyone else's life. instead i want to create for myself out of sweat and connections and hard work and tender love a life that i would be jealous of. one that is filled with train travels and jet flights and cameras and music and lover(s) and untradable experiences over many wild nights. no more hours spent sitting and wishing, no long allowing the simple to become complicated. i choose now to let boldness and adventure and risk scatter my path in lue of fear, paralyzation and the impossible. come what may but in my daily breaths i will run wild for life and freedom and the unrealized potential of days and nights as yet explored and discovered.



Thursday, January 05, 2012

Of a more theological/ social justice bent

So apparently I am on a roll posting papers and things of that nature here...granted I have written several things that I am very proud of but on the whole I kind of just write, turn the paper in and then forget about it. This is a paper I wrote last year dialoguing a brand of feminist theology called "table theology" with the theology of the untouchable class of India, called Dalits. Women of this class are marginalized three times over given their gender, status, and poverty level.  The account that starts this paper I read several years ago while doing research for a marginalized theology class...the power of these women's grace and nonviolent response to dehumanizing violence and injustice flooded me. This image is what the physical abuse looks like for women of the Dalit class. Here are a few links to places that are working to end human trafficking and abuse.

www.notforsalecampaign.com
www.dalitnetwork.org
www.love146.org
www.clueca.org (which is clergy and laity for economic justice)





Theology from the Margins:
Dalit Feminist Theology & Feminist Table Theology

In July of 1985 at Karamchedu village, nine Christian dalit men were brutally murdered by the landlords. The Christian dalit women who were the mothers, wives, and sisters of these victims courageously started to lead the movement against the landlords from Chirala Church compound. When Mrs. Anne Grace Bai, a community organizer of RICE, Guntar, met with them to discover their future plans, they said in one voice, “How can we go back to Karamchedu and face the ryots who, regardless of our own employers, fell upon us, like beast, molested and humiliated us. We will not go back to our home stained by our blood and teardrops. We have been buried alive, and we will continue to shout from our living tombs. We will go everywhere, and speak to anyone and do everything to help our dalits. We have nothing more to fear.” At every stage of their struggle they prayed to God and continued their struggle because they believe that he will liberate them.[1]

           
                        People on the margins often suffer many instances of abuse and violence because they do not have power or voice within their communities. It is these same marginalized people that Christ speaks of taking care of them being care for God in Matthew 25:34-45, they are the poor, sick, and needy.  Matthew 25 is one of many passages of scripture where God calls for justice and provision for those who are at the margins of society another example is Micah 6:8 which speaks to the idea that goodness and Godliness are embodies in the actions of justice, mercy, and humility. Yet how does one who is marginalized call for justice or understand God’s tangible freedom when the Christian community is constructed in a manner which silences or eliminates their voice and at times is in collusion with the other powers, which seek to marginalize them? This is one of  the questions posed by theologians from the Dalit people of India and feminist theologians. What does the community of God look like when it is taking those who are on the edges or even outside the community and opens up space for their voices to be central and heard in such a way that the community is transformed from it’s overtones of abuse to a place of refuge? These are the questions that this paper will seek to address from the theologies of Dalit feminism and feminist table theology,[2] in addition the author will offer insights as to where table theology’s biblical engagement and understanding of marginalized leadership is present with in the Dalit context. First the backgrounds of these two theologies and people will be addressed moving into the central questions of this paper.
The Dalit people are the untouchables in India’s caste system. They go by many names. This is a list of several of the most popular or well-known names for them; the untouchables or untouchable caste (ashprush), Outcasts, Dalit (which means broken people),  Slumdogs, Harijan (the name given to them by Gandhi meaning Children of God), and officially these people are known as Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes by the India constitution.  In the caste/class socio-political system they are seen as impure, in part because of their low status and the fact that they often took on the jobs no one else would do with in the culture which were ritually unclean positions such as tanners, butchers, and other positions that deal with waste this leads to a lack in opportunities in all spheres of life as a result the Dalit people are often uneducated, poor, and abused.  
“As an outcaste community within Hindu society, Dalit’s have been perceived as “ontologically separate” from all other humans, excluded from relationship with the divine. The Dalit struggle is the struggle of an untouchable, dehumanized people made strangers in their native soil, deprived of personal dignity and basic human rights.”[3]
As the above quote speaks to, they are treated as subhuman lepers and expected to be the servant/slaves for the rest of the culture.  These people make up approximately 16%, 200 million people, of the countries total population.[4]
The women of the Dalit community are considered three times Dalit or marginalized because of their poverty, caste, and gender. Often they are referred to as the “Dalits among the Dalits.”[5]  These women not only suffer the stigmatism and poverty of their cultural status as well as the subordination because of their gender to the men in their families and culture[6] but are also “targeted for sexual and physical abuse.”[7]  Even this abuse is held against these women, in her poem “Dalit Women-Society’s Firewood” Theresamma speaks to the fact if these women “cannot stand” their husband’s touch then they are abused by their husband.[8]  In addition Dalit women have “taken on the burden for continuing caste-based occupations and maintenance of the household.”[9] Often they support the whole family on whatever they can manage to earn. Many of the people of the Dalit community have found the Christian faith to be a place of life in contrast to their experience with in their culture. Yet especially for the Dalit women even the Christian church as it has been a place of hope still holds them in a submissive position, for while they are “the most regular in terms of church attendance and in most cases the majority of church members, they are not adequately represented in administrative bodies and are denied full participation.”[10]  From every angle of the society and culture these women are mistreated and harmed.
In contrast Feminist Table theology came out of a class taught and created at Yale Divinity School in the spring of 1987 by Letty Russell in dialogue with Katie Cannon, Associate Professor of Ethics at Episcopal Divinity School and Visiting Professor at Yale Divinity School and  five of their students coming from various racial background who were teaching assistants and small group leaders.[11]  The class was called Feminist Theology in Third World Perspective it sought to “help participants own up to their divisions of sex, race, class, sexual orientation, language, and nationality as they joined in the search for global feminist theologies.”[12] It was through the structure and engagement of this community that this theological and leadership model was created.  The basic premise of table theology and leadership is that “leaders are made for the people and not people for leaders”[13] meaning that the leadership of the community should come from the needs of the people and be focused on serving the community instead of seeking for elitist power and control.  It takes those who are at the margins or are the silenced voices of the community and gives privilege to their hermeneutical lens.[14] The ideas of this theology came out of Russell’s diverse experience with in Christian Education, Ministry, and life experience.  Letty Russell was a pioneer for women in ministry, she was one of the first women to be accepted and graduate from Harvard Divinity School in the 1950’s, she also was one of the first women to be ordained for ministry in the United Presbyterian Church leading the East Harlem Protestant Parish from 1952-1968,  she sat on the World Council of Churches Faith and Order Commission from 1975-1983, and taught Yale Divinity School from 1974-2001 and continued as a visiting professor until her death in 2007.[15] Part of the inspiration for this kind of leadership model came out of  Russell’s own experience as a pastor in Harlem, she says in Church in the Round that,
“one year in the early 1970’s we decide to create a sanctuary that in itself symbolized our connection to one another as a family that gathered across racial lines…that summer we decided to leave the benches “in the round” and enjoyed the chance to worship while sitting only a few feet from one another. Having eliminated both the back pews and the “high alter and pulpit,” we created a huge round table by cutting the largest piece of plywood we could find and placing this circle on the old rectangular table base…by the time the second fall had arrived, the new tradition had stuck and was considerably reinforced when no one wanted to help moved the pews back! Thus was born a round table that symbolized our table talk and table sharing as we gathered in community.”[16]
Once again the idea being that of shared leadership and equality with in the community. There needs to be a willingness to listen and learn from the situation and perspective of those who are at the margins.  This means that creative and diverse means of theological engagement need to be utilized in the community as they look at Biblical dialogue and study. For communities like the Dalit, this kind of creative engagement and theological work is vital since many of the women are illiterate,  come from an oral tradition, and live in circumstances that are very different from many traditional Christian communities.
            Dalit women, as already mentioned in this paper stuffer many layers of oppression because of their gender, class, and poverty.  As their life experiences interact with the story of the Gospel and other stories of the Biblical text, they find meaning by placing themselves into the story as a means of interpretation. This kind of interaction with the biblical text is also utilized with in feminist theological model.  Take for instance the story of  Christ’s interaction with the Samaritan women in John 4:4-44, in the chapter “Giving Voice to Spiritual Silence Through Feminist Reconstructions” in the book Concerns of Women: An Indian Theological Response, Pushpa Joseph retells this Biblical text in light of the suffering of a Dalit woman.  The tale starts with the woman returning to her hut from gathering water, she is then raped and abuse by her landlord, this leads to her bearing a child and being forced into a relationship with this man who in turn sells her body to others to earn money for himself. Her journey to freedom begins when the abuser becomes sick and dies, it is at this point that the woman becomes involved with a community of Christians where the women are leading the community. Through this group she begins to learn about Jesus and faith. During one of the meetings she has a spiritual vision of being at a well and meeting Christ. He asks her for a drink of water and she struggles with this request.
“I heard the voice again, ‘Give me a drink.’ At that moment I knew, I knew I heard it. I heard water. Yes, water, meandering, rushing forth, in gurgles and spurts. There it was welling up. But where on earth, Oh, My, Where on earth is the source? And in my deep reverie I heard it say again, ‘Give me a drink.’ I screamed, ‘Why would you for goodness sake draw it yourself? What on earth is the matter’ I roared louder. ‘There is the rope and the bucket, it is all there. What the hell are you asking me for? I am only a prostitute. A spoilt woman at the fringes.’
‘From your heart shall living water flow.’ I heard those words. I couldn’t believe it. From my heart shall flow living water? Yes, I heard it again - the rippling and burble of water. Where from?            And yet that was the moment when I knew it was there, coming from within me, from myself. I knew it in a way I had not known before. I was not spoilt. I never can be…’We aren’t spoilt. We are whole human beings too.’…From then on I visited many women who had ended up in the flesh trade through no fault of their own. I spoke to them of my new found freedom. Slowly women started to believe. Believe in the fullness of life that welled up from within…’From the hearts of all men and women will flow steams and streams of living water.’”[17]
For the woman in this story, freedom from shame and circumstances was found in both the community of believers and through her spiritual encounter with the imagery of the Samaritan woman at the well. By placing herself in the position of the woman at the well she was able to find the truth of who she was. No longer was she bound to the naming she received because of her caste and subsequent experiences. As she discovers her own freedom she is able to also share it with others who have been suffering abuse and marginalization. Much like the woman in the biblical account, the woman of this story finds that her freedom sends her to tell and share what she has experienced with others in her community of marginalized people offering them freedom as well.
Creative and dynamic exegetical engagement is what Letty Russell advocates for with the idea of those on the margins having hermeneutical privilege. In part because through the engagement of the marginalized with the biblical text, overlooked and missed elements of the text are flushed out and a broader and more robust understanding of what is being said in the Biblical text is offered to the community.  Often the typical means of biblical interpretation have been situated in the context of church tradition and history, in turn the interpretation has been created by those in power affecting the understanding of biblical meaning in those traditions and histories. What is therefore perceived as a universal understanding or reading of the Biblical text is actually, at least in part, a function or factor of the given culture and cultural understanding in which the tradition or interpretation came out of. Therefore for as Letty Russell says, “Experience has shown those who have little voice in shaping the tradition that such universal statements reflect the understanding of reality experienced by those with the power and knowledge to name that reality.”[18]  Going back to the text of the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4 Joseph points out through the hermeneutic of suspicion that the woman, who in traditional interpretations has been seen as a whore or loose woman because of the five marriages,  was un able to divorce any of these men given the Jewish divorce laws present in the Gospel period  and therefore there is more to be understood about her situation.[19]  Joseph by taking the social context of the period into account finds alternative reasons for the Samaritan woman’s situation because the traditional means of interpretation have disregarded her experience as a woman because it was not their own.   For the Dalit women “theologizing and reading of scripture”[20] starts “from the experience of a denied humanity”[21] this means that when it comes to interpretation of scripture it’s meaning and use must be closely connected to the community in “mutual relationship between community and scripture.” Therefore  readings of scripture which do not take into account the daily situation and context in which the readers, in this case Dalit women, are faced with are to be treated with suspicion and creatively reinterpreted. This is because if the biblical text is used as means to uphold and support their subjection then it looses the power of freedom and shalom spoken within it’s central message.  Given the class/caste system and paradoxical view of women present in Indian culture this has often been the experience of women in all castes when coming to the biblical text. 
“Indian Christian women defend the Bible as a source of inspiration for liberation in the past and in the present. They declare that as long as such inspiration is found within it, the Bible must not be discarded…they do not fail to notice the oppression and sin that they have encountered in Christian institutions and traditions. Deeply conscious that both Christian institutions and Christian theology operate within a sexist framework and language they attempt to reconceptualize and transform Christian theology  and biblical interpretation. “ [22]
Another way in which Dalit people and Dalit theological work specifically reconceptualizes the structures of abuse and power both in the Christian community and within the cultural setting is by holding up truth both Biblical and general truth as a means to confront the prejudice and bias which has led to their abuse and harm. In her interpretation of Christ’s dialogue with the Syrophoenician woman found in Mark 7, Dalit theologian Surekha Nelavala, speaks about her own marginalization and her mother’s brave rebuke of prejudice and the contrast between her engagement and the scriptural story,
“However, my mother told him, ‘You are calling us untouchables, the dirty pigs, but each grain of rice that you are eating is touched and processed by us only.’…Although the owner (of the house they were trying to rent) could see the rationale in my mother’s argument, he did not risk changing his attitude…in this experience I can see many similarities and also significant differences to the story of the Syrophoenician woman. The Dalit woman is unclean by her caste and birth; the Syrophoenician woman is unclean because she is Gentile, and her relation to a daughter with unclean spirit could double the stigma. Both approached the men politely, and both were humiliated and rejected. But the Dalit woman was rejected despite arguing her case, where as the Syrophoenician woman was offered what she sough in the end.[23]
Nelevala further talks about the contrast between the biblical story and her own in regard to the willingness of the hearer to change their perspective. In her experience even the mirroring of the flawed logic did not change the landlord’s perspective, where as in the biblical account the Syrophoenician woman’s persistent dialogue and challenge to Christ did change his perspective. Nelevala goes on to tell another story of a Dalit woman whose “indirect resistance”[24] does change the person in power’s perspective and engagement with her and her daughter. The hope that is seen through this specific Biblical text for the Dalit community is that by persistent and creative engagement that reveals the flaws in the logic of oppression, the oppressor will face their own biased view and seek like Christ to change their perspective. Table theology also can be used to create structures and forms of exegetical engagement that opens space for this kind of creative engagement.
            In Conclusion, Table theology and Dalit theology understand that the freedom, which is offered in the Bible, is only freedom when it is for the whole community.  When a Christian community holds to structures of leadership or biblical interpretation that isolate the marginalized and voiceless people of their community it is no longer holding to the central meaning message of love, acceptance, and freedom of the Christian faith. Galatians 5:1 says “It is for freedom that Christ set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by the yoke of slavery.”[25] In both of these theological understandings the freedom of Christ is both a tangible freedom and a spiritual freedom. This freedom comes through creative means of engagement with structures of power and oppression, even those in the Christian Church. Story, witness, and the lives of the community become central ways to read the biblical text as well as to oppose systems of power. The quote at the beginning of this paper was the first experience the author had with the Dalit people’s story. The powerful image of “living tombs” and these brave women seeking justice for themselves and on behalf of those whom they had suffered abuse from was incredibly powerful image of the transformative power of faith in the practical experience of marginalization and abuse. Also it is a brave and beautiful means to confront oppression by raising witness in voice and body.






[1] Devi, Swarnalatha, “The Struggle of Dalit Christian Women in India”, Feminist Theology from the Third World: A Reader, (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1994), pg 135
[2] Feminist table theology is also referred to as church in the round or theology in the round so for the purposes of this paper all three terms will be used to describe this theological lens.
[3] Sathianathan Clarke, Interview with Dr. James Massey and M. Azariah, as quoted by Bird, Adrian,  M.M. Thomas and Dalit Theology, pg 30
[4] Grey, Mary, “Dalit Women and the Struggle for Justice in a World of Global Capitalism” Feminist Theology: The Journal of the Britain & Ireland School of Feminist Theology, p127
[5] Melanchthon, Monica Jyotsna, “Dalit Women and the Bible: Hermeneutical and Methodological Reflections” Hope Abundant: Third World and Indigenous Women’s Theology, pg 107
[6] Melanchthon, pg 107
[7] Melanchthon, pg 107
[8] Theresamma, Dalit Women- Society’s Firewood” as quoted by Melanchthon, Monica pg 106
[9] Melanchthon, pg 107
[10] Melachthon, pg 110
[11] Russell, Letty, “From Garden to Table” in Inheriting Our Mother’s Gardens: Feminist Theology in Third World Perspective, pg 151
[12] Russell, Letty, “From Garden to Table”, pg 151
[13] Russell, Letty, Church in the Round: Feminist Interpretation of The Church, pg 67
[14] Russell, “From Garden to Table”, pg 151
[15] “Letty Russell dies at 77”, News From the National Council of Churches, www.ncccusa.org/news/070716lettyrussell.html
[16] Russell, Letty, Church in the Round, pg 20
[17] Joseph, Pushpa, “Giving Voice to Scriptural Silences Through Feminists Reconstructions”, pg 66-67
[18] Russell, Church in the Round, pg 33
[19] Joseph, pg 58
[20] Melachthon, pg 111
[21] Melachthon, pg 111
[22] Joseph, pg 42
[23] Nelavala, Surekha, “A Dalit Feminist Reading of Mark 7:24-31”, Expository Times 118 (2, 2006), pg 66
[24] Nelavala, pg 66-67
[25] Gal. 5:1 NIV

Broken English (Film Review)



In light of posting previous writing here is the review I wrote via The Other Journal (which my brother is one of the film editors for...go Ian!) www.theotherjournal.com, a few years ago. It's my take on the film Broken English... It was again one of those movies that just stuck with me. For days I was locked in attempts to understand the character and why it mattered to me.




A Beautiful Messy Journey: Entering Into Reality with Broken English


 Review: Broken English, Directed by Zoë Cassavetes, Magnolia Home Entertainment, 2007. 98 minutes.

Why is it that as we grow older and stronger
The road signs point us adrift and make us afraid
Saying, "You never can win," "Watch your back," "Where's your husband?"
Oh I don't like the signs that the sign makers made.
So I'm going to steal out with my paint and my brushes
I'll change the directions, I'll hit every street
It's the Tinseltown scandal, the Robin Hood vandal
She goes out and steals the King's English
And in the morning you wake up and the signs point to you

They say,
"I'm so glad that you finally made it here,"
"You thought nobody cared, but I did, I could tell,"
And "This is your year," and "It always starts here,"
And oh, "You're aging well."[i]

 The life of a single woman is not the glamorous and sexy life portrayed in shows like HBO’s Sex and the City[ii] or weekly sitcoms like the CW’s Girlfriends. In images like this the idea of someone choosing to break up with their girlfriend via post-it note is a laughable and quirky plot invention and not the dehumanizing and depressing experience that this would be in a real relationship.

As a single woman in my late twenties, these small and large screen depictions of the single life remind me of someone’s deranged fantasy. Single life is an awkward balance of good and bad that doesn’t play out in a neat comedic package.  Although I have to say that, with one exception, I seem to attract the craziest men that Seattle has to offer, but that is fodder for another article. And while my group of girlfriends does go out for the occasional martini and girl-talk nights, it looks nothing like the perfectly clothed and quaffed outings of Sex and the City. Usually we end up at someone’s house drinking Chuck Shaw wine and bemoaning the men or the lack of men in our lives.
Zoë Cassavetes' film Broken English offers a different vision of what it’s like to be a single woman than these glitzy portrayals, through the character of Nora Wilder (Parker Posey). Nora suffers from real problems and Cassavetes presents them in a beautiful but down-to-earth manner. Some of the most intriguing and compelling moments in the film are when Nora is completely broken. These moments stand out because of the absolute nakedness in which they are presented. Nora is not Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City. When she is in the midst of a breakdown, she looks the part, as if the next straw will break the camel’s back and yet still you have to walk down a public street.
Cassavetes does not glorify or sugar coat the chaos of being a single woman, but depicts both its beauty and humanity. For me one of the most heart-breaking scenes takes place the morning after Nora has gone out with Nick Gable (Justin Theroux), who is one of the guests she is responsible for as part of her position as hospitality director for a New York hotel. She wakes up hung over, at work, in bed with a man she knows is more trouble than he is worth. It is her “oh shit” moment, yet what stuck me about it beyond the artistic integrity and beauty of the scene was the sorrowful realization that all the women I know have been in that place in some form or another. Cassavetes does such a great job of displaying the reality of this moment, the self-hatred and frustration that comes with the morning after hangover.  Sitting in the dark theatre watching powerful scenes like this one I found that I was being offered an honest and cathartic experience. In spite of the differences between Nora and myself, I knew the emotions and feelings that were being evoked. She creates a space to enter into our own heartache and brokenness. By entering into Nora’s journey to understand herself, Cassavetes offers a new way of journeying. It is one of honesty and learning to value one’s self. Another wonderful segment of the film clearly portrays this change in Nora. She has flown with her best friend Audrey (Dre de Matteo) to Paris to find Julian (Melvin Poupaud). Julian is the kind and tender French man, hence the title because of the miscommunications between the two of them, who enters Nora’s life just at the point when she is completely given up on men. When they first meet Nora is really not ready to trust that Julian could see value her because she still doesn’t believe that she has any value herself. He offers her the chance to enter into a different reality, go with him to Paris, yet she declines. As Nora starts to see the beautiful and valuable woman that she is, she comes to a place where she is willing to take a risk and ends up in Paris. Because of a mix up she is unable to find Julian and is left with the decision to enter into a journey of exploring Paris and herself or leave with Audrey and go back to the way she was. Nora chooses to stay. As she wanders around the city, Cassavetes creates scenes with beautiful images of freedom and wonder. The most telling part of this segment of Nora’s journey is when she meets a man in a gallery who invites her out with some friends for drinks. Nora goes but unlike earlier in the film she values herself enough to leave. Learning to honor and value oneself is one of the biggest elements missing with most of the women I know, as well as my self, we have been conditioned to find our value in others and their views of who we are instead of ourselves. Several of my dearest girlfriends are rarely seen for who they are, but instead they are valued only for their external beauty. Constantly they have men who want to own or possess them, not encounter who they are at the heart of their personhood. So much of Nora in the beginning part of the film characterizes these aspects of being women. We are beautiful and messy human beings with much to offer to others if only they and we are open to seeing the wholeness of the person. So often the reality of this precarious dance of humanity is not seen or wanted instead, it is traded for an idealized version. This happens both in relationships and portrayals of relationships.
Nora is a beautiful mess like the rest of us. By watching her struggle I am reminded that we all struggle with the discrepancy between our desires, ideas of what we want life to be, and the reality of where we are at currently. It is in the midst of these contrasting elements that we live most of our lives, lives of silent desperation, as Virginia Woolfe would say. This desperation comes from not living into the fullness of who we are and where we are.
 So often the way in which women especially, their neurotic and pathological elements, are portrayed in film is as either cute and glamorous or psychotic and crazy. There are very few films and TV shows today that reveal women in a normal light. For an example of this negative portrayal of women take the American remake of the Italian film L’Ultimo bacio (One Last Kiss), 2006’s The Last Kiss staring Zack Braff. While the male characters in this film are portrayed in the complexities of humanity, all of the female come off as caricature.  Blythe Danner’s character is the only one who possibly escapes this fate. I found it so frustrating to watch as these women were all played as documental stereotypes; the crazy demanding wife, the seemingly nice and cool with whatever yet really crazy knife-welding girlfriend, and the young seductress who when it comes down to it wants a relationship in spite of her words to the contrary. While there are women who are mirrored in these characters, there is really no resemblance to any of the women I know. It is no wonder that interpersonal dynamics between men and women get so messy with images like these proliferating in our cultural thought. The most frustrating thing about many of the films created around the topic of relationships, is that so often in the development of the story there is so little space for both men and women to be beautiful and flawed human beings stumbling around trying to be in relationship with each other. It’s the subtleties of authentic relationships and people that make Broken English such a powerful film.
What is delightfully refreshing in Broken English and the films of several other female writer/directors is that life in all of its beauty and humanity is offered to the viewer in a realistic yet honoring manner. Cassavetes joins the ranks of female filmmakers like Nicole Holofcener, Mira Nair, and Deepa Mehta who bring real and challenging stories that are subtle yet beautiful in their portrayals of the life, hardships, and specific issues that face women in relationships. Nora is not written off so easily as an idealized or deranged image of womanhood reminding us that women are not just the false idols we are used to seeing on screen. Most women I know struggle with the very same self-hatred and depression that is portrayed in Nora. Either they are the women who meet men but always the wrong ones or the women who never meet anyone. They are not crazy or glitzy but real, incredible, and striking women who struggle with the overwhelming pressure to be something else instead of being allowed the freedom to be themselves. "Sometimes in life you feel so much pain, and all this stuff is available to you and kind of socially acceptable to do, so you completely overmedicate yourself just so you can tune out for five minutes from the constant buzzing of nightmare feelings in yourself."[iii] It is these buzzing nightmare feelings, as Cassavetes describes it, as well as the beautiful pieces that make a whole, lovely, and flawed human being. Allowing yourself to be human takes a lot of courage, as a woman one must forage new paths and write new signs like the Dar Williams’ quote at the beginning of this review speaks of doing. Sometimes it is easier to just self-medicate, at least for a while. Yet at some point one has to choose either self-medication to avoid facing the heartbreak of continually desiring more, or like Nora choose to find your own path and yourself. This is the importance and value of a film like Broken English - that we all (especially women) are free to choose a different path, one where we are released to be our messy and wonderful selves.














[i] Williams, Dar, “Your Ageing Well” The Honesty Room, Burning Fields Music, 1993
[ii] The author would like to remind the reader that while it does tend towards shallow and surface topics, Sex and the City does, by its season finale in 2004, grow into a pop-cultural icon that offers the viewer the value and need of strong relationships between women friends, but in regard to men, sex and romantic relationships it really is a false image.
[iii] Lewis, Amanda, quoting Zoë Cassavetes in, “Language of The Wounded”, Washington Times, 7/20/2007, http://washingtontimes.com/article/20070720/ENTERTAINMENT/107200008/1007/entertainment

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Graduate Paper...Secretary and Ecclesiastes


Along time ago when I was in graduate school for the first time my dear friend Mike used to post his papers on his blog after he finished them...I always liked that idea but never felt that what I had written was "good" enough to be posted. Ironic given the fact that many times I post total randomness on here. Anyway back to Mike and his posting of papers...this evening as I was finishing my first assignment of the quarter (see previous post it's the second half) I decided that I would pull a Mike and post a paper or two. In light of that if you want to see how one can dialogue a film about SM and the biblical book of Ecclesiastes or if you're just curious what a graduate paper looks like see below. In all it's footnotes and glory here's my final paper from last quarter...


                                     








                        Redemption and Healing in the Shadowed Spaces:
                                    Secretary and Ecclesiastes in Dialogue



What has the power to transform life, to create meaning out of chaos and hope out of despair? In the case of the film “Secretary” by Steven Shainberg redemption comes in the form of expressing dark desires and love. The basic story of this film is one of relationship and birth.
Lee Holloway, the main character is a young woman caught in the triangulation of dysfunctional family dynamics. Lee, the youngest child of a family broken by alcoholism and abuse, uses cutting and self harm as a means to express her lack of control in the world around her. When we first meet Lee she has just been released from a mental institution where she had been because of an incident of cutting that went to deep. The institution is a place where things made sense and had structure. This place offered some kind of order that Lee’s home did not have.  She is childlike and guarded with the outlook of a seventh grader, the age she was when she began cutting.  The day of Lee’s release is the day of her sister’s wedding and all the family chaos is on display, almost immediately Lee goes back to the siren’s call of self-harm.  Even though she goes back to cutting Lee is seen taking a typing class and beginning to look for a job, she is seeking something to give her stability and meaning.  Going out one night to dispose of her stash of self-mutilation instruments, Lee sees an ad in the newspaper for a secretary. The next day, during a rainstorm, she goes to the law office of E. Edward Grey and is hired for the job. As Lee enters the office to apply for the job, she encounters the former secretary leaving crying holding severance pay in her mouth.  With this, her first job, Lee begins a process of growing from a preteen mentality to a woman fully aware of who she is and what she wants in relationships and life. At the beginning of her employment Lee begins a relationship with Peter, a friend from high school. Peter thinks that he understands Lee but doesn’t really take the time to understand her. Instead from the beginning of their interactions he is juxtaposing his image of who he wants her to be on to Lee. He becomes yet another person who wants Lee to be what they want her to be.  Only Edward is able to see the pain and chaos sitting just below the surface of Lee’s mousy exterior. Early on in their relationship Edward observes Lee cutting as well as seeing the evidence of Lee’s self mutilation. Unlike the other people in her life who express a desire for her to be “ok” but are unable to actually engage or help Lee transition away from cutting, Edward offers not only his concern but also permission for her to break her co-dependency and have choice and self-agency. He is the one person who is able to accurately describe how and why she cuts.     
Edward: “Why do you cut yourself, Lee? Is it that sometimes the pain inside has come to the surface, and when you see evidence of the pain inside you finally know you’re really here? Then, when you watch the wound heal, it’s comforting…isn’t it? [1]

In her relationship with Edward, Lee shifts from abusive relationships to one that includes consent and pleasurable pain. No longer is she forced to endure the pain of others taking it into herself and then exorcising it via self-inflicted harm but rather Lee is able to choose intimacy that has both pleasure and pain. It is this intimacy and choice, which in the end gives Lee the strength to fight for Edward and their relationship.
            Director, Steven Shainberg, utilizes several cinematic elements to highlight Lee’s shifting transition in this film. The elements I will address here are; color and design motifs, Lee’s costume pieces, and the over all look of the film.   As stated previously in this paper, Lee begins her journey with the visage and emotional status of a preteen.  From her room to the containers she keeps her cutting paraphernalia in to some of the instruments she uses in her cutting everything about Lee hints to an adolescent aura. It’s hearts, cutesy Lisa Frank style designs, flowy gauze, and baby soft pinks, blues and light purples. Lee’s room is frozen in time filled with images of the idealized girlhood desires for princess-like beauty, the fantasy world that one can escape and dream away the abusive reality outside it’s walls.
When going to apply for the job with Edward, Lee is covered head to toe in shades of lavender. This color is a muddied purple which when used as an accent color enhances more vivid colors. Yet as a stand -alone color lavender is flat and mousy, the pigmented representation of Lee’s present self.  She is contrasted to the lush and inviting color pallet of Edward’s office. The décor of which is a fusion of warmth and linear strength.  Where Lee’s environment is a child-like fantasy space Edward’s office is solidly adult. All of the pieces and elements of which it is comprised of have an exotic, fantasy inducing, distressed beauty. There are also hints to the darker nature of Edward’s character and desires in the décor. For example the shadowy hallway that leads to his office. The office is hidden behind a strong and ancient looking door and guarded by two mystical statues giving it a sense of focus and mystery.   Edward’s conflicted nature is also visioned in this hallway through the lighting and incorporation of living and flourishing foliage set up on the symmetrical shelving. This is revealed to be the place of honor for icons of his pleasure. In the development of their relationship this hallway houses the framed and marked letters that are icons of their growing relationship.  As Lee moves into herself, she begins to explore with color. In one scene in particular she applies baby-blue eye shadow to her lids in the manner of a young girl playing “make-up”. Soon her clothing and color choices are marked by bold vibrant colors, in place of the muddy lavender is a vivid and scaly textured vibrant royal purple. The lavender that was once her defining color is now used as it was meant to be, on the lids of her eyes emphasizing their beautiful vibrant blue.  The use of lavender also connects Lee to the orchids that Edward takes such tender care of.  Like his cultivation of the flowers, through their relationship Lee is being cultivated and grown into a treasure of unique beauty. The costuming choices for Lee consist of illusions to specific fashion periods and women’s power in those periods, mirroring Lee’s own growing empowerment. Initially the fashion has hints of 1950/60’s professional wear and her hairstyles are a fusion between youth and those time periods.  Her hair choices are childlike and youthful, including braids and buns worn with headbands and clips. Her clothing is long unflattering skirts, with heavy boxy sweaters, turtlenecks, and flat moccasin like shoes. In many ways she resembles women who are in a conservative religious group such as fundamental Latter Day Saints or Christians. The clothing is female but lacks femininity and sexuality. As she gains power and pride in this relationship and position Lee takes on the fashion of the 1970’s where women were first gaining power and entering into the working world as equals. Her outfits now consist of silky and soft blouses, tighter knee length skirts with hints of sexuality in a properly place slit, and slightly healed shoes. In her final incarnation Lee’s hair and clothing represent a soft yet powerful feminine look and indicate a woman who is secure and seductive. A vivid example of her coming into this is the contrasts of clothing in the masturbation scene where she is fantasizing about Edward and Peter. In the interactions with Edward she is dressed in sophisticated yet sexy outfits with her hair soft and flowing, with Peter on the other hand she is clothed in brown nerdy clothing her hair pulled tightly back all of which is de-void of a feminine sensuality and sexuality.  
For Lee, Edward represents the freedom to be her whole self and Peter is that which binds and smothers her. This is true of the camera angles when used for the two relationships, with Edward the camera shifts between wider shots and intimate close ups. Edward and his reactions to his and Lee’s relationship have a central focus in the shots. The camera fixates on Edward because he is the equal to Lee and the object of her desire.  In contrast most of the shots with Peter have a tight suffocating yet also distant feel and he is never the emphasis of the shot. Peter is never the center in any of the shot always hovering off to the side and usually turned towards Lee with her as the focus. This positioning of Peter stands out most clearly in the scenes where they are meeting his parents and the sex scene. In the scene with his parents Peter is physically pulled into him self and turned toward Lee. She is the focus of this interaction and her discomfort is seen through her facial expressions and the tight camera shots. During the sex scene between these two characters the focus is solely on Lee. The camera highlights her boredom and lack of engagement, barely catching Peter’s reaction. The absolute disconnection between the two characters is evident.  Lastly, because Shainberg’s intention with the story is to see the healing and redemptive qualities of this relationship, the over all look is warm and soft. The various elements create an inviting and nostalgic look. Where as many other films that include this type of relationship would be shot in such a manner that emphasizes the untraditional dynamics of S&M relationally, this film focuses more on the restorative relationship instead of the sexual proclivities.
Shainberg: It deals in the way in which sex, love and power are all inter-related and I was very interested in doing a love story that was different and that would deal with these kinds of issues but not in a creepy way or a dark way but in a way that had a sort of lightness and beauty to it. I don't think that there's anything odd, at all, about what they're doing. I think what while what they're doing is perhaps metaphorically bigger than the way many love relationships work in reality, that all relationships have these aspects.[2]

The biblical text of Ecclesiastes, or The Preacher, is a dialogue on finding purpose and meaning in life. The author, who claims to be King Solomon, has spent his life trying to understand the ways and means of life.  Like the two main characters in “Secretary”, the Preacher is searching for meaning through a variety of area. When Lee is first encountered in this film she shares the idea with the Preacher that “all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.” [3]  Nothing so far in her life has been able to offer meaning, it seems empty and void everyone around her seeks to fill their lives with constructs of meaning that have an empty center.  For the Preacher wisdom has not lead him to find meaning in life only to see greater pain and suffering (Ecclesiastes 1:18), this is true of Lee as well. Her wisdom and ability to see the truth of her parent’s abusive relationship and her father’s alcoholism contributes to her cutting and self-mutilation. As Edward identifies, for Lee cutting helps her feel alive, “sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of countenance the heart is made glad. “[4]  The Preacher understands like Lee that pain is a means through which one becomes aware of being alive.  Even as she move into a healthier expression of her self and life pain and pleasure continue to be part of how Lee understands the world around her. Life will forever be a balance between joy and sorrow, “for everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.”[5] In contrast Edward, for much of the movie, doesn’t understand that there might be a season and time for his darker passions a context in which they are safely expressed. He believes that they are an endless toiling appetite that can never be satisfied.[6] It is only through the determination of Lee’s love and fight for him that he is able to stop being afraid of their relationship. When he says to Lee “We can’t do this 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”[7] Edward expresses his underlying fear of this desire sexually and for Lee. He doesn’t yet understand that “two are better than one…for if they fall, one will lift up his fellow; but woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up.”[8] Together Edward and Lee are able to find happiness, balance, and meaning in their lives. This is most evident in the scene where he bathes her and they lay down on the bed of grass. Finally these two characters are naked and unashamed before each other totally accepting of the whole person. Scars and darkness are kissed and held by the beloved.  It is Lee who first realizes that their relationship is a blessing. She takes steps to understand their unique relationship, learning how to create a safe and equal dynamic. Lee through her trial in the office calls Edward to love, to “enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life which he has given you under the sun, because this is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might.”[9] No longer will these two people live in isolation or alone in pain, they have found each other and a working relationship that inspires them to work with all their might. They have found blessing, care, and space where life is no longer vanity but rot with the essence of humanity, connection and relationship with another whom you love. Like the Preacher, Lee and Edward have found that connection and relationship are the things that are to be most treasured in life. Ecclesiastes is a wonderful biblical text for dialoguing with film, especially films of this current post-modern generation because it offers all aspects of life and yet still affirms the central human need for relationship and meaning.
            Over the years since it first came out “Secretary” has been a film that I have found myself drawn to. I was so taken with the bathing/grass bed scene that I used its imagery as my visual understanding for what the redemption of the Bride of Christ might look like in Revelation. As Edward purifies and cleanses Lee of all her past pain, so does Christ purify and cleanse his Bride the broken church. Both brides are then brought to a pure restorative state where they are naked and unashamed before their husband/lover. I believe that film has the power to speak truth in image and story, it seeps into our walled and closed off hearts softly echoing truth.  In my life film is one of the two places I have heard the voice of God clearly speaking. Often for me film has been a place of illumination, offering an image of a biblical or theological concept. For example there is a scene in the film V for Vendetta, where the main Evey has been tested until she has lost the fear of death, she is then taken naked up to a rooftop in a rainstorm by her protector “V”, for me this scene became how I understood the idea of baptism for the early church. It is that which conquers the fear of death to be released into living life fully with purpose no longer fettered by fear.  Similarly, the film “Pan’s Labyrinth” while filled with hard to watch imagery offered me as viewer a better understanding of what it means to live fully in the tension of the already and not yet of life.  This film stands for me as the personification of living as a child of God in a context where that reality is not clearly seen. The sacrifice and redemption in the film stayed in my heart for a long while after viewing the film. It forced me to sit and wrestle with those concepts. Since film has been the vehicle in which spiritual and philosophical concepts are illuminated for my understanding, I find that I want to encourage that type of engagement for others.  Recognizing that I will always encounter film through a lens that seeks relationship and redemption, I also find it important for film to speak for it’s self. As has been address in this class and the reading for this class, it can be easy to coat or seek for film to be “Christianized or Gospelized” instead of allowing the film to speak.  As I engage in dialogues between film and scripture I seek to have both hold their own weight. Like with this dialogue between Ecclesiastes and Secretary, each has places of overlap and divergence. For many Christians watching or finding redemption and biblical connection in a film that deals with an S & M relationship seems outside the context acceptable film viewing and engagement. I on the other hand find that the most powerful and redemptive films in my collection are those, which at first glance seem to having no part in the Christian story. These films resemble the over looked or passed over stories of the biblical text, stories like Tamar & Judah, Tamar & Amnon, Sarah and Hagar, these are hard and messy stories where things are not perfect but God is present and working.  I believe that dialogue between biblical text and film should be about redemption and relationship of life in all its beauty and brokenness.



[1] Shainberg, Steven, Secretary, Lions Gate, 2002
[2]  Steven Shainberg Talks about “Secretary”, About Movies Interview with Steven Shainberg, http://movies.about.com/library/weekly/aa070202a.htm, Lions Gate Films, 2002
[3] Ecclesiastes 2:11 RSV
[4] Ecclesiastes 6: 3 RSV
[5] Ecclesiastes 3:1 RSV
[6] Ecclesiastes 6:7 RSV
[7]  Shainberg, Secretary
[8] Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
[9] Ecclesiastes 9:9-10

Reflections about sitting in a dark room with a flickering screen...

Last semester and this I have been able to have the chance to write about transformational moments while watching films...

This first one is from last semester and the second just posted today.




Love the Hard Way-


Film and art have, ever since I could remember, been predominate vehicles for God’s revelation of Truth in my life. Maybe this has a connection with growing up in a household of artists.  Whatever the reason I find that I have had so many profound experiences with film that choosing one specific one to write about is a hard task. In light of that I have chosen instead to write about a film that suck with me for a long time after I saw it.
 The 2001 independent film “Love the Hard Way” is a film about relationships and the costs of love. It centers on the relationship between Jack a conman and budding pulp novelist and Claire a graduate student at Columbia. Jack has his criminal life, which is the basis for his artistic life and in neither does he expect to be affected by the unexpected. When Jack meets Claire he only sees her another conquest to be had. Yet through their relationship Claire sees deeper past Jack’s walls of indifference and aloofness, to the tender spots of a man who is in need of affection. Not wanting to be seen or tied down Jack pushes Claire away breaking off their relationship and trying to shatter her image of their relationship.  Claire in turn, to seek him back, journeys deeper and deeper into Jack’s shadow world of crime to get his attention and call him back to love.  It is only when Jack is faced with the fact that Claire’s love for his has lead her to destruction that he allows himself to be affected and moved.
After watching this film for the first time I could not get it out of my head. For days and weeks later I mulled over the story and the characters’ choices in the film. I kept coming back, trying to understand the two central characters. What was it about Jack that kept him so isolated from love? How could Claire allow herself to fall so deeply into “the dark side of the moon” as it was described in the film for this man who seemed unworthy? There is and was something about this story that hits at the core of my understanding of relationships.  While the way in which Claire goes about seeking a response and action from Jack is incredibly destructive, her call to love and willingness to risk struck my heart. For me the film stood as a reminder of fact that, the call to love costs something sometimes entering into dark and dangerous spaces. While Claire is not a “Christ-figure” in the film there is something about her in the dark spaces of Jack’s world that imitated Christ on the cross for me. Jack sees Claire as innocent and outside his dark world, her presence there shifts his view of this world changes how he sees it. Christ’s presence in the world and especially on the cross in all the horrificness acts similarly to Claire’s presence in Jack’s world, it is that jarring reality of the way things are. I was also greatly impacted by Claire’s willingness to risk the loss of herself because of her love for Jack; it is this willingness that acts as a catalyst to move Jack outside of himself. In the end this love the hard way is that which almost destroys both of the characters yet the means to their salvation. It shocks them out of their perspective paths and leads them to a deeper understanding of themselves and their journey.  For me as a story watcher and teller the conflicts of love and relationship are something I am inherently drawn to. Since my understanding of God is centered in relationality as a key aspect in the Godhead imaged through the imago dei, I find that I am drawn to art that asks questions about the fundamentals of relationships. Love the Hard Way does this, it asks questions about love and cost? How much does one risk for a lover who has abandoned you? What does it take to move someone to change his or her perspective?




Dopamine-

Many Sundances ago (2003) a film premièred called “Dopamine” it was the story of two people (Rand and Sarah) meeting and connecting and trying to make things work. “Dopamine” is also about the question of whether or not love is love or just a chemical reaction. It was one of the first films I ever got off Netflix, in part because of Sabrina Lloyd, who I had loved in “Sports Night” played Sarah. As soon as it was over I got online and ordered both the film and it’s soundtrack.  From the opening scene I was mesmerized by how beautiful and well made this independent film was.
How often when coming together in a relationship do the two parties approach life with very different lenses in which to see the world. Even when supposedly sharing the same basis, say faith, the way that basis of understanding plays out can be so extremely different. Rand is a man who, because of past experiences, doesn’t believe in love. Sarah on the other hand vitally holds to the view that love is necessary and transformational. Through their mutual attraction and an unexpected encounter these two people find deep connection with each other. The push-pull between Rand and Sarah as they negotiate drastically different understandings of love (and faith) and in turn their relationship was both beautiful and so natural. I found the portrayal of this relationship so engaging that I kept going back to it again and again. In the context of the film, relationship is that which inspires one on a very basic level to rise up. That is and was a powerful message to my ravaged heart. In the two characters all my internal battles about relationships, love, and faith seemed to meld and find balance. For me this movie was rest for my seemingly never-ending internal war. It also inspired my creativity. In several scenes Sarah is seen painting. In watching this film, specifically those scenes I was inspired to paint, something I had not done for several years. Painting since has becomes a means of emotional expression and outlet, which I might not have re-encountered had it not been for this film. In addition “Dopamine” was also one of the first films I saw which inspired a small voice to say “I can do that, I’d like to do that” in regard to film making and creating movies.  Still almost ten years later this is one of my favorite movies…Rand and Sarah still have many things to say to me about life and I am even more inspired by the way in which this story is told.

JEK(Jessica Knippel) copyright 2012