4 Stars - 2007
Recognizing the power that films have to influence and reflect the human condition, on the eve of the Academy Awards we present our own
2007 CINEMA IN FOCUS 4-STAR AWARDS:
Best Picture: “Amazing Grace”
“Amazing Grace” tells the true story of William Wilberforce (Ioan Gruffudd), the man of conscience in the British Parliament who fought for years against overwhelming political odds to end the British sanctioning of slavery. Wilberforce was a young man of economic privilege who sought to be in political office while he was in his mid 20’s. His experience in a wealthy and unequal social structure constantly tugged at his conscience. Having committed his life to Jesus Christ, his Christian convictions compelled him to seek justice and compassion for all people throughout the British Empire.
Best Picture Depicting Spiritual Values: “Facing The Giants”
“Facing The Giants” tells the story of a football coach who has the task of building a team in a school where there is little history of success on the field. Grant Taylor (Alex Kendrick) is a well-intentioned man who is discouraged to the point of wanting to quit his job. To add insult to injury, the fathers of the young men on the team would also like him to leave. Knowing he has little time left as a coach, Grant challenges his team to give everything they have to the Lord and, win or lose, they will praise Him for being there with them. Grant then begins to give everything he has to his team, asking God every step along the way to give him guidance. The transformation in Coach Taylor’s approach gives inspiration and hope to these young boys who look up to him.
Best Picture(s) Depicting Community Values: “Freedom Writers”
The multicultural high school portrayed in Richard LaGravenese’s “Freedom Writers” is a microcosm of humanity at its best and at its worst. Depicting the true story of teacher Erin Gruwell’s (Hilary Swank) gifted ability and passionate drive to create community with a group of high school freshmen, this film shows how much she cares for both their minds and their souls. It also shows what one person can do, if she is willing to rise above the institutional limitations often experienced by teachers and students alike. That Gruwell went on to form the Freedom Writers Foundation to replicate this success in other schools is a testimony of its universal importance.
Best Picture Depicting Personal Growth: “This Christmas”
Our relationships within our families are complex. We are not only stuck with the family into which we were born, and we are not only formed by our place within that family system, but we are also privileged to have a group of people who accept us and love us as we are. In families where honesty and unconditional love are present, there is a healing power at work in our lives. That is the message of writer and director Preston A. Whitmore’s film on a family’s reunion at Christmas entitled “This Christmas.”
Best Actor In An Inspirational Role: Denzel Washington in “The Great Debaters”
There are few films which match the level of art and excellence achieved by the creators of “The Great Debaters.” It is a visual masterpiece as the camera presents dream-like images at times and stark realism at others. The dialogue not only moves the story but also inspires the audience. The acting is exquisite and the directing superb. But what makes this film a true work of art is its moral and spiritual content. Based on a true story of Melvin B. Tolson (Denzel Washington), a young professor of an all-black college in Marshall, Texas in 1935, we are able to experience history as first-hand observers in a little-known event that was foundational to the civil rights movement.