As we come to the third anniversary of “Cinema In Focus:  A Social and Spiritual Movie Commentary,” we want to thank all of our readers for your encouragement and lively responses to our commentaries.  Exploring together this engaging art form of cinema, we are increasingly impressed with its ability to reflect the spiritual and social issues of our lives.

As we prepare to celebrate Christmas,

there are ten films in 1997 to which we gave our highest, “4 star” designation.  

As you consider videos to give as gifts, or videos to rent over the holidays, these are our suggestions:


“Paradise Road”:  

Based on the actual experiences of a group of English, Dutch and Australian women captured by the Japanese during World War II, this is one of the most powerful presentations of the triumph of the human spirit ever put on film.  Through the unlikely partnership of a Christian missionary and a rich socialite, the group is brought together in love and support during their traumatic ordeal.


“Entertaining Angels”:  

This is the true life story of Dorothy Day, the founder of the “Catholic Worker’s” movement.  Her passion to serve led to the establishment of over 100 homes for the poor, and her story explores the need for every individual to live a meaningful life.  When service to our fellow human beings is inspired by a spiritual depth of love and compassion which comes from God, the result is transforming.


“Ulee’s Gold”:  

When pain overwhelms the personal life of Ulysses Jackson, he can either open himself to the experience and grow in the midst of the pain, or he can shut down his emotions, isolating himself behind walls in an attempt to shield himself from further hurt.  This film presents the isolating loneliness and fear of life behind walls of stoic self-protection which are shattered by stepping out to act with love to other members of his own family.


“Marvin’s Room”:  

The healing power of love is difficult to portray without being overly sentimental or simplistic. In this film of an elderly man’s lingering illness and the impact of his care on his two daughters, the complexity of their relationship and their discovery of love is communicated in authentic power and grace.



Masterfully woven in both symbolic imagery as well as personal experiences, this winner of the 1996 Academy award for best foreign film is set within Czechoslovakia when the Russian domination comes to a close.  The film lets us experience the deep division between the secular state and the country’s religious traditions.



This powerful Academy award winning film presents a disturbingly true life story of David Helfgott, a brilliant Australian pianist whose father is the only survivor of a Jewish family from the Holocaust.  A child prodigy who spends years in a mental institution, his story is full of tragedy, disappointment, violence and pain.  His penetrating courage and winsomeness makes the final outcome not only realistic, but inspiring.


“The Crucible”:  

One of the most disturbing acts of which humans are capable is to destroy the lives of others in the name of religion.   When given legal power, religious superstition can be corrupted into murderous evil.  In this film about the Salem, Massachusetts witch trials, superstitious fears collude with arrogant judicial power and the combined impact is devastating.



The deepest longing of humans for contact with a “Higher Power” is explored in this science fiction film.  Written by Carl Sagan, this film powerfully explores faith and scientific experience.


“Seven Years In Tibet”:  

This film presents the autobiographical story of a former SS Nazi officer whose encounter with the people of Tibet confronted and transformed his self-serving spirit.


“Night Falls On Manhattan”:  

One of the most powerful studies of the moral dilemmas and ethical choices facing police officers is portrayed in this film of New York City politics.  Few films present such a clear message to society addressing the problem and the solution to this moral morass.

Posted on August 29, 2009 and filed under CIF AWARD WINNERS.