Recognizing the power that films have to influence and reflect the human condition, on the eve of the Academy Awards, we present our own
2006 CINEMA IN FOCUS 4-STAR AWARDS:
Best Picture: “Joyeux Noel / Merry Christmas”
There are some incidents so amazing that they need to be memorialized in film. One such event occurred on the front lines of battle in 1914 during World War I. It was Christmas Eve and the soldiers of France, Scotland and Germany were only yards apart when they were compelled by their mutual faith in Jesus Christ to celebrate his birth together.
Best Picture Depicting Spiritual Values: “End Of The Spear”
The sacrificial love of Jesus Christ compels His people to go into all the world and love as He loved. This love often takes His people into dangerous regions where their message is either not understood or where other traditions have a longer-standing hold over the people. This was true of the missionaries who went into the Ecuadorian jungles in 1956 and attempted to reach the Waodani people. Jim Hanon’s “End of the Spear” is the cinematic presentation of both their sacrifice and the ultimate victory of God’s love.
Best Picture Depicting Biblical Truths: “The Nativity Story”
“The Nativity Story” paints an extra-biblical, but historically possible, picture of what the real life experience of Mary and Joseph may have been in the year leading up to the birth of Jesus Christ. Mary (Keisha Castle-Hughes) gives an endearing performance as a young girl coping with the reality of not only marrying a man whom she barely knows, but also becoming pregnant with the prophesied Messiah. She has an innocence and faith about her that captivates Joseph (Oscar Issac), a young man from the lineage of King David who is ten years her senior and yet is required to quickly mature beyond human expectations in order to protect and nurture the Christ child and His mother. Though an artistic interpretation of the Biblical narrative that captures our imaginations and emotions, Catherine Hardwicke’s film resonates as faithful to the scriptures and historical church teachings regarding the birth of Jesus.
Best Picture Depicting Community Values: “United 93”
Reverent in its portrayal, “United 93” does not overly dramatize the horrific events of September 11, 2001. Instead, we see ordinary people responding in ordinary ways in the midst of extraordinary circumstances. No one chooses to be heroic, but all seek to comprehend an incomprehensible act. It is here where the film makes its greatest statement, showing us that even the seemingly small choices we make can sometimes provide inspirational solace to people we may never know.
Best Picture Depicting Personal Growth: “Akeelah And The Bee”
One of Akeelah’s most endearing qualities is her empathy for others. This almost gets her into trouble at the National Spelling Bee. She feels such anguish for another contestant, whose father is berating him for never winning, that she almost throws the contest in order to let him succeed. The other boy, sensing what she is doing, purposefully misses a question and makes the point to her that any win that isn’t honest isn’t a win at all.
Best Actor In An Inspirational Role: Will Smith in “In Pursuit Of Happyness”
Inspired by the true life story of Chris Gardner, Will Smith and his son Jaden are cast as the central characters, Chris and Christopher Gardner. Although this is a story of rags to riches in Chris Gardner’s life, the truth is that most of the homeless and working poor struggle to survive on a daily basis. Though most of us do not close our eyes to them, we have difficulty understanding the complex economic, social and racial barriers that are at work. We seldom realize that the game is rigged in favor of those who are “well-connected” and it begins when we are young.