We’re delighted to announce the early schedule for the 2018 Movies & Meaning Experience, taking place April 26th-28th, at the Diana Wortham Theatre in downtown Asheville, NC.
Now in its fourth year, Movies & Meaning is a three day conference, festival and community gathering, sharing better stories for better lives and a better world. It’s a life-changing experience of wisdom, inspiration, challenge and connection.
We’ll tell seven stories paired with seven conversations, and seven opportunities for positive change - featuring special guests in person including: Alice Walker - Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Color Purple. Mira Nair - Academy Award nominated, Golden Globe & BAFTA winning filmmaker. James McLeary - transformational leader and CEO of the Inside Circle Foundation. Brian McLaren - acclaimed author and activist. Gareth Higgins - Irish peace activist, writer & storyteller, and founder of Movies & Meaning.
Our friend Richard Rohr says that the best criticism of the bad always includes the practice of the better. I believe him.
That's probably why some folk tell me they think I go too easy on politics or religion or movies.
Good people taught me a long time ago that we don't need reminding of what's wrong as often as we may think. We already think about problems, suffering, and evil so much, that our perceptions are often distorted into believing everything's getting worse. What both the brain and the world need is a vision of hope rooted in real life.
Not that we shouldn't lament real pain—far from it! If we don't develop healthy ways of grieving loss, voicing anger, and meaningfully expressing sympathy and solidarity with those who suffer, we'll become misers or robots.
But Dr. King's famed speech of protest includes not only the clarification of the evils of racism, but also a dream—a vision for the better.
A vision, of course, of a world in which all of us sit together at the table of community, and lions lie down with lambs.
Along the path to that world, as John O'Donohue taught me, the duty of privilege is absolute integrity, which means our task as individuals and in community must include evaluating our own power, and serving from that place; and evaluating our own lack, and asking for help from that place.
In any case, my tribe won't defeat yours, nor yours mine, without bringing more pain to us all. The problem is not with belonging, but when we make our belonging dependent on causing someone else to suffer.
Archive cinema releases in 2017 (older movies released in home viewing editions) were an extraordinary bunch. Here's my top ten - as usual, most of them come from the Criterion Collection - a gold standard for presenting films to watch at home, whose special features always come with depth and a sense of humor. Masters of Cinema is doing something similar, and wonderful too.
Last year was one of the richest years in cinema history. My own Top Ten list has thirty films on it, and a handful of those - Endless Poetry, Dunkirk, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, mother!, and Downsizing among them - are likely to become recognized as ageless masterpieces. Yet the old chestnut persists that movies were, on the whole, better in the past. A recent internet discussion focused on an essay claiming the movies made since the turn of the millennium are worse than those made before the millennium, and gave twenty seven reasons why. It was a fun read, and clearly some genuine thought had gone into it, but I wasn’t convinced. (You can read it here.)
So in one of those moments where I almost certainly had something better to do but convinced myself I definitely didn’t, I decided to take a deeper look. Researching the list of every movie released since 1967 took a while, but it was worth it. I compiled a database of the films that meet the Movies & Meaning definition of “a great film” - what results when humane wisdom and grace, and technical and aesthetic craft operating at their highest frequencies kiss each other. (Whether or not you agree with my judgement of which films deserve this definition is up to you.)
The greatest misunderstanding that people have about the USA until they live here is that it’s a country. I’ve been here for ten years, and the most surprising shift in my perception has been that the place might be better seen as really fifty nations, each with their own culture and laws, connected with their neighbors only as tightly as they want to be. This fact carries tension, of course, if you value coherence; but the liberating consequence is that if the first step to healing a place is knowing it, it may be much easier to know a state than the nation. The handful of key cities and rural communities that make up a state are conceivably knowable by a handful of people who care enough to steward the earth, nurture the people, and imagine “the next stage of good.” That phrase, coined by Bob Woodward to refer to the role of US American Presidents, is spacious and inviting. It’s a way to live. Looking out my window, seeing trees, but imagining the neighborhood and the city behind them, and the region behind those is a beginning of knowing. That knowing is vital to rootedness, and rootedness is the beginning of hospitality, and hospitality will save the world.
On the Camino in Spain recently, I saw a piece of graffiti, written in French by a delicate hand. What it said loosely translates to:
There are flowers everywhere, for those willing to look for them.
This is a difficult moment, if the moment only includes politics. It’s also a beautiful one, if we know where to look. It’s also just a moment - not an era, or an epoch, or a generation. Just a moment. Some of us are suffering terribly. Some of us are working hard for the common good. Some of us are realizing that we have lots of opportunities, right now, to devote ourselves to love - of the transcendent, of ourselves, of our neighbors, no matter who they may be?