Seeing Is Believing: Films to Inspire a Consistent Life Viewpoint
by Mary Liepold
I want war, and preparations for war, to be unthinkable. I want abortion to be unthinkable, as well as racism, capital punishment, and all other offenses against human dignity. The Consistent Life Network’s statement of purpose says, “We seek a revolution in thinking and feeling.” In a time of deepening division, we want to transform the way people think and feel while we also reclaim common ground.
I believe the arts are the best way to do that.
Books are my first love, but for our grandchildren – 22% of the population and 100% of the future – newer media matter more. So at least a few times a week, I pry myself away from the printed page. I’ve been working on the resource list for Consistent Life’s youth education program, CL Kids!, collecting resources for young people in various formats, I’ve especially kept an eye open for movies that can change the culture by moving hearts and minds. Here are a handful that have moved me lately, arranged from oldest to newest. They’re all available on Netflix and other streaming services.
I hope you’ll watch one that appeals to you, let me know what you think, and recommend others good enough for our children and the people who shape their lives.
Steve Martin and the luminous Mary Steenburgen headlined the big, four-generation cast of the 1989 comedy Parenthood. The phrase that came to my mind as the credits rolled, 33 years ago, was life-affirming. After a recent re-watch, I stand by that. The humor is raunchy, goofy, and often over the top, but the values ring true. At 15, 12, and 10, our local grandchildren are still a bit young to watch it. I may well add it to the Thanksgiving menu for older members of the family, though.
The Great Debaters, released in 2007, stars Denzel Washington and Forest Whitaker. It’s loosely based on a little-known true story. In 1935, a debate team from a small Black college in Texas went up against a team from America’s bastion of white privilege, and won. If you’ve seen this, Hidden Figures, Just Mercy, and perhaps the poetic 1991 indie Daughters of the Dust, and encouraged someone else to see them, you’ve opened at least a few hearts and minds to the evils of racism, which some have called America’s original sin.
A thoughtful 2011 Canadian film, Monsieur Lazhar, opened my eyes to the cost of what my long-ago teachers called moral relativism. I wrote about it in a CLN blog six years ago, and I would love to discuss it with other viewers.
The Armor of Light is an Emmy-award-winning documentary made in 2015, about an Evangelical pastor who befriends the mother of a gunshot victim. Pastor Rob Schenck founded the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Institute in Washington, DC to influence members of Congress and, according to his online bio, “reform the Evangelical church.” The film shows Schenck’s opposition to abortion widen to include other epidemic forms of violence.
Hacksaw Ridge is a 2016 movie based on the true story of Desmond Doss, a pacifist who saved 75 lives in the World War II Battle of Okinawa. Though Doss joined up willingly, because he loved his country, he was determined not to kill or even carry a weapon. The army and his fellow recruits were equally determined to change his mind. In the end, he changed theirs – at least for a while. War still eats first, in this hungry world. That’s why I became an activist.
Living in the DC area since 1968, I carried my babies to demonstrations in a backpack with a Question Authority bumper sticker. (And, oh, how they did!) I thought I’d been tuned in to all the major protest movements of the last five decades. Then I saw Crip Camp (2020), recounting the early years of the continuing struggle for the human rights of people with disabilities. I hope you will too.
My newest favorite, Look Both Ways, is a rom com, and fairly fresh on Netflix. I know from the reviews in Decider and The Guardian that it irks the mainstream culture. It will undoubtedly irk many readers of this blog for the same reason: because it looks both ways. Whichever side people see it from, though, they tend to agree that it is well made and fun to watch.
The plot hinges on a pregnancy test, during a college graduation party. At that point the plot splits into two streams, two alternate possibilities. It could get confusing for the viewer but it doesn’t, partly because the film-makers use a subtly different color scheme for each version of the young protagonist’s future. I liked it because it counters the mainstream assumption that an unplanned pregnancy is always an unmitigated disaster, and because it left me smiling. I’m eager to hear what you think.
And please, check out the CL Kids Resource List on the CLN website. Do you have additions? Corrections? Quibbles? Send them to me: firstname.lastname@example.org. It’s work in progress. The team welcomes your recommendations for films, books, music, and other art forms, as well as curricula and kindred organizations. Let’s keep this revolution rolling!
For more of our posts on movies, see:
Hollywood Movie Insights (The Giver, The Whistleblower, and The Ides of March)
Hollywood Movie Insights II (Never Look Away, The Report, and Dark Waters)
Movies with Racism Themes: “Gosnell” and “The Hate U Give”
The Darkest Hour: “Glorifying” War?
The Message of “Never Rarely Sometimes Always”: Abortion Gets Sexual Predators Off the Hook
Justice Littered with Injustice: Viewing Just Mercy in a Charged Moment
Jasmine, Aladdin, and the Power of Nonviolence
How about “Juno”? I was amazed to actually see a likeable pro lifer in a film, though they did make fun of her poor English.