Thursday, January 17, 2008

Movie Group Kicks off with Casablanca

The Mosaic Movie Connect Group has officially started, with our first movie, Casablanca, shown last Saturday. We had a small gathering for the movie showing, and a few more showed up for the discussion afterwards.
Ryan Blue led us through a careful analysis of the elements of the story using the method he taught in our fall "Film and Faith: class. In particular, he highlighted how the key message of the movie (give up your own interests for the good of others) had political overtones.
Many think of Casablanca as a simple Humphrey Bogart-Ingrid Bergman love story, but it is much more than this. When the movie was released in 1942, America's foreign policy of isolationism was costing Europe dearly as France and other countries were occupied by the invading German forces. Just as Casablanca's Rick Blaine faced the challenge of whether to remain neutral and isolated, cynical and closed to the needs of others, or to become once more sentimental and engaged, getting back into the fight, so too America had to choose whether to remain on the sidelines of the European conflict or get involved in the fight. Movies almost always reflect the values and concerns of their times, even if we do not always spot them.

After Ryan's segment, I led a discussion on the ethical and theological aspects of the movie. Ethics is how we live. And a movie that challenges us ethically should make us reflect on how we live. There are a number of key ethical issues raised in Casablanca (such as neutrality/isolation in our own community and contexts, bribery/corruption and black-marketeering, and relationships in light of Rick/Ilsa and Viktor/Ilsa).
Though we can look at the movie and focus on its challenge to isolationism at a macro level, thinking about the present context of the US foreign policy (for example, in Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran), we can and should also bring the ethical message closer to home. How are we as followers of Jesus isolating ourselves from the hurting world or our neighbors, our co-workers and others we intersect with on a day-to-day basis? (I must confess, when I am angry or hurt, I tend to withdraw from friends and family members and isolate myself.) What do we do when faced with the panhandlers on the freeway on-ramp asking for pennies? Do we isolate ourselves and remain neutral? Furthermore, on the issue of relationships, Rick comes to the conclusion that he will sacrifice his desires for the greater good of Ilsa, the person he loves, and the greater good of the world ("the greater good, the greater good" -- reference to Hot Fuzz). What would you do for the greater good of the one you love? What would you sacrifice? What does that look like in he trenches of our home-life or our work? And who do you love most? If this is Jesus, what does He ask you to sacrifice today? All this from an Oscar-winning love story!

As a reminder, the Mosaic Movie Connect Group will meet on the second Saturday of the month in the lower level of Mosaic church, located at the intersection of NE 39th and Hancock in NE Portland. We plan to gather around 4:30pm so we can show the movie in its entirety yet enabling us to finish watching around 7:00pm or a little before. We will take a short break, to catch some coffee and refreshments and connecting with other attendees, then we will reconvene to discuss the movie together, focusing on the movie's artistic merits and its ethical and theological challenges. Ryan and I will co-lead the discussion, like we did in the fall Film and Faith class and as we did for Casablanca. This group is an open group, for Mosaic members and friends, for followers of Jesus and those who have not yet chosen to follow Jesus. If you cannot make the viewing portion, you can always watch the movie on your own at home, and simply come for the discussion. (That is why we are structuring the group this way.) We will provide childcare throughout both segments of the group, and Becca Baggs will be caring for any children.

Finally, as we are only meeting once per month, this blog will provide another avenue for sharing on other movies we are watching. Ryan and I will share thoughts and reflections on movies, even some reviews of movies we are watching at home. We will also facilitate sharing your movie reviews on this blog, if you want to email them to us.

We want to embark on this journey of film and faith together.

Copyright 2008, Martin Baggs

1 comment:

  1. Great idea. We finally watched Casablanca last night. Family event kept us from the discussion group. What a terrific movie. It's the kind you could watch over and over and still not get everything. Hope to make it next time - if it's not too scary. Molly W.