Posts Tagged ‘middle east’

How to End a Movie – With Conviction

January 8, 2008

I watched ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ last night.  This is a movie I ignored on its release, dismissing it as an attempt to glorify religion.  Sometimes, first impressions are accurate.  Sometimes, they’re off the mark.

To my pleasant surprise, it turned out to be the kind of movie I would like to make about the crusades.  My only complaint is that it didn’t go far enough.  Like some other films framed by a religious context, it pulls back from the brink of the logical, sensible conclusion.  The slaughter in the name of one god or another, carried out by fanatics obsessed with the idea of owning ‘heaven’, should be enough to put anyone off the idea of religion.  There are a couple lines in the film that drive home the fact that we’d be better off without it altogether.  “You have taught me a lot about religion…”, comes to mind.

But then, near the end, the main character’s Muslim counterpart, another one of the few ‘decent’ people able to see past the different brands of chicanery and superstition and that how one person treats another is a better judge of how good he is, says something like, “Why do you think god does not love you, with all you have achieved?”  Why reassert faith in god at this point?  It seems obvious to me that there were no gods willing this carnage – that we, and we alone, decide on a course of action, choose to take life or not, and achieve things.  Faith in oneself and one another seemed to be the message throughout the movie.  Maybe the producers were afraid of a backlash if they appeared to be advocating atheism.

A couple of Canadian films are guilty of the same thing.  ‘Water’ is an excellent movie set in a Hindu ashram, or widows’ home, in which one young woman is reduced to prostitution and a child, widowed before reaching puberty, is raped.  Yet, even this story of institutionalised abuse and confinement has a character saying “Never lose your faith”.  All I could think was, “For your own good, that child’s good, and the good of humanity, please lose your faith”.

‘The Black Robe’ is another Canadian movie about a 17th century Jesuit missionary who travels with Indian guides to a mission far from anything he recognizes as civilization.  It’s clear throughout the story that he is in the wrong and yet, at the end, when he seems to realize this and that his faith has been misplaced, the Indians, who have been ravaged by disease brought by the other missionaries and now have a choice of killing him or accepting baptism, choose baptism.  The closing shot is a cross with the sun shining behind it, which seems to assert the very religion which has been presented as inadequate and misguided.

Are we really so afraid of offending religious interests that we don’t even have the courage of our convictions to reach a logical conclusion?  Could it be that we have taken respect for religion too far?

A Blast From the Past, Indeed

January 5, 2008

I was listening to Talking Heads for a blast from the past.  The track ‘Listening Wind’ was playing.  It’s one of those songs that makes my skin tingle because it seems so true – it cuts through all the bullshit and tells you what’s what and tells it like it is.  It’s also very unique and, hence, ‘cool’.

But, it also got to me for another reason.  It got to me because it’s STILL true, about twenty-five years after its release.  It’s just as relevant and, in fact, could have been written yesterday.  Aside from the fact that I used to have hair down to my ass when I listened in the past and, well, now I don’t, nothing has changed.  Not a thing.  A quarter of a century.  More than a generation.  The middle east is still a mess with American foreign policy still fuelling resentment and making things worse rather than better.  And the news stories still invade my home.

 This may seem a bit callous, but I actually feel a certain resentment.  For my entire life, the middle east has dominated the foreign news.  Ever since I was old enough to notice the news the middle east has been the big story, with wars, bombs, civil wars, terrorists, religious nuts, revolutions, hardliners, and the rest getting in my face every day.  I feel imposed upon.   How dare they come into my home and dump their stupid hatred and arguments on me.  And all because they insist on a religious based state of one kind or another.

When will these idiots realise that religion and government are a terrible combination?  Religion is fuel for fires started by heated political debates or situations.  So, two peoples need water in an arid region?  A skirmish over control of the source of the only two rivers in the region grows into an extended, decades long religious conflict encompassing ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ wars.

Do you think people would want or support half the wars if they were presented with the facts – that they are about water, oil, resources, or land and, ultimately, money rather than religion or “To protect/defend our values/way of life”, as they’re told?  I doubt it.  There are lies, damned lies, and then there’s politics or business masquerading as religion.

“The wind in my heart

The dust in my head”