With the new year not far away, I'm looking to finalize some lesson plans and would like reader input on the subject of faith and film. A little background: This upcoming year, I will teach a course called "Senior Synthesis," a semester-long class for -- as the name suggests -- seniors. Throughout the semester, students work on a paper, written in four chapters, that articulates what they believe and why. They research major questions through the lens of their own religious tradition and analyze the experiences that have made them who they are. Though students tend to dread, at the start, the prospect of a twenty-page paper, they end up relishing the self-knowledge the class and research provide. It helps them gain a sense of what they've come to believe about God -- and, for the school, stands as a kind of exit interview. The papers are authentic and honest, and students generally develop a nice snapshot of where they stand, at 18, with faith and religion.
When I teach the course, I provide a background survey of the Judeo-Christian tradition and (re)-introduce the major emphases of Catholic Christianity. Through books and various readings, we discuss that faith is a gift, and that it involves a transformation (metanoia) along with a lifelong commitment to develop a relationship with the Creator who loved us into being.
I usually assign a few books in the genre of spiritual memoir, and I also try to show a film or two. "Field of Dreams" is a good one for highlighting the themes of call and response, and "Forrest Gump" is a nice metaphor for God's enduring faithfulness and friendship.
I have a few more on the list, but I'd like to hear from readers. What do you recommend for faith and film? It doesn't have to be explicitly religious; sometimes very secular movies serve, in the manner of parables, as extended metaphors for biblical themes.