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Uplifting films for troubling times

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (BP)–God once told Joshua, “I will not leave you or forsake you…. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:5-9).

We’ll get through these tough economic times.

Following is a list of a few films featuring characters enduring and triumphing over hardships — we’ll call them uplifting films for troubling times. I’ve also thrown in a few that will make you laugh. And one more film is included that will evoke America’s strengths. Enjoy!

— “Sounder” (1972, rated G). Award-winning performances from Paul Winfield and Cicely Tyson highlight this stirring story of a black sharecropper’s family battling injustice and poverty. Truly marvelous.

— “Together” (2002, PG for mild language and thematic elements). This Chinese film concerns a widowed father who sacrifices everything in order to support his teenage son’s gifted musical abilities. The son can’t see the sacrifices made on his behalf until the end. Beautifully filmed in China, full of humor, drama and insight, Together is a powerful morality tale with an ending that moved me to tears. It reminded me of 1 Timothy 5:8, “If anyone does not provide for his relatives … he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” There are other movies with the same title. This one is from China and South Korea.

— “To Kill A Mockingbird” (1962, not rated). Horton Foote’s winning screenplay of the Harper Lee novel about rural life, justice, honor and bigotry as seen through the eyes of a nine-year-old girl. A beautifully photographed black-and-white movie with a haunting score by Elmer Bernstein. Gregory Peck was never better.

— “Places In The Heart (1984, PG for mild language). A literate script presents a determined widow (Sally Field) bent on saving her farm during the ’30s Great Depression. Contains perhaps the greatest ending to a film I have ever seen. A repentant adulterer is finally forgiven, when his wife, moved by the pastor’s sermon, takes her husband’s hand during the service, signifying the restoring of a relationship through Christ’s love. Just as we put our hankies away after that moving moment, another symbolic healing occurs. I won’t give that one away. Trust me, it’s powerful.

— “In America” (2003, PG-13 for language, violence and some sexuality). An Irish couple and their two adolescent daughters begin a new life in the U.S. To 11-year-old Christy (Sarah Bolger) and her younger sister (real-life sibling Emma), America is a place of magic where anything is possible. To their parents, it represents a place to begin anew.

— “I Remember Mama” (1948, not rated). Yeah, it’s old, but I saw it again recently and it holds up. Irene Dunne is outstanding in this gentle story of a Norwegian immigrant family’s struggles while living in San Francisco at the turn of the century. As the Norwegian mama says, “was good.”

— “The Party” (1968, not rated). Peter Sellers (terrific) stars as a good-hearted bumbler who accidentally destroys a movie set, and then manages to do the same to a fancy party given by the film’s producer.

— “The Great Race” (1965, not rated). A comic spoof of old-time melodramas, with Jack Lemmon very funny as the dastardly Professor Fate, Tony Curtis stalwart as the Great Leslie, and Natalie Wood luminous as a suffragette. I think this film has some of the greatest sight gags of all time, plus a great sword fight between Leslie and the villainous Ross Martin. It also has the pie fight to end all pie fights.

— “It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963, not rated). I know a lot of critics debate this, but for my money, this is the funniest movie ever made. A non-stop laugh-a-thon as a group of motorists learn of a fortune buried 200 miles away. Besides all the visual and verbal gags, and its constellation of comic greats, Mad World also contains some of the best car chases and stunts ever filmed.

— America’s Heart And Soul (2004, PG). Here’s a documentary to help you rediscover what made and still makes America Great. Filmmaker Louis Schwartzberg packed up his camera and hit the road, with a goal of capturing both the unparalleled beauty of the U.S. and the incomparable spirit of its people. Here you have the chance to meet ordinary Americans with extraordinary stories. Schwartzberg’s gift is his ability to connect with people, honestly capturing their values, dreams and passion. America’s Heart and Soul is a celebration of a nation told through the voices of its people. Hard to find. Worth the effort. See it!
Phil Boatwright reviews films for previewonline.org and is a regular columnist for Baptist Press.

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  • Phil Boatwright