Sunday 19 April 2015

Spaces of blue: Week One: A Thematic Overview

Gate by Jim Hodges

In addition to other postings, I will be using this site for eight weeks to provide weekly overviews for the course "Spaces of Blue": Moments of Humanity in a Turbulent Century offered by the Ryerson Life Institute.

"In the eye of the hurricane the sky is blue...The eye of the hurricane is in the very middle of a destructive power, and that power is always near, surrounding blue healthy and threatening to invade it...

In a world of moral hurricanes, some people can and do carve out rather large ethical space. In the natural world and social world swirling in cruelty and love we can make room. We who are not pure ethical beings can push away the choking circle of brute force that is around and within us. We may not be able to push it far..., but when we have made us as much room as we can, we may know a blue space that  the storm does not know."

 Philip Hallie, 1986

"Man cannot do without beauty."

Albert Camus

After watching a clip from a Bill Moyers Special Confronting Evil, and setting forth some initial criteria about what constitutes humanity and what contributes to it, selections from a few films will be shown.

In 1946, a banker named Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) is convicted of a double murder, even though he stubbornly proclaims his innocence. He's sentenced to a life term at the Shawshank State Prison in Maine, where another lifer, Ellis "Red" Redding (Morgan Freeman), gradually befriends him.The ugly realities of prison life are quickly revealed as Andy is harassed and beaten. But Andy’s perseverance and his smarts allow him to prevail behind bars. Quiet and introspective, he uses his banking skills to win favor with the warden and the guards, doing the books for the warden's illegal business schemes and keeping an eye on the investments of most of the prison staff. In exchange, he is able to improve the prison library and bring some dignity and respect back to many of the inmates, including Red. Although the film is a gritty drama, it also shows inmates forming a loving community of friendship and support despite oppressive conditions.

Two brothers from The Best of Youth

A superb Italian film, in two parts that runs over six hours, The Best  of Youth  follows two brothers and the people in their lives from 1963 to 2000, following them from Rome to Norway to Turin to Florence to Palermo and back to Rome again. The lives intersect with the politics and history of Italy during the period: the hippies, the ruinous flood in Florence, the Red Brigades, kidnappings, hard times and layoffs at Fiat, and finally a certain peace for some of the characters and for their nation.


The Good Lie is a well-told tale that illuminates the experiences of the 20,000 “lost boys” (and girls) of Sudan, with grace, insight and humor, even though it occasionally veers into sentimentality. Unfortunately, the promos feature Reese Witherspoon because her character, a sassy employment counselor named Carrie, even though she doesn’t show up until about 40 minutes into the film. The three young Sudanese men are the real stars of this film. Two of them were part of the “lost” movement, as was Minnesotan Kuoth Wiel, who has a small supporting role as the sister of one of the men.

The Hunt is a “contemporary horror story about a respected man’s descent into a Kafkaesque nightmare of denunciations, dread and danger. We are pulled into the dark realms of the human psyche and an excursion through small-town Hell. A gesture of affection from a little girl to her daycare teacher triggers a rejection that sparks ugly suspicions, leading questions, half-truths and outright lies. Neighbors he’s known for decades turn malicious and malevolent overnight, their moral collapse fueled by a misguided sense of righteous indignation. He’s excommunicated from society, vilified by his childhood friends and barred from the local stores. The film mounts excruciating tension as the witch hunt escalates from emotional to physical attacks. Then something human happens.
(This blurb has been adapted from a review by Colin Covert in the Star Tribune)


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