Gareth Higgins

Gareth Higgins is a writer and broadcaster from Belfast, Northern Ireland, who has worked as an academic and activist. He is the author of Cinematic States: America in 50 Movies and How Movies Helped Save My Soul: Finding Spiritual Fingerprints in Culturally Significant Films. He blogs at and co-presents “The Film Talk” podcast with Jett Loe at He is also a Sojourners contributing editor. Originally from Northern Ireland, he lives in Asheville, North Carolina.

Posts By This Author

Form Follows Function

by Gareth Higgins 09-24-2015
The best films help us understand how to transcend our brokenness without excluding our shadows.
Sergey Mironov / Shutterstock

Sergey Mironov / Shutterstock 

MY FRIEND the architect Colin Wishart says that the purpose of his craft is to help people live better. Just imagine if every public building, city park, urban transportation hub, and home were constructed with the flourishing of humanity—in community or solitude—in mind. We might be inspired to create new, hopeful thoughts, friendships with strangers, or projects that bring transformation into the lives of others.

It is easy to spot architecture divorced from its highest purpose. In a building or other space made to function purely within the bounds of current economic mythology—especially those created to house the so-called “making” of money—the color of hope only rarely reveals itself. Instead we are touched by melancholy, weighed down by drudgery, compelled by the urge to get away. But when we see a space whose stewards seem to have known that human kindness, poetry, and breathing are more important than the “free” market, we realize that it is possible to be always, everywhere, coming home. Think of a concert hall designed for the purest acoustics, a playground where the toys blend in with the trees, a train station where the transition from one place and way of being to another has been honored as a spiritual act.

Feeding the Inner Life

by Gareth Higgins 08-11-2015
Our deeper hunger is for stories that strive to tell the truth about life and its possibilities, that demand self-reflection, and that permit subtexts to breathe so we can fill in the gaps.

THE TEACHER Edwin Friedman believed that good leadership creates conditions for people to find tools to become emotionally mature. In other words, no matter what its stated goal (civil rights, community organizing, religious engagement), the most important purpose of leadership is to help us become more fully human.

Of course this is also true for artistic endeavors—stories that create emotional dependency in audience members are not offering good leadership, and they usually make for bad art too. We may like them, as they satisfy the surface-level desire for easily grasped narratives and quick resolution. But that’s the aesthetic equivalent of a cheap burger. Our deeper hunger is for stories that strive to tell the truth about life and its possibilities, that demand self-reflection, and that permit subtexts to breathe so we can fill in the gaps.

I saw three such films recently. Inside Out displays astonishing imagination, bringing us into the human psyche to figure out how we think. There’s genius in a story that gives the five core emotions personalities, wisdom in how it makes honest work of how people confront change, and a delightful bonus in the form of Bing Bong, a character with all the lovableness of Baloo the Bear and a purpose with which Carl Jung would be pleased. Inside Out offers no shortcuts to spiritual well-being. It’s film-as-therapy that’s as entertaining for kids as it is wise for adults (and vice versa).

Projecting Possibility

by Gareth Higgins 07-13-2015
The purpose of art is to help us live better.

The purpose of art is to help us live better. 

The Ultimate Threat

by Gareth Higgins 06-08-2015

Too much is going on, and not all of it is good. 

Maria and the Rabbi

by Gareth Higgins 05-06-2015

Lest we forget, The Sound of Music is a story of hope triumphing almost unimaginable odds.

Trials and Tribulations

by Gareth Higgins 04-02-2015

The extraordinary film Leviathan takes place in a tiny coastal town on the other side of the world, but it relates to all our dreams and fears.

A Newsfeed of Fear

by Gareth Higgins 04-01-2015

You wouldn't know it from the headlines, but things are getting better. 

Shooting in a Moral Vacuum

by Gareth Higgins 03-09-2015

If the purpose of art is to help us live better, then to have integrity, storytellers who feature characters who behave badly have a responsibility to illunminate their motivation and context. 

Moved, or Moved to Act?

by Gareth Higgins 02-05-2015

These films create new benchmarks for the mainstream depiction of black history, black struggle, and wider perceptions. 

A Year of Great Films

by Gareth Higgins 01-06-2015

Here's my list of the 10 best films of 2014 (many more are worthy, but 10 are all that will fit).