Culture

Poetry: Picture of a Family after Cavafy

Micael Nussbaumer/Shutterstock

There’s a photo he carries for long journeys
like this one, for trips on loaded market lorries
where the passengers take their seat, perching
on top of cargo, or sitting on crude benches
inside the buses coming from Sudan with names
like “Best of Luck” or “Mr. Good Looking.”

As the road rumbles from Chad through Cameroon
to Nigeria, toward another year of medical school,
he always reaches into his inside coat pocket
and brings out the folded 4x6. Sees his brother,
with the latest jeans from the capital and a maroon
hoodie zipped half-way up, one leg placed forward
and his head tilted back—an “attitude” he’s learned
from movies and music pipelined from America.

Sees his mother, bright pink polyester swirling
around her figure, and remembers how she woke
before dawn to make him fangaso for his trip.
He sees the lines he and his brother have caused,
drawn into her face after years of worry,
fatherless years of selling produce in the market
and begging relatives for support. He sees the slight
twist of her mouth, the triumph of a mother
shining through the sorrow of leave-taking,
the promise for her child to have a better life.

Aaron Brown, author of Winnower, is an MFA candidate in poetry at the University of Maryland. He lives with his wife in Lanham, Md.

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July 2015
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Seven Deadly Sins: A Playlist

 

Wrath
Rolling in the Deep — Adele
Mama Said Knock You Out — LL Cool J
Sloth
Lazy Song — Bruno Mars
Je Ne Veux Pas Travailler — Pink Martini
Greed
Rich Girl — Gwen Stefani ft Eve
I Want It All — Queen
Gluttony
Eat It — Weird Al Yankovich
Can’t Stop — Miley Cyrus
Lust
I Want You to Want Me — Letters to Cleo/10 Things I Hate About You soundtrack
I’m Sexy and I Know It — LMFAO
Pride
I’m the Best (clean version) — Nicki Minaj
Devil Went Down To Georgia — Charlie Daniels Band
Envy
Jessie’s Girl — Rick Springfield
Dancing on My Own — Robyn

New & Noteworthy

Smooth Truths

Grammy-winning jazz vocalist Gregory Porter sings love, faith, and even a grooving tribute to nonviolent protest on Take Me to the Alley. The title track is a parable of a visiting king who spurns “shiny things” prepared for him and asks to be taken to “the afflicted ones.” Blue Note

Brothers, in Christ

The Berrigan Letters contains copious personal correspondence between Father Daniel Berrigan and his brother Philip across seven decades of activism. The collection is a glimpse into the hopes, dreams, and daily lives of two of the greatest peacemakers of the 20th century. Orbis

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New and Noteworthy

Hélène Grimaud
Hélène Grimaud
Elemental

Classical pianist Hélène Grimaud’s live album Water is a musical and spiritual reflection on the life-sustaining, yet too-often limited, resource. It is a beautiful compilation of compositions that celebrate the power, beauty, and rhythm of water, with a hope that it encourages ecological awareness. Deutsche Grammophon

For All Ages

Ronald J. Sider and Ben Lowe dialogue in The Future of Our Faith: An Intergenerational Conversation on Critical Issues Facing the Church. Each chapter has sidebar reflections from other leaders, including Christena Cleveland, Gabriel Salguero, Nicholas Wolterstorff, and Jenny Yang. Brazos Press

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True/False Film Festival Celebrates Story, Teaches Justice

Image via Missouri Division of Tourism/Flickr.

The True/False film festival in Columbia, Mo., likes to bill itself as “different.” And it is — the intimate weekend-long documentary fest has a well-earned reputation as a place where anything can happen: Here you’ll find award-winning directors hobnobbing with writers and college students over brunch, and accountants and lawyers who transform themselves, Cinderella-style, into flamboyantly dressed volunteers. But Columbia’s festival is unique in another way, one that’s more important than simple aesthetics: True/False also focuses on the unifying power of story.

Over its 13 years of existence, the festival has been committed to promoting the idea that introducing audiences to stories wildly different from their own expands our understanding of the human experience.

'RISEN' Offers Audience a 'Glimpse of Jesus:' Q&A with Film's Lead Joseph Fiennes

RISEN, Sony Pictures

I think the component of introducing a non-believer takes [away] the curse of trying to get it right for everybody, because he’s a non-believer. So let’s see how this works out. But we’re not portraying Christ head-on. We’re coming at them at such an angle that it’s easier to absorb and not be either threatened or challenged or for a lot of people that might not be what it is in Scripture, or their portrayal or their image of Christ or that moment it might not be what the filmmakers have done. … It’s a gentle way in, because you could find him an awful, destructive, murderous Roman soldier. You don’t have to like him; he’s not set up to be liked. … I just think that angle stops it being too head-on for people and then it grows out of that. Just getting a glimpse of Jesus makes us want to get there again and see it again. It’s kind of like in our lives … it’s kind of like faith is strong one day and it’s weak the next.

Christian Art and the 'Ministry of Imagination'

Graffiti on the wall of the abandoned building in Zelenogorsk City, Russia. TatyanaKokoulina / Shutterstock.com

Of course good art is in the eye of the beholder, but I define good art to be creations of paint, music, or stories that speak profoundly to the human condition and break open our imagination beyond what already is. Much of what is qualified as “Christian” art or music has instead done the opposite. It shuts down possibilities by offering a script to be consumed. Instead of creating space for genuine exploration of questions about God — who God is, what God does, where God can be found, etc. — Christian art supplies manufactured answers in a new marketing package. We have struggled to rise up into a prophetic imagination to speak against the dominant consumer culture. If anything, the subculture has been subsumed by consumerism.

Review: '13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi'

In marketing the film, Bay and the real-life men he portrays have stated that 13 Hours is not a political film. The goal, they say, is simply to show what happened, as it happened, and to recognize the courage and sacrifice of the people on the ground that day.

But it takes a more nuanced filmmaker than Bay (the creator of Bad Boys, Armageddon, and the Transformers films) to take an inherently political story like this one and truly make it free from bias. While 13 Hours doesn’t specifically call anyone out, or criticize (or endorse) the decisions of any particular leader or party, Bay and screenwriter Chuck Hogan mistake those qualities as the only ones required to make the film “non-political.”

'Brooklyn' and the Stories That Made America

Still from Brooklyn. Image via Brooklyn Movie on Facebook.

There are many reasons to recommend Brooklyn — its relatable story for one, its glowing visuals and performances for another. But Brooklyn’s commendable qualities go far beyond this, including the amount of respect writer Nick Hornby and director John Crowley give the movie’s female protagonist. Brooklyn is a movie about hard choices, and for the most part, Eilis makes those choices on her own. At different points in the film, she’s caught between romantic relationships, and familial and personal obligations. But in none of these situations does it feel like her hand is forced. The movie lets us know early that Eilis can take care of herself, and she’s never forced to compromise on that point, though she easily could have been.

Although politics aren’t really on Brooklyn’s agenda, the film also carries an unintentional point on that score worth considering. At a time when the United States is anxious about welcoming refugees and immigrants, this film reminds us that our country is made up largely of immigrants — some who look like Eilis, but also many who don’t.

'The 33' Wears Its Heart on Its Sleeve

The 33
Still from the movie 'The 33' / via The 33 Movie on Facebook

The 33, a dramatization of the 2010 San Jose mine collapse in Chile, has all the markings of a Hollywood tentpole film. Heartfelt, incredible true story: check. Touching human drama: check. Stirring score: check (it’s one of the last created by composer James Horner before his death in June, giving it extra poignancy). There are more lines about “not giving up” than there are tears in an Oscar acceptance speech. The 33 fits the end-of-year crowd-pleaser profile in every way.

The 33 tells the famous story of the collapse of the gold mine in Chile’s Atacama desert from three different perspectives. 

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