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Spiritual Cinema - an emerging force
Ever since the dawn of time, various forms of theater have been used as a means of communication, education and entertainment. Beginning with the early Greek tragedies of Aeschylus in the 5th century, and continuing with Shakespeare in the 16th, theatrical performances have served those in power by helping to influence moral and social behavior as well. In the early 20th century, moving pictures harnessed that same power of influence to an even broader audience. Movies, television and now the internet are shaping the view of the world of even millions of more people, in ways Aeschylus and Shakespeare couldn't even imagine. With this great power to motivate (dare we say manipulate?) comes an implicit mandate to use it responsibly. While many have benefited financially from the awesome power of these media, we all know history has shown that not all those wielding such power choose to use it to benefit the population at large.

The popular press and special interest groups devote much time and energy to decrying increases of violence, drugs and sex portrayed in all forms of the media. On the other hand far less, if any attention, is focused on the marked increase in positive messages appearing in the media as well. For many years now, though it has been off the radar screen of most people, a positive silent force has been slowly shaping the landscape of today's books, television and movies.

Thanks to the re-release of "classic" films on video and DVD and the proliferation of movie reruns on cable networks, even the youngest generations can still watch memorable movies from 60 plus years ago. At the time they were made, few even noticed the underlying

messages of such Frank Capra favorites as "Lost Horizon" (1937) and "It's a Wonderful Life" (1946). These early "feel good" movies did just that for the generations accustomed to world war and depression. They still make us feel good today because the themes of these movies are positive and uplifting - spiritual in fact.

Since then, an increasing number of films have appeared in theaters outwardly categorized as comedy, romance, even science fiction that have in actuality been movies with a spiritual message, though often not recognized let alone promoted as such. It is hard to imagine that the writers, directors and producers of such classic sci-fi movies as "The Day the Earth Stood Still" (1951) and "Forbidden Planet" (1955) were unaware of the spiritual implications of these creative works. Clearly the climate in the film industry in those days, and to some extent even now, simply would not have supported a genre that is increasing becoming recognized as "spiritual cinema". 

Even one such Hollywood producer, Stephen (Deutch) Simon, was not consciously aware of any spiritually inspired motivation when he initially championed and completed his film "Somewhere in Time" (1980) starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour. By the time he completed "What Dreams May Come" in (1998) with Robin Williams however, Stephen was fully consciously aware of the spiritual path he was following - one he fully embraces today both personally and professionally.

With the encouragement of his now close friend Neale Donald Walsh, Stephen has written a book titled "The Force is with you - Mystical Movie Messages That Inspire Our Lives" Hampton Roads Publishing Company, 2002. The book is another part of Simon's journey and contains personal commentary on his own projects as well as outlines of over 50 or so movies filmed in the last 75 years that he feels fit the designation "spiritual cinema". The book serves as a wonderful playbook for movie buffs who are interested in concentrating their future viewing on movies in this genre. To make it even easier to view these movies, Stephen has started a company that will send movies of this ilk to your home by mail for it's subscribers.

 

 

You can learn more about becoming a subscriber by going to http://www.SpiritualCinemaCircle.com. For those preferring to borrow or rent their films locally, a listing of the movies Stephen has written about can be found in his book or to the right.

Another book of interest to the do-it-yourself movie viewer is titled "Reel Spirit-A Guide to Movies That Inspire, Explore and Empower" Unity House Publishers, 2000 by Raymond Teague. Teague, self described life long movie buff and associate editor at Unity House Publishing, has included reviews of more than 400 movies. While the book contains many of the same selections as Simon's book it is interesting how their commentaries differ somewhat on the respective movies. Teague's tome is certainly more comprehensive and will serve the reader as an invaluable resource in planning viewing however, I found the reference book like format too distracting and not as easy a read as Simon's. A complete listing if the movies Teague has reviewed is available in his book or listed below to the right.

Both authors wrote about quite a few of the same movies, such as "The Matrix " (1999-2003), and original "Star Wars" (1977-1983) trilogies, "Field of Dreams" (1989), "Defending Your Life" (1991), "Sleepless in Seattle"(1993), "Forrest Gump" (1994), "Powder" (1995),"Phenomenon" (1996),"Independence Day" (1996), "Contact" (1997),"The Sixth Sense" (1999) and "Cast Away" (2002), many of which were released in the last decade or two. Things seem to be changing for the better as the pace of release appears to be increasing. In fact, a recently completed movie entitled "Spiritual Warrior" is currently listed in the Internet Movie Database (IMDB.com) as being in post production as we speak. The IMDB website describes the plotline thusly; "A story about a mysterious old man who finds the next Spiritual Warrior in order to fight the Prince of Darkness. The old man's student finds himself traveling in this world and the spiritual worlds to prepare the Spiritual Warrior to complete his destiny." While the quality of the script and production have yet to be determined, similar themes continue to appeal to a broad audience today as they have in centuries gone by.

With the help of such insiders as Stephen Simon, Authors like Raymond Teague and conscious viewers like you, Hollywood is beginning to get the message that the greater good can be served without sacrificing corporate profits. We can all be party to countering the negativity at the box office and helping to raise the collective consciousness level of the planet. By following our hearts and voting with our pocketbooks in support of film, television and publishing projects that speak to our spirituality we become the "silent force" that continues to shape the landscape of media choices.

Copyright 2005 Lee Keil

 

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