You shall treat the stranger who "visits" with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of
With movies like Iron Man, What Happens in Vegas & 10,000 BC in the local theaters, where is a grown-up supposed to go to see a good film? It's off to a theater that shows Indie flicks, or it's a video at home. I'm lucky to have a great theater nearby that has 7 Indies going at once. For me a good movie teaches me something; about life, the world, history, happiness or pain. It often gives me the language to understand what was in my heart, but not yet in my head.
My friend Tessa says she never makes movie recommendations because everybody likes something different. I say, "Why not? If you're a fan of blood & guts, shoot 'em up action, animation, junior high raunch, don't listen to any of my recommendations!"
The VisitorThis is the perfect quiet understated movie. Written & directed by Tom McCarthy of "The Station Agent" it tells the story of Walter Vale (Richard Jenkins of "Six Feet Under"), a widowed, burned out, crotchety and lonely economics professor at Connecticut College.
When Walter is forced to travel to New York City to present a conference paper, he finds two strangers (illegal immigrants) living in his seldom-used NYC apartment. Against every normal American impulse, instead of throwing them out, Walter actually lets these "strangers" explain how they happen to be living in his apartment. Charming Tarek, a drummer from Syria, and his wary girlfriend Zainab, a jewelry maker from Senegal are hard to resist.
With nowhere else to lay their heads Walter lets them share his apartment, and they in turn, let him share their lives with food and music and real friendship. Walter comes alive for the first time in years and comes face to face with the real-life tragedy of what is happening to the lives of illegal immigrants since 9/11. Sometimes it's hard to know which of us is the stranger and which of us is the host.
The Band's VisitThis was supposed to win the Academy Award for the Best Foreign Film, but the Academy nixed it because there was too much English in it. Eight members of the Alexandrian (Egyptian) Ceremonial Police Band arrive in the busy Israeli airport and no one is there to meet them. With an invitation to play at the opening of an Arab Cultural Center, it's up to them to get to their final destination on time.
Through a series of miscommunications, the hapless band, formally dressed in 1950's style sky-blue uniforms, gets dropped off in the wrong town. They've landed in the middle of a scrappy hard-luck Israeli desert town and they're a little nervous about it. There's a language barrier, a cultural barrier, a political barrier, not to mention a prejudicial barrier.
There are no hotels or inns in this town and the band must depend on the Israelis' sometimes grudging, sometimes easy hospitality. The band's leader is sober formal suspicious Tewfiq. The town's "restauranteur" is brusque yet charming, tell-it-like-it-is Dina. And maybe the wisest of all is the band's young open friendly easy-going playboy, Haled. What happens when the stranger is supposed to be your enemy?
I must have passed on this DVD at the video store half a dozen times. The story about a man who has a life-sized doll as a girl friend? I don't think so. I'm so glad I finally took the chance. Lars, played by Ryan Gosling, orders life-sized Bianca, through an internet site at a critically time in his life. His only relatives, brother Gus and sister-in-law Karin are going to have a child. Lars has always been a loner, but now he appears to have clearly gone off the deep end.
Lars and the Real Girl
He truly believes Bianca, the doll, is his girlfriend. She's a religious wheel-chair-bound South American who wants to be a nurse. Completely unnerved, his wise kind-hearted sister-in-law consults the small Minnesota town's doctor, Patricia Clarkson. Lars clearly needs help! If only all our doctors were as wise as this one. She advises that there's a reason Lars needs this delusion right now; something is causing him pain & he needs to work it out in his own way; he'll lose the "doll delusion" when he no longer needs it. Best for Gus & Karin to play along.
They do even better than play along. The whole town takes Bianca (the doll) into their lives and hearts. It's an eccentric intelligent fairy tale, but it's got a real message for us all. It's hard to tell who gets more from "welcoming" this stranger into their lives, Lars, his brother & sister-in-law, or the town. Sometimes the stranger is a local who just acts strange.
God Grew Tired of UsI waited a year for this to come out in DVD. Don't miss it!
"An award-winning critically acclaimed documentary narrated by Nicole Kidman GOD GREW TIRED OF US explores the indomitable spirit of three Lost Boys from the Sudan who are forced to leave their homeland due to a tumultuous civil war.
Traveling barefoot across the sub-Saharan desert John Bul Dau, Daniel Abol Pach and Panther Blor were among the 25,000 Lost Boys (ages 3 to 13) who fled villages, formed surrogate families, and sought refuge from famine, disease, wild animals, and attacks from rebel soldiers. Named by a journalist after Peter Pan's posse of orphans, who protected and provided for each other, the Lost Boys traveled together for five years and against all odds crossed into the UN's refugee camp in Kakuma Kenya. A journey's end for some, it was only the beginning for John Daniel and Panther, who along with 3800 other young survivors were selected to re-settle in the United States.
The documentary chronicles their triumph over seemingly insurmountable adversities and a relocation to America where the Lost Boys build active and fulfilling new lives, but remain deeply committed to helping friends and family they have left behind".
You will laugh as much as you will cry when you watch this. To see these boys in their first apartment, watching television, eating potato chips and visiting a grocery store for the first time is a delight. How we have treated these strangers of indomitable spirit is not. What they had to go through in Sudan is not. Why is it so hard to treat the stranger with respect & generosity & to welcome him into our homes?
Then She Found Me
Helen Hunt, Bette Midler, Colin Firth, Matthew Broderick. It feels like it's going to be a silly sappy sentimental chick flick---but then it's not. Schoolteacher April is married to immature Ben who decides he's had enough of marriage after a year. Without any warning he wants out. She's 39 & desperately wants to get pregnant, but can't. Until, of course, she finally decides to leave man-child Ben. A week later her adopted mother dies. Her birth mother (Bette Midler), who just happens to be a wealthy wacky talk show host, suddenly waltzes into her life & tells her Steve McQueen is her father. Oh, and then April falls hard for the divorced father (Colin Firth) of one of her students. And that's just the first 15 minutes.
Stick with it--it's so much more. It's a fun romp with depth, maturity & meaning. Can we forgive each other for the hurts we inflict upon each other? What does it mean to be a good parent? Can we stick with each other knowing that try as we might we'll still make mistakes, disappoint, say terrible things, and cause each other much pain? And what about trusting in God when you do everything right, but everything still falls apart? Sometimes our greatest fears bring our greatest joys. It's complicated, the rules aren't simple, and we can't always understand our lives until we look backwards.
Sometimes the stranger is our own mother.