How do movies express our deepest human longings, laments, moral quandaries, and understanding of ultimate reality? How does cinema, beckoning audiences to enter imaginary universes collectively, share qualities with religious ritual and communities? How may cinema serve as a means to transcend our individual selves? How might movies function in contemporary culture as sacred literature?
We will start with fundamental questions to seek a common understanding of “sacred literature.” We will look to texts held as sacred to diverse cultures (such as Torah, Bible, Qu’ran, Lotus Sutra, Bhagavad Gita, Egyptian Book of the Dead), exploring the roles of divine inspiration, human
inscription and/or authorship, oral, visual and text-based transmission. Considering the human needs reflected in the content, form and the ritual context in which sacred literature functions, we will compare the content, form and ritual of cinema in modern life.
The course will consist of film screenings, discussion, and readings of sacred literature and cinema theory. The group will vote on films to view representing a range of “ultimate concerns,” such as lament, repentance, redemption, death and transcendence, and praise. The course will emphasize films that have engaged the popular imagination and do not take up religious narratives explicitly, such as A Serious Man; On the Waterfront; The Fugitive; 12 Years a Slave; Interstellar; Hiroshima, Mon Amour; Boyhood; Harold and Maude; The Tree of Life.
Filmmaker SAMANTHA DAVIDSON GREEN recently completed her first feature film, teaches film directing at Dartmouth College and film-related courses with OSHER@Dartmouth, and enjoys directing and serving on the board at Parish Players Theater. She earned her M.F.A. in Film Directing at UCLA after teaching in Mississippi and Japan and working for PBS in San Francisco. She lives in Plainfield, NH with her family.