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By Sister Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.



So far this year, five films have been released that focus on Africa: Hotel Rwanda, The Interpreter, Sahara, Lord of War and The Constant Gardener. They reflect a vision of an impoverished but beautiful Africa. The nations there are ravaged by the consequences of political and economic decisions made by more stable Western nations, as well as civil war, corruption and greed of their own governments.

Some additional movies that include social-justice issues are: Crash, Men With Guns, Erin Brockovich, Dead Man Walking, The Grapes of Wrath, Gandhi, Cry Freedom, The Insider, Norma Rae, Schindler’s List, Green Dragon, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Magnificent Seven, Entertaining Angels: The Dorothy Day Story, Romero, The Elephant Man and The Year of Living Dangerously.

Such films are courageous because they question the status quo. They are supposed to entertain us, yet they also make us think. Although filmmakers may not be aware of it, they are inviting believers and people of good will to consider the principles of Catholic social teaching, which are based on sacred Scripture and the consistent teaching of the Church.

Recently, the bishops of Kentucky issued a pastoral letter that explains these principles. Titled “Economic Justice in 21st Century Kentucky: Holding Ourselves Accountable,” it is available in pamphlet form online at www.ccky. org.



LORD OF WAR (L, R) confronts us with the morality of the global-political economy that provides guns to any entity that needs these weapons to keep war going. Set in the early 1980s, the film stars Nicolas Cage as Yuri Orlov, a Ukrainian immigrant who becomes an arms dealer.

In Berlin, his younger brother, Vitaly (Jared Leto), helps Yuri after he is ignored by a key arms dealer, Simeon Weisz (Ian Holm). When the Iron Curtain falls, Yuri obtains a wealth of armaments, which he sells to countries that are at war. Jack Valentine (Ethan Hawke) is an Interpol agent who keeps persisting in catching Yuri with his weapons.

Andrew Niccol is the writer and director who also wrote and directed Gattaca and S1m0ne, and he wrote The Terminal and The Truman Show. So far, his films have invited us to reflect on our humanity.

Nicholas Cage plays the amoral Yuri with a droll kind of charm. Bridget Moynahan is his trophy wife, Ava, who, at first, does not seem to matter very much.

This engrossing tale is about the ugly business and effects of gunrunning, such as the plight of child soldiers. The film tells us that the biggest arms manufacturers in the world are the United States, United Kingdom, Russia, France and China: All are permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.

Although Yuri’s conscience nags him, he continues because he’s good at what he does. “Who will inherit the earth?” he asks. “The arms dealers.” Ironically, trying to rationalize his activities, he says, “It has been said that evil prevails when good men do nothing.”

This dark film is about a sinful reality we never see, and the multitudes of innocent people who die in soul and in body as a result. Though viewing this film may cause discomfort, it is worth the effort. Violence, drug use, sexuality and crude language.

THE CONSTANT GARDENER (A-3, R) is based on John le Carré’s best-selling novel. Justin Quayle (Ralph Fiennes) is a low-level diplomat for the British High Command in Kenya who loves his garden. While in London to give a speech, he meets and marries Tessa (Rachel Weisz), who he thinks is a reporter.

After Tessa returns with Justin to Africa, she and Dr. Arnold Bluhm (Hubert Koundé) are killed in an accident when they go to a clinic. Justin discovers that the government has confiscated Tessa’s computer and files in an effort to discover what she knew about people dying because of medical testing by a government-approved pharmaceutical company. A heartbroken Justin leaves his garden and follows clues Tessa left behind to discover the truth.

This outstanding drama employs the garden metaphor to draw our attention to the grander garden that is the earth and all the people in it. The crosscutting editing style is reminiscent of other films such as The English Patient and Crash. It characterizes the film’s intelligence as it demands our attention. Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles (City of God) uses the handheld camera technique to create a sense of discomfort.

Ralph Fiennes inhabits the role of an introverted low-level diplomat and Rachel Weisz is totally credible as an informed, conscientious crusader for humanity.

This gritty yet gentle film shows how Justin’s moral journey leads to social awareness and his decision to do something that will make a difference. It invites us to do the same. Violence, some crude language and sexual content.

AN UNFINISHED LIFE (A-3, PG-13): Einar Gilkyson (Robert Redford) is a grizzled old man who lives on an isolated Wyoming ranch. His wife left him when he started drinking after the death of their son.

Einar takes care of Mitch (Morgan Freeman), a friend who was injured in a bear attack. When Einar discovers bear prints near his son’s grave, he tries to kill the animal but is stopped by the sheriff (Josh Lucas).

Meanwhile, Einar’s widowed daughter-in-law, Jean (Jennifer Lopez), leaves her abusive boyfriend, Gary (Damian Lewis). She flees with her 11-year-old daughter, Griff (Becca Gardner), to Einar’s ranch.

Einar is astonished to discover he has a granddaughter. He isn’t happy to see Jean because he blames her for his son’s death.

The real story is the relationship between Redford, Freeman and newcomer Becca Gardner, a fine young actress. Redford and Freeman exude dignity: They spar like two old grizzly bears growling at each other while keeping a respectful distance. The bear, of course, is the metaphor for threat, danger, guilt, grief and pain, as well as strength, perseverance, majesty and creation.

Even though Jennifer Lopez’s role is underdeveloped and her relationship with the sheriff unnecessary, this is a fine film for an autumn afternoon, a meditation on family, friends and life. Some problem language and an implied sexual encounter.

THREE WISHES (NBC, Fridays): “If you had a wish, what would it be?” asks singer Amy Grant at the beginning of this show. The Grammy and Dove award-winner and her team meet deserving people in towns across America. Lucky candidates are granted three big wishes and some small ones.

Three Wishes wipes out a family’s huge medical debt, facilitates a boy’s adoption and gets a football field built for a high school that cannot afford a new one.

Although this program is similar to Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and it makes sure we see the sponsors’ names, you cannot deny the emotion, humility, generosity and courage of the people and the communities that are showcased. I must give this touching tearjerker a B-K rating: Bring Kleenex.

A new genre has been born: Reality do-good shows that require corporations to give back to their customers. Perhaps this is what responsible capitalism looks like.

BONES (Fox, Tuesdays): Dr. Temperance Brennan (Emily Deschanel), a forensic anthropologist, investigates bones with the help of F.B.I. Special Agent Seeley Booth (David Boreanaz).

The series is based on the best-selling novels by real-life forensic anthropologist Kathy Reichs, which I have read. Brennan isn’t quite as I imagined her to be. But the first few episodes were a good watch.


MIRRORMASK (not rated, PG): Helena, 15, must find the fabled MirrorMask in order to restore health to a good queen. Overly artistic and bizarre, the plot is complicated by too many frightening creatures. Otherwise, it is a positive coming-of-age story. Scary images and mature thematic elements.

THE BROTHERS GRIMM (A-3, PG-13): This is an offbeat, humorous imagining of the biographies of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm and the stories they collected on their journeys. But director Terry Gilliam plays fast with the facts. Action-violence and crude language.

THE 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN (O, R): Although Steve Carell’s portrayal of the shy, nerdy Andy Stitzer is close to endearing, the raucous humor and gutter language of the other characters obscures whatever positive message the film might have. Heavy sexual content and demeaning view of men and women.

A-1 General patronage
A-2 Adults and adolescents
A-3 Adults
L Limited adult audience
O Morally offensive

USCCB Movie Review Line: 1-800-311-4222,

At, readers can search Sister Rose's and hundreds of other film reviews.


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