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Faith and Film Intersect aith Mexican Filmmakers

Analise Lipari | Friday, February 6, 2009

One of the hallmarks of scholarship at Notre Dame is the task of finding crossroads between faith and wider culture. This weekend, the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center is showcasing one such conversation: The Films and Faith Weekend 2009.

Co-sponsored by the Film, Television and Theatre Department, the Department of Theology and the Institute for Latino Studies, the Films and Faith Weekend will focus on a series of films that feature varying religious components and themes. The event is also unique in its focus on Mexican cinema. Subtitled “Contemporary Catholic Filmmakers from Mexico,” the weekend’s featured directors include Guillermo del Toro (“The Orphanage”), Alfonso Cuarón (“Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”), Carlos Reygadas and Alejandro González Iñárritu.

Tickets for the films are $6 for the general public, $5 for faculty and staff, $4 for seniors and $3 for students. All films will be shown in the Browning Cinema.

Children of Men (2006) dir. Alfonso CuarónFriday, Feb. 6 at 6:30 p.m. Rated R, 109 minutes

A futuristic saga with a pro-life twist, “Children of Men” takes place in 2027, in a dystopian United Kingdom where human beings can no longer have children on their own. After two decades of infertility, modern man has maybe a century left to survive.

Clive Owen stars as Theo Faron, a former activist who must transport Kee (Claire-Hope Ashitey), an African immigrant woman who has miraculously become pregnant.

The film also delves into complex issues of immigration; the British government, one of the last functioning political structures in the film’s time of societal upheaval and collapse, has been prosecuting waves of immigrants who have taken up residents in the besieged country. Faron’s task of protecting Kee becomes a symbol for the interconnectedness of men, and children of men, in an increasingly difficult world. Critics have also described the film as a companion piece to Cuarón’s “Y tu mamá también.”

Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), dir. Guillermo del ToroFriday, Feb. 6 at 9:30 p.m. Rated R, 112 minutes

“Pan’s Labyrinth” tells the story of Ofelia, a young girl caught between the brutalities of the Spanish Civil War and the engrossing world of her imagination. Where the film becomes complex, violent and arguably most beautiful is when the two worlds begin to intersect, and eventually collide.

With the backdrop of a conflict between Captain Vidal (Sergi Lopez I Ayats), Ofelia’s stepfather and a leader in the Franquist regime, and the Spanish Maquis, guerrilla fighters in the surrounding forests, Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) discovers an old, abandoned labyrinth on the grounds of a country estate. Soon, a mysterious faun (Doug Jones) begins to appear to her, one who grows increasingly angrier and more authoritarian. How del Toro resolves these two storylines is a profound tragedy, well deserving of the critical acclaim the film received.

Del Toro is known within the media as one of the “Three Amigos,” or the Cineastas in Spanish, a trio of Mexican directors that also includes Cuarón and Alejandro González Iñárritu. Other high-profile films in his repertoire include “Hellboy,” its sequel, “Hellboy 2: The Golden Army” and “Blade II.” In April 2008, he was announced as director of Peter Jackson’s future adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit.”

Silent Light (2008), dir. Carlos ReygadasSaturday, Feb. 7 at 6:30 p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 8 at 3 p.m. Rated R, 136 minutes

“Silent Light” is an unconventional story of where love, religion and culture can intersect. Filmed in Cuauhtémoc, Chihiahua, a city in northern Mexico, “Silent Night” tells the story of a married Mennonite man who falls in love with another woman. Much of the diolague is in Plautdietsch, which is spoken by Russian Mennonites.

Reygadas is well-known for his frequent use of nonprofessional actors in his films, and “Silent Light” proves no exception. Most of the film’s actors are members of Mennonite communities in Canada, Mexico and Germany, lending the film an intriguing international flavor.

Babel (2006), dir. Alejandro González IñárrituSaturday, Feb. 7 at 9:30 p.m. Rated R, 143 minutes

“Babel,” starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, is a multi-narrative film whose interwoven storylines jump from Morocco, to Japan, to the United States and finally to Mexico. Its complex portrayal of international relations and cultural conflict originally garnered the film seven Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director.

Pitt and Blanchett star as Susan and Richard Jones, a couple traveling from San Diego. When Susan is hit by an errant bullet while riding a bus, the incident reverberates on a terse and dramatic global scale.

The film is considered to be the third and final in González Iñárritu’s “Death Trilogy.” The trilogy also includes “Amores perros” (2000) and “21 Grams” (2003), which stars Sean Penn, Benicio del Toro and Naomi Watts.