Reel Religion


Friday, 8:00 PM–10:00 PM
Hilton Baltimore – Johnson A*

David A. Shefferman, Manhattan College, Presiding

Sponsored by the Religion, Film, and Visual Culture Group

Avalon (1990) is a feature film directed by Barry Levinson. It is a semi-autobiographical story of a family of Russian Jewish immigrants who have settled in Baltimore, Maryland, at the beginning of the twentieth century. The film is the third in Levinson's series of four "Baltimore Films"—Diner (1982), Tin Men (1987), Avalon (1990), and Liberty Heights (1999)—all set in his hometown during the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. Avalon explores the themes of Jewish assimilation and how modernity has changed American family life.

Cloud Atlas

Friday, 8:00 PM–10:00 PM
Hilton Baltimore – Johnson B*

Santiago Pinon, Texas Christian University, Presiding

Everything is connected—an 1849 diary of an ocean voyage across the Pacific; letters from a composer to his friend; a thriller about a murder at a nuclear power plant; a farce about a publisher in a nursing home; a rebellious clone in futuristic Korea; and the tale of a tribe living in post-apocalyptic Hawai'i far in the future. This film is an exploration of how the actions of individual lives impact one another in the past, present, and future, as one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero and an act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution.

Pink Flamingos

Friday, 8:00 PM–10:00 PM
Hilton Baltimore – Latrobe*

Kent Brintnall, University of North Carolina, Charlotte, Presiding

Sponsored by the Gay Men and Religion Group, the Queer Studies in Religion Group, the Status of LGBTIQ Persons in the Profession Committee, the SBL Bible and Cultural Studies Group, the SBL Gender, Sexuality, and the Bible Group and the SBL LGBT/Queer Hermeneutics Group

Notorious Baltimore criminal and underground figure Divine goes up against Connie and Raymond Marble, a sleazy married couple who make a passionate attempt to humiliate her and seize her tabloid-given title as "The Filthiest Person Alive." Pink Flamingos is a 1972 transgressive black comedy exploitation film written, produced, composed, shot, edited, and directed by John Waters. When the film was initially released, it caused a huge degree of controversy due to the wide range of perverse acts performed in explicit detail. It has since become one of the most notorious films ever made. It made an underground star of the flamboyant drag queen actor Divine. Produced on a budget of only $10,000, it was mostly shot on weekends in Phoenix, a suburb of Baltimore, Maryland. Since its release it has had a rather devoted cult following and is one of Waters's most iconic films.

There will be brief presentations and a moderated discussion following the screening.

The Spirit of Albion

Friday, 8:00 PM–10:00 PM
Convention Center – 347*

Sponsored by the Contemporary Pagan Studies Group

The Spirit of Albion began life as a play devised by the Archway Theatre Young Adults Workshop in Surrey, United Kingdom, made up of 16 to 21 year old members. The members created a devised piece based on 10 songs by the Pagan folk musician Damh the Bard. Following the success of the play, the theater troupe filmed the story. Come see the story of Esther, Annie and George, three people whose lives have reached a crisis point. On the night of October 31st, all three find themselves drawn to a clearing in the woods. Secrets are revealed and nothing will ever be the same again as an ancient power emerges from the shadows?

My Name is Khan

Friday, 8:00 PM–11:00 PM
Hilton Baltimore – Peale C*

Kathleen M. Erndl, Florida State University, Presiding

Sponsored by the Religion in South Asia Section and the Religion, Film, and Visual Culture Group

My Name Is Khan is a 2010 Indian dramatic film directed by Karan Johar, written by Shibani Bathija, and starring Shahrukh Khan and Kajol in the lead roles. Rizwan Khan, an Indian Muslim man with Asperger's Syndrome, immigrates to the U.S., where he marries an Indian Hindu single mother, Mandira. The terrorist attacks of 9/11, and subsequent personal tragedy, impel Rizwan on a journey across the U.S. to tell the President, "My name is Khan, and I¹m not a terrorist." This love story, set against an exploration of religious and national identities, promotes a vision of a common humanity. The film is 161 minutes long, in Hindi-Urdu and English with English subtitles.

Departures (Okuribito)

Saturday, 8:00 PM–10:00 PM
Hilton Baltimore – Johnson A*

John Lyden, Grand View University, Presiding

Sponsored by the Music and Religion Group and the Religion, Film, and Visual Culture Group

Daigo Kobayashi—a devoted cellist in an orchestra that has just been dissolved—now finds himself without a job. Kobayashi decides to move back to his hometown with his wife to look for work and start over. He answers a classified ad entitled "Departures" thinking it is an advertisement for a travel agency only to discover that the job is actually for a "Nokanshi" or "encoffineer," a funeral professional who prepares deceased bodies for burial and entry into the next life. While his wife and others despise the job, Kobayashi takes a certain pride in his work and begins to perfect the art of "Nokanshi," acting as a gentle gatekeeper between life and death, between the departed and the family of the departed. The film follows his profound and sometimes comical journey with death as he uncovers the wonder, joy, and meaning of life and living.

Soul Food Junkies

Saturday, 8:00 PM–10:00 PM
Hilton Baltimore – Johnson B*

Christopher Carter, Claremont School of Theology, Presiding

Sponsored by the Animals and Religion Group, Black Theology Group, and Religion and Food Group

In Soul Food Junkies, filmmaker Byron Hurt sets out on a historical and culinary journey to learn more about the soul food tradition and its relevance to black cultural identity. Through candid interviews with soul food cooks, historians, and scholars, as well as with doctors, family members, and everyday people, the film puts this culinary tradition under the microscope to examine both its positive and negative consequences. Hurt also explores the socioeconomic conditions in predominantly black neighborhoods, where it can be difficult to find healthy options, and meets some pioneers in the emerging food justice movement who are challenging the food industry, encouraging communities to “go back to the land” by creating sustainable and ecofriendly gardens, advocating for healthier options in local supermarkets, supporting local farmers' markets, avoiding highly-processed fast foods, and cooking healthier versions of traditional soul food.

Water Like Stone: A Portrait of a Louisiana Fishing Village

Saturday, 8:00 PM–10:00 PM
Hilton Baltimore – Latrobe*

Michael Pasquier, Louisiana State University, Presiding

Sponsored by the North American Religions Section

Water Like Stone is an impressionistic portrait of Leeville, a fishing village in Coastal Louisiana. It is a documentary about people living in a dying landscape. It is an elegy. It is an ode. It is a journey through a world all but forgotten.

The Source Family

Sunday, 7:00 PM–9:00 PM
Marriott Inner Harbor – Grand Ballroom D-F*

Timothy Miller, University of Kansas, Presiding

Sponsored by the New Religious Movements Group

The Source Family was a radical experiment in utopian and communal living in 1970s Hollywood. Its members were the darlings of the Sunset Strip until their spiritual community, their flamboyant lifestyle, and the outsider ideals of their controversial spiritual leader Father Yod became an issue with local authorities. They fled to Hawaii, where the family's demise came dramatically. This widely praised feature film tells the remarkable story of a captivating moment in American history and its legacy decades later. A Q&A session with filmmaker Jodi Wille and Source Family member Isis Aquarian will follow the screening.

Jodi Miller, Eternal Now Productions
Isis Aquarian, The Source Family

God Loves Uganda

Sunday, 8:00 PM–10:00 PM
Convention Center – 325*

Joseph Hellweg, Florida State University, Presiding

Sponsored by the African Religions Group, Gay Men and Religion Group, and Lesbian-Feminist Issues in Religion Group

The feature length documentary God Loves Uganda, by filmmaker Roger Ross Williams, is a powerful exploration of the evangelical campaign to change African culture with values imported from America’s Christian Right. The film follows American and Ugandan religious leaders fighting “sexual immorality” and missionaries trying to convince Ugandans to follow Biblical law. God Loves Uganda premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on January 18, 2013. The producers hope that the film will serve as a catalyst for change and social action concerning LGBTIQ rights in Uganda as well as elsewhere in Africa and around the world. It is an ideal film for classroom use concerning LGBTIQ issues.

Charles Guéboguo, University of Michigan
Marie Cartier, California State University, Northridge
Richard McCarty, Mercyhurst University
Adriaan van Klinken, University of Leeds

The Big Lebowski

Sunday, 8:00 PM–10:00 PM
Convention Center – 326*

Erica Hurwitz Andrus, University of Vermont, Presiding
Elijah Siegler, College of Charleston, Presiding

Sponsored by the Religion and Popular Culture Group and the Religion, Film, and Visual Culture Group

The Big Lebowski is a 1998 comedy film written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. Jeff Bridges stars as Jeff Lebowski, an unemployed Los Angeles slacker and avid bowler, nicknamed "The Dude." After a case of mistaken identity, The Dude is introduced to a millionaire also named Jeffrey Lebowski. When the millionaire Lebowski's trophy wife is later kidnapped, he commissions The Dude to deliver the ransom to secure her release. The plan goes awry when The Dude's friend Walter Sobchak (John Goodman), a gun-toting Jewish convert with anger issues, schemes to keep the full ransom. Since its original release, The Big Lebowski has become a cult classic. Dudeism, an online religion devoted largely to spreading the philosophy and lifestyle of the movie's main character, was founded in 2005. Also known as The Church of the Latter-Day Dude, the organization has ordained over 130,000 "Dudeist Priests" all over the world via its website.

Death of a Japanese Salesman

Monday, 8:00 PM–10:00 PM
Hilton Baltimore – Johnson A*

Asuka Sango, Carleton College, Presiding

Sponsored by the Japanese Religions Group

Death of a Japanese Salesman is a powerful and emotional documentary from writer/director Mami Sunada. Sunada recorded the last months in the life of her father based on the diary he wrote after having been diagnosed with incurable cancer. Tomoaki Sunada was the typical Japanese sales representative who had worked for over forty years for the same company and who was diagnosed with terminal stage cancer soon after he retired at the age of 67. "He reacts to the news with the same pragmatic approach that made him a successful salesman." In her directorial debut, Mami Sunada combines nonfiction film form with the growing trend of "end of life journals" among the elderly in Japan. By channeling her thoughts and feelings through her father’s "ending note," Sunada abstracts the weight of a life and the pain of loss into a surprisingly hopeful and life-affirming message.

Mark Rowe, McMaster University
Michiaki Okuyama, Nanzan Institute for Religion and Culture
Timothy Benedict, Princeton University

Love is a Verb

Monday, 8:00 PM–10:00 PM
Hilton Baltimore – Johnson B*

Martha Ann Kirk, University of the Incarnate Word, Presiding

A 90-minute documentary following persons inspired by M. Fethullah Gülen and documenting their extraordinary work around the world. The film follows a series of Americans on an interfaith journey, a nun traveling back to Iraq to capture her relationships with women improving the country, and culminates in a glimpse into the world of Gülen himself. Love is a Verb will be followed by a panel discussion with the Emmy-award winning director Terry Spencer Hesser, editor Jan Sutcliff, and Sister Martha Ann Kirk—who has been researching how the Hizmet Movement has helped in peacebuilding through education in Iraq for the last three summers.

The Secret History of Sex, Choice and Catholics

Monday, 8:00 PM–10:00 PM
Hilton Baltimore – Latrobe*

Kate Ott, Drew University, Presiding

Many Catholic scholars who challenge the existing tenets of Vatican teachings related to sexuality—and instead excavate some of the neglected chapters of the tradition—are denounced by the Vatican and its supporters. Dialogue in the church and university classrooms can be forced underground, partially due to pressure from above, but also from Catholics policing each other, reinforcing the taboo on sexuality related issues. The film, The Secret History of Sex, Choice and Catholics, illustrates that traditionalists can also be revisionist willing to engage in the hard work of creating a modern, livable, Catholic ethic of sexuality. This film provides an opportunity to not only explore the diversity of Catholic history of sexuality issues; it also provides a valuable resource for classroom engagement.

Mary E. Hunt, Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual, Silver Spring, MD


*Please note that the film locations are subject to change. Be sure to check your Program Book and Annual Meetings At-a-Glance to find the most up to date information.