Thursday, September 23, 2010

Hopelessness or hope, violence and revenge or love your enemy, great Aussie Crime movie and Christian propaganda: The story of two movies Animal Kingdom (2010), The End of the Spear (2005).

This week I had the chance to see two movies, one on a Tuesday afternoon in response to a TV ad and the other on a Thursday evening after I’d been drawn to the DVD in a bargain bin. The both dealt with tragedies in people’s (young men’s) lives, circles of violence and revenge, one asked some questions of me and the other provided some scope of answer. One was a crime story written for film and the other was a film based on a true story.

Animal Kingdom (2010) told the story of “J” a seventeen year old boy youth who comes from a major crime family in Australia. He is rather detached from the world, his mother has tried to shield him from the destructive influences of her family but after she dies from a drug overdose (before “J”’s eyes) he has no where left to god so finds himself involved with a family hunted by a corrupt police force and caught in a cycle of crime, violence, drugs and mental illness. The voice over at the start of the movie says “Criminals are all afraid, they all fear, they all come a cropper”. That sets the scene for the whole movie. If one was to categorise this movie you’d call it a gangster movie, and as such the protagonist can never be redeemed because while many such movies glamorise crime (Animal Kingdom does not) they act as cautionary tales.

The end of the spear (2005) is a film about the life of two men from totally different worlds and how tragedy touches both their lives and because of the gospel proclaimed and lived out it brings healing and wholeness for them their families and a whole people group. Mincyani is a Waodani tribesman who as a child sees his father and younger brother killed by a rival tribe. He grows up in a society that is based on revenge and a rule of the spear. Steve Saint is the son of a missionary who with four others tries to make contact with the Waodani tribe only to be killed by Mincyani and his fellows. The brave women of the missionary family’s choose to go and live with the Waodani and bring hope and healing. Through their ministry (and a s a Christian I’d want to acknowledge the Holy Spirit) the Waodani society changes and they learn to love their enemies. The film ends (spoiler) with reconciliation between Mincyani and a grown up Steve. The film starts by wanting to give assurance of hope, that people can change and that there is a cure for the human condition. AS a movie it fits into a family epic and historical drama, sadly I’m sure many would write it off as Christian propaganda (it is produced by an in dependant film company) , however the story is so compelling and hope filled that it can’t simply be written off as that.

I’m glad I saw Animal Kingdom (2010) because it invites one to ask is there any hope: Are their people in our society who are trapped in such cycles and what is the way out? Being an Australian film with the typical Aussie realism for me a s a kiwi makes it hard to shake off as simply another emotive piece of cellulose. In the film “J” is offered a way out by detective Leckie (played by Guy Pearce), a non corrupt police officer. However his offer is only protective custody and no real promise of a new life. “J” girlfriend and her family could be another life line thrown to him but it is not enough. “J” gets pulled back into violence and revenge and in the end makes takjes the only option he feels is left to him.

It made me leave the cinema asking questions like where was the gospel, where was hope, where was the possibility of new life, even “J”s grandmother Granny ‘Smurf” who welcomes “J” in ends up showing her true colours by trying to arrange his death. A church does appear once in the movie for the funeral of one of “J’s uncles, who had been a ray of hope in J’s life, then it simply a empty cold concrete building which ‘J’s other uncles soon vacate to plot revenge.

I am so glad I saw 'The end of the spear' soon after 'Animal kingdom'. In ‘end of the spear’ there is hope, there is gospel, and it’s almost as if it answers the question about the possibility of the gospel to bring change. But that change comes from a commitment and sacrifice by people equally touched by tragedy to offer themselves to live amongst the violence and live an alternative reality. It’s not a quick fix, a mission foray into the jungle (real not urban) then home feeling good. Its a willingness to invest and risk life, to see change, to forgive and live that forgiveness. In a recent lecture Tim keel talked of a friend of his who lives and brings change to at rick young people in the midst of urban decay. The response of his friend he said was ‘Life Long one on one Love’. This is the sort of thing that is displayed in ‘the end of the spear’ and adsent in ‘Animal Kingdom’.

Animal Kingdom finishes with a devastated family, four out of five children are dead, “j’s” girlfriend adds to the carnage. While ‘The End of The Spear’ finishes with grandfathers and gain in the midst of such loss. For the first time ever the Waodoni tribe men grow old enough to see their children grow up and to see their children’s children.

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