By Diana Oestreich and Elliot Landy
UPLIFTING FILMS is a spiritual, but nonreligious evaluation, of both mainstream and independent films. It can be thought of as a guide to mind nutrition for film viewers. We recommend movies that have a positive vision of life, leave you feeling good and contain little or no gratuitous violence, exploitative sex or other types of negative imagery. We talk about films that delight, inspire, educate and enlighten. We are primarily for positive films, not against negative ones. Our reviews come from the heart as well as the intellect, our criteria are compassion and love. We look for positive role models, important messages, humor, positive women's or children's points of view. This month our focus is on women's films.
THE FOLLOWING FILMS ARE AVAILABLE ON VIDEO
(1995) Dutch. Directed by Marleen Gorris with Jan Steen.
Antonia's Line won the best foreign film at the Academy Awards and is the best women's film I've ever seen. It's about an ordinary peasant farmer, Antonia, and her relationship to her daughter, granddaughters, the town's people and ultimately the world.
The film depicts a strong, principled woman who knows exactly what to do to help people and live her life fully with love and hard work. Totally inspirational and the best role model of an extraordinary life. Thank God for foreign films.
(1994) Directed by Tony Richardson, with Jessica Lange and Tommy Lee Jones.
Blue Sky includes a great performance from Jessica Lange that captured the 1995 Oscar for Best Actress. Her role is compelling as a not-so- typical wife of a career army officer. Unable to exist and express herself in the confines of a 1950's army marriage, her character rebels in ways that are sometimes painful to her husband and children. It is through their love and forgiveness, and the strength of her will, that she manages to channel her energy and passion into a heroic anti-nuclear protest. This film contains strong, graphic portrayals of marriage and parenting. Older daughters who have had an eccentric, outrageous mother will relate to this film and might gain some understanding into their own situation. Some women dare to be different and defy convention. In this film there are triumphant rewards for everyone. Jessica Lange is ultimately a loving mother and wife and astonishes her family with her fearlessness, cleverness and courage.
(1994) Directed by Deepa Mehta, with Jessica Tandy, Bridget Fonda, Hume Cronin and Ellias Koteas.
Two women of very differing ages find renewal and inspiration for life and for their music in each other's friendship. Their age difference gives us the sense of a mother/daughter like relationship. The support and unconditional love they give each other is uplifting. Their adventures will make you laugh. A good film for women about breaking down boundaries that are either self-imposed or prescribed by society. Bridget Fonda is believable as her character goes through her transformation. Jessica Tandy plays a woman independent and proud, but with a sensuality that is an important element of this sweet story. Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronin are beautiful together as usual and we are saddened that this was one of Jessica's last performances.
(1987) Directed by Bill Forsyth, with Christine Lahti, Sara Walker and Andrea Burchill.
A film about life as it really is beneath the superficiality of everyday customs, mores and values. Told about two sisters orphaned by their mother's suicide, the tale follows them as they are brought up first by their grandmother, and then by two elderly aunts. Christine Lahti's character enters the picture and takes over the household. We quickly see that she is no normal person, but it takes nearly the entire film to truly grasp what she is about. The film is about odd people who are more connected to the spirit of life than to its external artifacts. A beautiful film depicting women who are different, what their priorities are, and why they have no choice but to follow their inner voices; and it shows how powerful and inspirational those voices can be.
Some may find this film disturbing as it contradicts most of the common values many of us hold dear- organization, discipline, orderliness, a neat and secure home. During the late 40's, when this film takes place, the role of women was to achieve these standards at any cost and to be the perfect housekeeper. A free spirit had little chance to thrive within these constraints. It was sometimes necessary to break away from society as opposed to being ostracized from it. An extraordinarily deep film about the inner call of the earth, of the spirit, of courage, and knowing that one will be okay. "There is nothing to fear" Christine Lahti says to her young niece, and that is the message of this unique film. To be carefree is to be joyful and loving.
I must caution that the mother commits suicide (off-camera) in the beginning of the film, and this might be disturbing to some. When the aunt takes over the mothering role, she helps the shyer, almost reclusive daughter to express herself. They become, in essence, a mother/daughter connection.
THE LITTLE PRINCESS
(1995) Directed by Alfonso Cuaron, with Eleanor Bron, Liesel Mathews, Liam Cunningham.
This extraordinary film, especially for young girls ages 6-16, shows the importance of faith, trusting your instincts and believing in yourself. An 11 year old girl, forced to live in a boarding school while her father is fighting in World War I, creates a world of magical fantasy and love for all those around her, even while suffering at the hands of the headmistress. Every woman should see this wisdom-filled film as the young girl is an important role model for women. We found it enchanting all the way through. Based on a novel by Francis Hodgson Burnette who wrote The Secret Garden (the 1994 version is also highly recommended on video).
Diana Oestreich and Elliott Landy are a husband and wife team with a lifelong passion for film and spirituality.
Diana Oestreich is a film producer. She has developed film projects for many actors, directors and studios including Warner Bros., MGM, Paramount, HBO, CBS, Barbra Streisand, Christopher Reeve and Goldie Hawn. She is currently developing a feature film which focuses on zen buddhism.
Elliott Landy is a well known photographer whose images of Woodstock, Dylan, the Band, and the sixties music scene are known worldwide. He has published and packaged several books, one of which, Woodstock Vision, The Spirit of A Generation, was recently released by Panasonic Software. =A9Landy Vision, Inc., P.O.B. 836, Woodstock, NY 12498.
Uplifting Films is on the Internet at: http://www.upliftingfilms.com .
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