Archive

Black Earth Rising

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March 7, 2019 Jerry L. Holsopple

The opening music hooked me as Black Earth Rising, a mini-series on Netflix, came on with the titles featuring the fearful hope of the story, told with simple drawn lines rushing across the screen. I had to watch it again. It took me a few seconds to realize this was Leonard Cohen’s gravel-low voice chanting us into the darkness, surrounded by the voices of a choir and the cantor from a synagogue. The musical complexity is a fantastic opening to this multifaceted journey into the remains of the Rwandan genocide, and the tentacles that reach into the war next door […]

Oscar-nominated shorts and winners

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February 28, 2019 Matthew Kauffman Smith

The beauty of short films is that filmmakers can focus on one narrow aspect of life. Shorts can also be as powerful and meaningful as a movie that is 10 times as long, and can give fledgling filmmakers an opportunity to hone their craft. Short films also have received a boost in popularity in recent years with an annual theatrical release of Oscar-nominated shorts in the animated, live action, and documentary categories. While the films are also available on streaming platforms, the theatrical release is a great way to see a great diversity of films in one sitting.  While I […]

Border walls: A simple fix?

February 22, 2019 Tammy Alexander

By Tammy Alexander, Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office There is general agreement that monitoring the flow of people and goods across the U.S.-Mexico border is a necessary government function. This is especially true when it comes to efforts to restrict the flow of illicit drugs and human trafficking. However, there are disagreements among both policymakers and the public about how best to accomplish this, particularly when it comes to the construction of border walls and fences. Those disagreements are sometimes expressed with extreme language, when those who favor building walls are portrayed as racist and hating immigrants and those who […]

Lego Movie 2

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February 21, 2019 Carmen Andres

When The Lego Movie came out in 2014, my son was 11. By that age, he and his friends were far more into computer games, Star Wars and superhero movies than their Legos, but they got a kick out of the movie–in no small part because of its ability to not only draw on a childhood love of Legos but also appeal across pop culture landscapes like Star Wars and the DC comic universe. And it had a really thoughtful and satisfying story to boot. Lego Movie 2: The Second Part definitely continues the pop culture landscapes and references–cranking them […]

High Flying Bird

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February 14, 2019 Vic Thiessen

There is nothing worth watching at the local cinema this month, so I checked out Netflix, which released the best film made in 2018 (Roma). Roma is a perfect example of why I’m not a big fan of the concept of Netflix Original Films, because Roma deserves to be watched on a big screen, not on a TV (even if it’s 60” wide). The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, released by Netflix in November, is another example of this. But if Netflix is helping these films get made, I suppose I must view this as a positive thing. And some Netflix […]

A first step for criminal justice reform

February 8, 2019 Rachelle Lyndaker Schlabach

After years of work by advocates, including many constituents of Mennonite Central Committee, criminal justice reform legislation was signed into law by President Trump on December 21. The law is called the First Step Act and it is just that—a first step. Additional reforms are still needed to address mass incarceration in the U.S., which disproportionately affects communities of color. But first, what will the new law do? It will reduce a number of mandatory minimum sentences and allow judges more discretion when sentencing individuals. The “three-strike” rule, which imposed a life sentence if someone is convicted of three or […]

The Favourite

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February 7, 2019 Jerry L. Holsopple

I asked one of my students what I should review this week, with both options being about powerful women (the other was On the Basis of Sex).  On the surface, The Favourite, nominated for ten Oscars, seems to just be an expose of the decadence of the royal court in the early 18th century.  We expect this to be another costume drama that exploits the audiences desire to see inside the lives of the rich and famous, but it is not even close. Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) ruled for twelve years starting in 1702.  When she came to power she […]

A steep climb for asylum seekers

February 1, 2019 Charissa Zehr

“Why don’t people wait their turn? They should just get in line!” These lines are often tossed around in the debates about families and individuals crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. The distinction that many make between migrants who enter our country “legally” and those “sneaking in” between ports is a deceptive comparison. Many migrants who cross the U.S.-Mexico border are seeking asylum, which can be claimed at any entry point—bridge, road, desert or otherwise. Yet border officials in both the U.S. and Mexico have been actively preventing families from seeking protection through asylum and spreading deliberate misinformation. U.S. Customs and Border […]

Heartland uncovers prejudices toward the poor

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January 31, 2019 Gordon Houser

One of my favorite books from 2018 is Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth by Sarah Smarsh. This is an important book in its uncovering of prejudices toward people who struggle in poverty. And while it’s not written from a specifically Christian perspective, it also addresses some biblical themes. Smarsh is a journalist who has covered socioeconomic class, politics and public policy for the Guardian, VQR, NewYorker.com, Harpers.org and many other publications. She also grew up in Kansas, which drew my interest, since I’m a lifelong Kansan. Smarsh challenges an idea—a […]

Peace is not simply words

January 30, 2019 Thirdway

In November, the Ottawa Office was pleased to host Syrian peacemaker S. Laham, (full name withheld for security purposes) formerly with MCC partner Middle East Council of Churches (MECC), for meetings with Canadian policymakers about Syria. Director Anna Vogt spoke with Laham about MECC’s work and his message for Canada. Here is a condensed and edited version of Laham’s reflections.    The Middle East Council of Churches (MECC) has been involved in humanitarian work since its establishment in 1974 as a communion of churches in the Middle East. MECC started by supporting Palestinian refugees, then those impacted by civil wars in Lebanon and Iraq, […]