Tuesday, November 12, 2013
the pain and peril of living in exile: a theological film review of White Lies
Each month I publish a film review, for Touchstone (the New Zealand Methodist magazine). Stretching back to 2005, some 85 plus films later, here is the review for November, of New Zealand film, White Lies.
“White Lies” has the same producer (John Barnett) and original writer (Witi Ihimaera) as the now celebrated New Zealand film “Whale Rider.” Yet “White Lies” offers a far darker exploration of New Zealand’s bi-cultural identity.
The era is early twentieth century and Maori medicine woman, Paraiti (Whirikamako Black) gathers native herbs and provides medical care for her people, scattered throughout Te Urewera wilderness.
On a rare trip to the city, she is furtively asked by Maori housekeeper, Maraea (Rebecca House), to help her wealthy mistress, Rebecca Vickers (Antonia Prebble), keep a secret. Together, these three women generate the emotional heart of the movie, an interwoven pairing of life with death and death with life.
Initially, Paraiti refuses to help, chilled by the alien whiteness of the world in which Maraea and Rebecca live. Her mind is changed by subsequent events, a child birth gone wrong, during which Pakeha display a callous disdain for Maori patterns and practices. All of which is history, for in 1907 the New Zealand Government passed the Tohunga Suppression Act, which limited the services Maori could provide to their communities. For Paraiti, her actions will be an act of resistance, a way of restoring some justice.
This is an acting debut for well-known Maori singer, Whirikamako Black and she is superbly paired with Antonia Prebble, best known for her portrayal of Loretta West in TV drama, “Outrageous Fortune.”
Plaudits are also due to other New Zealand artists. The house in which Rebecca lives is a triumph for film designer, Tracey Collins, while the forests in which Paraiti gathers herbs and the room in which Rebecca gives birth, allow the well-honed atmospheric skills of Alun Bollinger to unfold in all their gloomy cinematographic glory.
Written and directed by Mexican born Dana Rotberg, “White Lies” significantly reworks Ihimaera’s novella, “Medicine Woman.” Maori carvers return to their work, reasoned Ihimaera, so why not writers? Despite the re-carving of words, the early scenes of the movie lack pace, failing to provide momentum the emotional centre deserves.
What unfolds in “White Lies” are three contrasting approaches to dominant Pakeha culture, each embodied in the three women: marginality in Paraiti, accommodation in Maraea, ultimate assimilation in Rebecca.
What is thought provoking is to then lay “White Lies” alongside the First Testament. Israel’s experience of exile offers another perspective on how minority communities activate resistance. We see marginality in the return of Nehemiah to a Jerusalem destroyed. We see accommodation in the book of Esther, her willingness to parlay her sexuality in exchange for influence. We see assimilation in Jeremiah’s injunction to build houses, plant gardens and take wives.
“White Lies” a century on offers little hope. Rebecca’s final decisions are chillingly bleak, while the forest gathering ways of Pariati are, in twentyfirst century New Zealand, long gone.
All that remains, as the movie tagline declares, is the reality that redemption comes at a price. Christians will ponder the crucial birthing scene, in which Rebecca hangs in a crucifix position, arms spread wide, supported by a watching woman, in the painful journey through which new life will eventually be won.
Rev Dr Steve Taylor is Principal at the Uniting College for Leadership and Theology, Adelaide. He writes widely in areas of theology and popular culture, including regularly at www.emergentkiwi.org.nz.
Sunday, May 20, 2012
why twitter is good for little blogs like mine
“Brilliant,” was the comment.
This week in the calendar of the church was Ascension Day. In honour of the day, I placed a quick note on Twitter, pointing to a number of historic “Ascension Day” posts on my blog:
Ascension day in worship http://t.co/r4hzmm8I And theology http://t.co/XVHSIcVj.
One post (Ascension day in worship) was an interactive worship service I had offered back in 2010 – Ascension Day and the footprints of Jesus – as a resource. Another post (Ascension day in theology) was a short theological reflection that I blogged back in 2007. (Please note the date. 2007 was some 3 years BEFORE Jeremy Begbie, at Wheaton, declared that the emerging church needed to pay more attention to the Ascension. Three years. Obviously Jeremy Begbie didn’t read my blog in doing his research. LOL!)
Anyhow, none of these posts rank anywhere on google, presumably not because they are bad, but simply because my blog is so small/does not know how to manipulate google rankings.
We are told that google is great for democratisation of information, but it also feeds a very fastmoving, temporary society, in which if you’re not on page one, you’re off the digital radar. Which means that for little blogs like mine, what you post as a resource has a very short shelf life. Which, if you post things hoping they might resource others, becomes self-defeating.
Until twitter. One short tweet this week led to a “brillant” comment by one person and a request by another to use the resources in worship. It put the resource back in circulation, by-passing the google gatekeeping and achieving the purpose of the blog – to share creativity, to pass on resources.
Which makes platforms like twitter more important for little blogs like mine, more important if the web really is meant to enhance connection and resourcing, a subversion of the hierarchies that have developed so quickly in this so-called “flat” networked digital world.
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
use of social media ministry learnings from Kony12
The last few weeks in class (Reading Cultures/Sociology for Ministry) has been focused on contemporary global cultures. Last week, a student asked about the Kony viral video campaign. It seemed a case study worth processing as a class, as it was so current, and yet raised so many questions about the use of social media to bring about change.
So the class were invited to view the video for “homework.” Upon return today, I invited them to choose a place on a continuum, from “it was not right” to “great use of social media.” This produced a great discussion with those on opposite ends of the spectrum making some really insightful observations.
To help ground the discussion, I reminded the class that our aim is to help churches think about being part of effective change. And at some point, a church might want to get involved in social media. So, what might we learn from the Kony campaign.
Here is the list we created: things to consider if you’re thinking about using social media.
- It can be highly, highly impacting
- It can have real potential for educating, especially for a generation that doesn’t watch the television news
- Social media can emerge from anyone, especially from people with the right creative and media savvy skills
- Think about how you communicate. Media can be manipulative and abusive. Will you focus on head or heart? Will you try and be simple, or seek to nuance complexity?
- Consider the ethics of who you use, who you film and how you film them
- Reflect on whether your “author” and your “author’s life” is important to your story
- Social media can only be a starter. It needs to be supported by more information and next steps
- What you do can form a precedent
- Learn from other campaigns
- Be prepared for backlash
- You can’t control other users, and they can spin your campaign
What do you think? What else would you want to add?
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
around the web: mission in digital frontiers and in australia
One, the Mission in digital frontiers learning day that we’re hosting at Uniting College on Thursday with Andrew Jones got picked up by the local media (here). Worth reading for the comments alone, and the realisation of the hostility which is the growing lot of Western Christianity.
Two, Welcome to Australia is a new justice initiative. It’s simple – thus simply great.
Between June 19 and 26, 2011, we’d like to say a big “Welcome to Australia” to asylum seekers, refugees, new arrivals and other migrants. We’d like you to throw a party in your home, street, office, sporting club or other community group to very publicly celebrate the beauty and depth that diversity adds to our nation.
I was chatting with the organisers and pointed out the irony of me participating given that technically, I’m actually a new arrival aka a migrant. So they asked for my story, which is here.
Three, another reminder of the mission challenge here in Australia (full article here):
Sydney is already one of the 10 most ethnically and linguistically diverse cities in the world, along with Toronto, New York, London and Los Angeles.
Thursday, February 17, 2011
the richness of our shrinking world
The internet has some downsides. But it also has some amazing upsides.
I am currently working on some distance material, around the theme of Jesus Christ today. The aim is a course to help lay folk as they prepare to exercise their gifts, including in leading worship and preaching. Being a course by distance, the challenge is not to prepare pages and pages of words, but to encourage a range of ways to engage.
On Tuesday night I was working on the section on Jesus Christ in history. I came across the Theologians Trading Cards, on the disseminary website. Could people arrange the theologians in various categories – geography, time, Christology from above/below? Could people play variants of snap or top trumps with their friends? A way to engage Jesus Christ in history in which the cards create interaction and question. A query email to the site owner and overnight there was email reply in regards to the Creative commons license.
On Wednesday I was working on another section. I love the story in pages 3-4 of Scot McKnight’s A Community Called Atonement about the impact of Christ on a person’s actions/witness. (The whole book is an excellent resource, which I found helpful a few Easter’s ago in framing my preaching input over a Thursday, Friday, Sunday). A story opens up different ways of engaging. What is more, the story could then be used as an exercise, inviting folk to work out how the sources of theology – Scripture, tradition, experience, reason – are all there and are all at play.
The story in McKnight’s book mentioned the title of a song. I googled the title, but could find no song with exactly that title. So I decided to email the author with my query. He replied with the contact details of the actual person who tells the story.
Another email to her. And a reply, including some more detail, which will make the story even more helpful.
In less than 48 hours, three conversations with three people on the other side of the world. Our shrinking world can certainly be full of richness.
Oh, for those wondering what the song is (more…)
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
peacemaking: three local (Canterbury) bi-cultural peace stories
Sermon from Sunday evening Grow, part of a three week series on Grow in peace.
In Romans 12: 18, we are told “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Which leaves the question: what might this look like? A few weeks ago visiting speaker, Mark Grace, speaking about Parihaka (a North Island story), challenged us to look for local peace stories
So I went to the library. It’s a very Pakeha thing to do. If you were Maori, you might talk to your elders. But I’m a Pakaha, so I went to the library, to the New Zealand archives section.
This was what I found out, the story of three local peacemakers, and some bi-cultural mission history here in New Zealand (more…)
Sunday, August 23, 2009
digital faith conference
Steve Garner asked me to mention this ….
DIGITAL FAITH: Exploring the contours of faith in our digital world
How do the Christian faith and the Internet impact upon each other? What place might the Bible have in our digital world? Come and join us as our panel of expert speakers engage with these topics and others relating to issues of faith in the digital world.
Mark Brown, CEO, Bible Society New Zealand
Founder Anglican Cathedral in Second Life.
Stephen Garner, Lecturer in Theology and Popular Culture,
School of Theology, University of Auckland.
Heidi Campbell, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Communication, Texas A&M University
Author of Exploring Religious Community Online.
Tim Bulkeley, Lecturer in Old Testament, Carey Baptist College
Developer of the Amos Hypertext Commentary & podBible projects.
Saturday 5 September 2009, 9am-12pm. OGGB4 Lecture Theatre, Level 0, Owen G Glenn Building, 12 Grafton Road, The University of Auckland. Please REGISTER your attendance by Wednesday 2 September with theologyadmin AT auckland DOT ac DOT nz
Thursday, May 07, 2009
hello carey folk
Hi, I’ve noticed quite a few visitors coming from Carey Baptist College, in particular an online learning discussion forum. It feels strange, this sensation of probably something on this blog being viewed and discussed, but because the forum is closed, I can’t hear the conversation.
Saturday, April 04, 2009
Stephen Matta from Georgia, I have responded to your email. However my email reply keeps bouncing. Since you leave no other address I have no way of contacting you, apart from to place this notice on my blog.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
OK, we’re having a go at using twitter for Opawa Baptist – http://twitter.com/opbap. We’ve created a group twitter, initially with a number of pastoral team people, and will see whether it’s useful tool in terms of comings and goings and prayer updates around the church.
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
should Christians use copyright?
Not according to Keith. He has just emailed me the following: “I was just wondering why someone who has a heart for God’s people and would want marriages to have the best start ever would have such an issue with their message being used by others. Imagine if Jesus did that with the bible?”
I presume he is talking about this entry on my blog; where 4 years ago, I wrote the following: “[not to be reproduced in any form, including verbal, without permission. ie. creative commons does not apply to this post]“ (Update: written on 1 post on this blog. The other 1230 posts are under creative commons use. ONE post, on which I simply wanted people to ask before they used it. And when people did, I simply said “sure and thanks so much” and got a wee thrill that my thoughts were being used. Feedback – its important for me you know. Part of the gift of encouragement.)
What do people think? Should a Jesus follower have an issue with their message being used by others without permission?
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
religion on and offline
Christchurch bloggers: please pass this on … Do you use, or want to use, web or cell phone in ministry? Need to consider the influence of new technology for church and faith? Then check out: Building Christian community: What the internet can teach offline church, with Heidi Campbell, BCNZ Christchurch, 70 Condell Ave, 28 July, 2007. More info here
And calling all on-line bloggers: what we are going to do is try to run this seminar on-line and off-line. Heidi’s notes will be placed on-line 24 hours before kickoff. We will also try to Skype her seminar and thus anyone in the world can ask questions via website. Could be a fun mixing of on-line and off-line, so pass it on.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
iGod in New Zealand
Just had an email from Heidi Campbell, who is a bit of an academic guru on internet and spirituality:
I am working on a project in how individuals involved in the emerging church discourse use and speak about new media in their ministries. I was wondering if you can recommend other people it might be good for me to connect with while I am in NZ. I will be in country for the entire month of July.
She is going to be with us in Christchurch Saturday July 27 for a interactive seminar on religion, internet and new media. If people around New Zealand want to connect with her, drop a comment.
And here is my initial list of links of individuals involved in the emerging church discourse in New Zealand who use new media in their ministries.
Cityside Baptist: check out their Stations of the cross and their Lenten files as a multimedia and internet resourced approach to Lent.
In my Out of Bounds Church? book (pages 125-129, I dream about the rise of postmodern monastries and cybermonks and analyse them, and other manifestations of the emerging church, using the work of sociologist Zygmunt Bauman.
Steve Garner is probably NZ’s leading academic in relation to technology and theology, while Tim Bulkeley leads the way on hypertext and the Bible (and built my first website last century).
Blogs to enhance seminary learning: here
Podcasting the Bible: here
Who and what (in New Zealand) have I missed?
Wednesday, February 18, 2004
whats the internet point 2
NB. The post is not designed to induce guilt in any readers.
As an academic, I make my mark by writing and publishing. It’s called publish or perish. As a blogger, I live in an instant world, where yesterday’s post is old news. It’s called publish or persish. Academic publishing takes months and years. Blogging is instant.
(I am also a pastor, parent, partner, coffee drinker, but I will stick with the academic and blogger at the moment.)
Sometimes these values clash. For instance, late last year I delivered a paper on a postmodern monastery. It would shape up nicely into a journal article, but that might not be released until the end of 2004. Yet I mention on my blog that I had given the paper – on postmodern monasteries – and there are LOTS of requests for the paper. So do I go academic or go blogging? Academic writer vs blogger are in tension.
So I decide to make the paper I delivered a PDF, surround it by creative commons copyright and blog it. I decided to ask that if people downloaded it, they would offer some comments, sort of like tossing me a bone, sort of like fair trade. I wondered it this would resolve the tension between writer and blogger, because I can blog it, but if people give me feedback, that might improve the academic paper.
So I put the paper on postmodern monasteries on my blog, and asked for feedback.
My web stats tell me that over 120 people downloaded that PDF, while only 9 people commented.
Which sort of leaves me back at the drawing board. How to manage the book writing and the blogger instant demand? Which leaves me very unsure over what to do with my PhD on the emerging church once it is passed. There is a book there, but people want it instant.
I am yet to be convinced I can do both.