Monday, September 08, 2008

missional movies

I used British film, Grow your own, in the missional church leadership class today, and it worked a treat.

We had spent the morning looking at the character of missional leadership, which is often fairly hard-hitting, as we realise how deeply our understandings of leadership are shaped by cultural narratives of entrepreneur/go getter, rescuer and practical knowledge provider in contrast to the leadership encouraged by Luke 10:1-12. So we needed some breathing space and Grow your own worked well.

Other movies I have thought of using are Across the Universe and Whale Rider. What about you? What movies best sum up for you the missional church conversation? While you have a think, this is my recent Grow your own film review …

Grow your own A film review by Rev Dr Steve Taylor

Clever title aside (no, this movie is not about canabis use) this slow moving British drama, the film directing debut for Richard Laxton, has much to commend it.

Opening credits roll as keen British gardeners emerge, mole-like, from domestic hibernation. Eyes blinking, they make their way back to their allotment garden sheds at Blacktree Road, in the North of England. But as summer shadows lengthen, their allotment gardens are disturbed; both by traumatised recent migrants and the financial clout of an entrepreneurial cellphone company. Threatened by the new arrivals, seduced by the cellphone company, the temperatures inevitably rise. The narrative tensions sown in spring inevitably spring to life, unleashing a chain of events that leaves them none the richer, but all the wiser.

Kung Sang might be superb as the emotionally damaged Benedict Wong, but the acting red carpet is stolen by the creativity, courage and compassion of his daughter. Ali (Omid Djalili), best known as Britain’s only Iranian stand-up comedian and actor, offers us his serious side.

They are just three of what is an extensive cast. This guarantees a somewhat muddied plotline that nevertheless manages to explore a complex range of themes intrinsic to modern life: migration, racism, mental health. Grow your own thus offers a fascinating commentary on the pressures being brought to bear on contemporary British life.

Their are moments of comic genius, including the scene in which the cranky British men test out the ring tones. Their are moments of tragedy, including the scene in which Kung Sang names his trauma to a chain metal fence and an unfeeling security guard. Their are moments of unexpected joy, including the reunion of Miriam (played by Diveen Henry) with her presumed dead husband. Their are moments of human intimacy, including the scene in which Kung Sang fingers the dirt, looking for his lost wife’s locket.

Grow your own should be compulsory viewing on any church leadership retreat. Some will find their business meetings uncomfortably mirrored in the Allotment Association meetings chaired by ex-cop Big John (Philip Jackson). Others will find their racism and hostility toward change exposed in the ethnocentric attitudes of ordinary British working class.

Yet strangely, Grow your own also offers hope. Luke 10:1-12 is a passage I regularly use in mission and church consultancy. Grow your own illuminates many of the themes – of hospitality, vulnerability and organic change processes – inherent in the Biblical text. It offers wisdom to New Zealand churches today as it names the tensions and conflicts that surround a comfortable past and a painful tomorrow, commends to us the power of organic growth and affirms the importance of welcoming the stranger, in whom are found the keys to unearth grief, seed healing and release reconciliation.

Grow your own will never enthrall action seekers. But it remains a late bloomer that rewards the patient viewer.

Posted by steve at 08:11 PM

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