Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A sweet film

I had the privilege of watching a very sweet film recently, called Eve & the Fire Horse. It won a special jury prize at Sundance and it looks like Roger Ebert and several notable critics loved it; so I don’t know how much my opinion actually adds to the conversation, but I thought I’d tell you about it anyway, because it hasn’t got US distribution so they’re hoping for a word-of-mouth campaign.

It’s about a Chinese girl growing up in the 70’s in Canada, and how her religious identity shifts as her upbringing comes into contact with new ideas. She has been raised in traditional Chinese (to honor her ancestors, the intricacies of luck) and Buddhist ways. But her sister becomes enraptured with Catholicism (after reading a book given to her by, of all people, the Jehovah’s Witnesses!), and brings Eve along for the ride.

Eve has a very active imagination, and the film often shows her fantasies. In one particularly poignant sequence, she imagines Jesus and the Buddha dancing together, in a beautiful image of interfaith cooperation that I can’t get out of my head. The best part of the scene is her reaction, which is unbridled laughter and joy at seeing this connection between them – her old deity and her new. The imaginary sequences reminded me of those in Millions, another of my favorite flicks about childhood and religion.

As time goes on, her sister digs in her heels and the fantasies begin to reflect a less tolerant viewpoint. This isn’t to rag on Christianity, but (as far as I could tell) is the way the little girl’s mind understands what she’s learning about the less loving side of the religion (and indeed, she is learning from her rather confused sister - who knows just enough to be dangerous, a pretty intolerant nun, and Sunday School “friends” who turn on her – no wonder she has a sour taste in her mouth!). In the end, not to give too much away, I think both religions come off looking good, with the sister finding true happiness and transcendence in Catholicism, and Buddhism continuing to be practiced by the family at large. Eve just wants to find love and acceptance by her family, which seems to be her religious quest.

I really enjoyed the slice of childhood life, especially all the Christian foibles that the girls encounter. I remember all the awkward conversations with friends, trying to convert them; inviting friends to church only to see them become more popular than I was; practicing good deeds; even pretend baptizing (I clearly remember “baptizing” my siblings in a pool once). I assume the Buddhist elements are as accurate.

The best part, of course, is the blending of the two in Eve’s life. It touches not only on themes of religious tolerance (and not) and getting by in a pluralist society, but also a great deal on the immigrant experience. It would be a wonderful film to show a comparative religions class – there is a lot of ritual action and some great dialogue that could spark discussion. I would recommend it for children, too, as a conversation-starter about religions.

The film has some humor, a lot of pathos, and lots of difficult stuff happens – both on a large scale and also small kid stuff, like teasing. I really highly recommend it. Right now, it looks like you can’t rent it, but check wwww.eveandthefirehorse.com for updates. You can order it off the website starting July 24th. If you have a good use for it (e.g. a church screening, a class, etc.), they will probably send you a complimentary dvd. I plan to share it with as many people as I can (of course, if you’re local to me, I’m happy to loan it to you).

Hope you get a chance to check it out – it’s really worth watching.

No comments: