Weekly Video/DVD Picks

Final Solution (2002)

From Christian production house Messenger Films, here's a well-done drama that tells a true story of hatred, persecution and redemption in 1993 South Africa. An integrated prayer service becomes the setting for an impromptu truth-and-reconciliation session when a vicious Afrikaner terrorist stumbles into the church seeking for sanctuary from pursuers.

The film tells the true story of a reformed white supremacist named Gerrit Wolfaardt (Jan Ellis), who is indoctrinated from youth in the belief that God's election passed from the Jewish people to the South African whites and that the black Africans were cursed by God.

Final Solution depicts Gerrit's conversion, but it doesn't forget his victims. Gerrit might have found peace with God, but it isn't all about him — a point the film drives home at just the right moment. The film's use of violence is direct and uncompromising, and while the film's R rating isn't unwarranted, parents and teachers shouldn't be put off from showing this worthwhile film to teens. It's an earnest, well-made film with a message that deserves to be heard.

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial

(1982)

E.T. has been called everything from “the story of a boy and his dog” to “ Close Encounters for kids,” but its blend of wonder, poignancy, humor and innocence is unique.

Unlike Close Encounters, E.T. doesn't overwhelm with gee-whiz effects. The pace is slow, the story intimate and human-scaled.

The family life of young Elliot (Henry Thomas), who has been abandoned by his father and raised by his hardworking mother, is depicted affectionately but not idyllically.

Steven Spielberg shows the chaos and the rough edges of life in a broken family, but Elliot's mother (Dee Wallace) is lovingly and sympathetically portrayed.

The film includes a clear element of religious symbolism. Like Jesus, E.T. comes from above and possesses miraculous powers, including a healing touch, and his glowing heart evokes the Divine Mercy image of Our Lord.

He undergoes a passion, death, resurrection and ascension into the heavens.

E.T. doesn't make a religious statement, but like Close Encounters it evokes hope that we are not alone and that whatever is out there is on our side.

Parents should note that for a family-themed film, the language is salty at times.

The Life and Passion of Jesus Christ (1905)

A Vatican film list honoree in the category of religion, this long-unavailable silent film has recently been released on DVD with another very early Jesus film, From the Manger to the Cross (1912).

The Life and Passion of Jesus Christ is a remarkable relic from the very dawn of cinema.

Popular for decades after its release, the film portrays the events of the Gospel story in short, pageant-like vignettes with simple early special effects, introduced by simple title cards such as “The Annunciation” or “The Ascension.” There are no dialogue intertitles; as with traditional sacred art, viewers are expected to know the stories, and no effort is made to clarify for the uninitiated.

Catholic tradition is reflected in certain scenes, as when Veronica wipes the face of Christ and finds the Holy Face on the cloth.

Other scenes depict folk versions of Gospel stories: The Magi show up along with the shepherds at the Nativity, St. Michael the Archangel guards the Holy Family on the road to Egypt by blinding Herod's guards to their presence and the miraculous catch of fishes is combined with the walking on water.

The pristine black-and-white print is beautifully accented by original hand-tinting on certain objects.

Cistercian Father Thomas Esposito says of discerning one’s college choice, ‘There has to be something that tugs at you and makes you want to investigate it further. And then the personal encounter comes in the form of a visit or a chat with a student or alumnus who communicates with the same enthusiasm or energy about the place. And then that love of a place can be a seed which germinates in your own heart through prayer.’

Choose a College With a Discerning Mind and Heart

Cistercian Father Thomas Esposito, assistant professor of theology at the University of Dallas (UD) and subprior (and former vocations director) of the Cistercian Abbey of Our Lady of Dallas, drew from his experience as both a student and now monastic religious to help those discerning understand the parallels between religious and college discernment.