Movies that are interesting and informative.

The Syrian Bride. (NPL collection)

Mona’s wedding day is the saddest day of her life. She knows that once she crosses the border between Israel and Syria to get married, she will never be allowed back to her beloved family in the Golan Heights, occupied by Israel since 1967. Once you cross the border there is no way back and at the end of a long day, the family, the government and military officials and all those gathered on both sides of the border find themselves facing an uncertain future, trapped in No-Man’s land between Israel and Syria.

Herman’s House (NPL collection)

Herman Wallace may be the longest-serving prisoner in solitary confinement in America – 40 years and counting in a 6-by-9-foot cell. This award-winning documentary is a moving account of the remarkable expression his struggle finds in an unusual art project. The revelatory installation — featuring a full-scale model of Herman’s cell and detailed plans of his dream home — has brought thousands around the world face-to-face with America’s cruel and unusual punishment: long-term solitary confinement. (description from Amazon)

Arranged. by Zoe Lister-Jones (NPL Overdrive)

Rochel is an Orthodox Jew, and Nasira a Muslim of Syrian origin. They are both beautiful young teachers at a public school in Brooklyn. They also have something else in common – they are going through the process of getting “arranged marriages” through their respective religious and traditional customs. With both family pressure on the one hand, and the rejection of traditional values by the outside world on the other, Rochel and Nasira will have to rely on each other and their friendship to pull through this difficult time of their lives, striving to be strong women in charge of their own happiness, while keeping their deep religious and cultural convictions.

Discover the Gift (NPL Hoopla)

Within each of us, there are special Gifts simply awaiting discovery. The sense of joy, power, fulfillment, freedom, and unconditional love that we experience in our lives is directly related to these Gifts, yet so many of us have yet to unlock their full potential, leaving us longing for a sense of happiness and fulfillment. For sister and brother team Shajen Joy Aziz and Demian Lichtenstein, something was missing in their lives until they tapped into the power of their own unique Gifts, leading to a profound personal transformation that has enabled them to connect to the fullness of life. Their incredible personal journeys of spiritual growth have fueled their desire to share what they have learned and in Discover The Gift, they share their story and take us step-by-step through this journey of discovery which has the power to change not only individual lives, but can transform our entire world.

The Exorcist in the 21st Century (Amazon, NPL Hoopla)

Director Fredrik Horn Akselsen reveals the secret and mystical world of Catholic exorcisms in his documentary THE EXORCIST IN THE 21st CENTURY. In the film, Constanza, a Colombian woman, claims to have been possessed by demons for 15 years and sees the Spanish exorcist as her last hope for spiritual liberation.

Vision (NPL Hoopla)

Hildegard von Bingen was truly a woman ahead of her time. A visionary in every sense of the word, this famed 12th-century Benedictine nun was a Christian mystic, composer, philosopher, playwright, poet, naturalist, scientist, physician, herbalist and ecological activist. Vision is a profoundly inspirational portrait of a woman who has emerged from the shadows of history as a forward-thinking and iconoclastic pioneer of faith, change and enlightenment. (German with subtitles)

The Machine that Made us. (NPL Hoopla)

The printing press was the world’s first piece of mass-production technology. Its invention changed the world as dramatically as splitting the atom or sending men into space. It ignited a cultural revolution that shaped the modern age. It changed the way our brains work, replacing a spoken culture with a written one. It is the machine that made us who we are today. Take a trip with Stephen Fry to explore the story of the machine and the man who created it – Johann Gutenberg.

A Will for the Woods (NPL collection)

What if our last act could be a gift to the planet? Musician and psychiatrist Clark Wang prepares for his own green burial in this immersive documentary.

While battling lymphoma, Clark has discovered a burgeoning movement that uses burial to conserve and restore natural areas, forgoing typical funeral practices that stress the ecosystem. Boldly facing his mortality, Clark and his partner Jane have become passionate about green burial, compelled by both the environmental benefits and the idea that one can remain within the cycle of life, rather than being cut off from it. The spirited pair have inspired a compassionate local cemetarian, and together they aim to use green burial to save North Carolina woods from being clear-cut.

Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles

Justin Duerr is obsessed with uncovering the meaning behind the Toynbee Tiles, an urban phenomenon of cryptic plaques embedded in the asphalt of major U.S. and South American intersections.

The Forgotten Kingdom
Atang is an unemployed, aimless young man who spends his days in the slums of Johannesburg. When his father dies, Atang must give up his selfish ways and fulfill his father’s humble last wishes: to be buried in the rural, mountainous Kingdom of Lesotho.

– On Amazon Prime –

The Way (with Martin Sheen, Emilio Estevez)

A father heads overseas to recover the body of his estranged son who died while traveling the “El camino de Santiago” from France to Spain.

With One Voice

With One Voice illuminates the unity of humanity through the single message and mystical tradition that binds all faiths together.

The Monastery and Mr. Vig (True story, no actors)

Jørgen Laursen Vig owns a Danish estate, with a ramshackle castle, on the island of Fyn. He dreams of turning his castle into a Russian orthodox monastery.

The Human Scale

With the majority of the world population in urban areas, architect Jan Gehl is reimagining how to make cities more sustainable and livable. Rather than examining structures, Gehl & his team meticulously analyze spaces where people interact.

The Calling

A story of personal and spiritual fulfillment, THE CALLING follows young Joanna on her journey to self realization.

The Philosopher Kings

In search of wisdom found in unlikely places, The Philosopher Kings takes us on a journey through the halls of the most prestigious universities in America to learn from the staff members who see it all and have been through it all: the custodians.

Buying the Spirit

Beautifully-made with unbelievable access to voodoo practitioners, this film offers an unrivalled insight into this frequently misunderstood religion.

Padre Pio Sanctus

The definitive biography of the saint from Pietrelcina, Italy.


A drama of the life of Hildegard of Bingen – abbess, visionary, playwright, and composer.

Brother Sun, Sister Moon
A drama about the life of Saint Francis of Assisi.


In a parallel world where human frequencies determine luck, love, and destiny, Zak, a young college student, must overcome science in order to love Marie, who emits a different frequency than his own. This unique and experimental drama blends science fiction and romance to create a futuristic tale where love, science, and fate collide.


Charles Dickens meets Arthur C. Clarke–A lowly factory worker is delivered from a world of misery and discovers his destiny via an ancient object on the other side of the stars. – – The acting is uninspired, but the story and the photography (setting and special effects) are more than worth your time.

Sometimes in April

(Drama) In April 1994, one of the most heinous genocides in world history began in the African nation of Rwanda. Over the course of 100 days, an estimated 800,000 people were killed in a terrifying purge by Hutu nationalists against their Tutsi countrymen. This harrowing HBO Films drama focuses on the almost indescribable human atrocities that took place a decade ago through the story of two Hutu brothers–one in the military, one a radio personality–whose relationship and private lives were forever changed in the midst of the genocide. Written and directed by Raoul Peck, (HBO Films’ Lumumba) the movie is the first large-scale film about the 100 days of the 1994 Rwandan genocide to be shot in Rwanda, in the locations where the real-life events transpired.

The White Meadows

In this dreamlike film, Rahmat the boatman navigates the brackish waters of a coastal land, collecting the heartaches and tears of its inhabitants. But he remains powerless against their misguided attempts to appease the gods and make the land green again, whether by offering a bride to the sea or forcibly “treating” the eyes of a painter who sees in different colors.

Foreign Letters

In this touching tale of young friendship Ellie, a 12-year-old Israeli immigrant, and Thuy, a Vietnamese refugee, form a powerful bond that helps Ellie cope with the hardships of adjusting to her new life in the states.

The Life and Faith of C.S. Lewis

Narrated by Academy Award-winner Ben Kingsley, this multi-award-winning program is the most complete portrait of the world-renowned author considered by many to be the greatest Christian writer of the 20th century.


Winner of the Caméra d’Or at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival, JELLYFISH is a richly imaginative portrait of three very different women emotionally adrift in Tel Aviv. While Batya, a struggling waitress, cares for a mysterious child that appeared to her out of the sea, newlywed Keren nurses a broken leg and a ruined honeymoon and Filipino migrant worker Joy tries to support her son back home.


Love, betrayal and time travel in 1920s England. A brilliant scientist becomes obsessed with revisiting his past – no matter what the cost. Jealousy, desires and greed surround him, clouding his judgement and sending him spiraling towards madness.

Kiss the Moon

In the midst of a rapidly changing Pakistan, three generations of eunuchs bravely unravel the ancient rituals and religious beliefs surrounding their spellbinding community. Could the encroachment of Western conceptions of homosexuality be the beginning of the end for the once-prized eunuchs?

(The majority of the descriptions are taken from the listing)

Many names of God

When Muslims pray the 99 names of God they don’t believe that there are 99 different gods. They believe that there are 99 different attributes of God. God has many names but is still one God.

It is kind of like me. I am Betsy, but legally I am Elizabeth. To my husband I am his wife, to my coworkers I am their coworker, to my friends I am their friend. I am always me, but other people have different ways of interacting with me and know me in different ways. It depends on how they see me as to how they refer to me.

God is the same. “God” is just a descriptive, after all, not a name. In the Bible, God uses the name “I AM”. God is known as Elohim, as Jehovah, as Lord, as the Almighty, the Creator… the list goes on and on.

While there are different names for God, we are still talking about the same God that created the Earth, spoke to Abraham, and was made known on Earth as Jesus.

I’m not so sure if people are talking about the same God when they refer to Spirit.

I know a lot of people who are disillusioned with church and have left. They seem to like parts of it but not all of it. I get that. I left church too.

Some of them like the ritual. Some like the community. Some like the hymns. They are creating their own version of “church” with the pieces they like, but leaving out the pieces they don’t.

They are having circles where people talk about what is important to them, or they paint, or they drum, or they recite poetry.

I get that too.

But I’m strongly opposed to them calling it “church” if Jesus isn’t present. If they don’t read the Word of God and they don’t celebrate Communion, then why call it church? It is more coffeehouse gathering than church.

Let us call things by their true names. Let us not deceive ourselves and say that we are going to “church” when Jesus isn’t present. The same is true of the “mega churches” with their “Prosperity Gospel”.

Things evolve, of course. I left a medieval reenactment group because it stopped being a medieval reenactment group. Years ago, people who were thinking about joining asked if they could dress up like fairies and vampires, and the members told them no. They said that had nothing to do with the group. The focus of the group was “A day in the life of a European court.” The time period was pre-1500s. But then slowly it became more and more “early period” with more and more people showing up in shapeless garments with animal skins tied around them. Then, the Middle-Eastern re-enactors started showing up.

Now this group looks nothing like what it looked like when I joined. It has stopped being “A day in the life of a European court” and started being a “come as you want to be” party. When will the Klingons and the Silurians show up?

I’m all for everyone feeling welcome and included. I like the idea of “All are welcome” and “radical inclusion”. But I feel like at some point a line has to be drawn. Are we talking about the same thing? Are we still on the same page?

Hummus has a few basic things that make it hummus – garbanzo beans, oil, citrus juice, and tahini, all blended up in a food processor. While you can exchange black beans for garbanzo beans, and you can use lime juice instead of the traditional lemon juice, that is as far as you can go. After that, it stops being hummus. You can’t put apples in a blender and call it hummus. You can’t add tahini to a pot roast and call it hummus. There are certain things that you must have, and if you don’t have them, you don’t have hummus.

Church is the same way. You can strip away the ritual and the hymns and it is still church. You don’t even have to gather together in person – you could have a videoconference. You can add in dance, or painting. You don’t need musical instruments, or you can have a whole symphony.

But you have to have God, and you have to have Jesus, for it to be church. And they can’t be implied or guessed at. There has to be no doubt about it.

What about “the Goddess”?

While I’m fine with the idea of the many sides of God being welcomed and included, actually including the idea of the “Goddess” is totally not acceptable in church. Remember “Thou shalt have no other gods before me”? That is a big one. To worship the “Goddess” is a complete violation of that commandment.

God has many aspects, not all of them related to gender. You can be a feminist and still worship God. But the Goddess isn’t God – she is another thing entirely. If you want to worship the Goddess, fine. That is your choice. But then it isn’t church. It is something else. To call it church is deceiving to yourself and others.

So what about those names of God? At what point does God stop being God? At what point are you worshipping something else? At what point are you not in a worship service at all?

These are important questions to ask yourself.

Movies that make you question reality

Ones I’ve seen and enjoyed –

Dark City
The Matrix
The Prestige
Total Recall
Abre Los Ojos / Vanilla Sky
Alice in Wonderland (Anything except Disney versions)

Ones that other people have recommended for this category but I’ve not seen yet or don’t remember well enough –

The 13th Floor
Jacob’s Ladder
12 Monkeys
Minority Report
The City of Lost Children
Hitchcock – Spellbound
Kurosawa – Rashômon

So, if you want to inspire a sense of alternate reality without doing drugs, watch a few of these back to back.

Art and alternative reality

I could barely sleep last night. The older I get, the harder it is to rest comfortably. But, then the more important it is to do so. I’m not sure at what point the weirdness starts. Maybe because of the medicine I’m on it will keep it at bay.
It sure was weird at Cursillo. I was on my medicine then and it still happened. But then again I think that is the point of that retreat. I think they want to inspire alternative consciousness through sleep deprivation and constant emotional highs.
My only problem with alternative consciousness is that I can’t guarantee when it will end now. I want it to end so I can return to normal. With pot it was about 3 hours. With acid it was about 8. I don’t do drugs anymore. I don’t have to. The madness comes on its own these days if I don’t take care of myself. Perhaps it always was there, and I just didn’t notice it because I was self-medicating.
Alternative consciousness isn’t that great for driving or for work. Somebody has to pay the bills, and keeping up with time and days just isn’t part of the package when your head is in the clouds.
It is why I’m resistant to create before work. Art creates its own alternative reality. That mindset is difficult to switch out of. But maybe that is the trick. Create something every morning and train myself to switch back and forth.
I’ve already written about not waiting for the muse. So maybe this is the other side. Seek out creativity all the time. Do it every day. Write, bead, paint, draw – whatever. Set a time limit. Learn how to switch back to “normal” or whatever suffices for normal in my world. Keep a constant flow of creativity going. Then, I’ll learn how to balance myself.
I think the only thing that separates productive, functional artists and raving lunatics is this skill. I believe that it can be learned and improved upon. I believe that just like shamans, we can go into that realm of spirit and come back different, but intact. I think it is just like yoga – you don’t take yoga because you are flexible and have good balance. You take yoga because you want to have these skills.
The only problem is that I don’t think there is a class on this. I might just have to figure it out on my own. I am coming to realize that this is my normal way of being. That this life, this creative life – isn’t one that has a road map.

Scary people.

I have a theory about people who try to look scary. It is the same with animals who have a lot of armor. Perhaps they aren’t really scary at all. Perhaps they are simply hiding how they really are.

Animals put up a pretty good show to be left alone. Hedgehogs have sharp spines to protect their soft bellies. It keeps them from being eaten. Skunks release a terrible smell for the same reason.

How many people put up a show of being scary because deep down they feel that is who they are? Perhaps they feel they are unworthy of love, so they put up barriers to make sure their theory isn’t proven wrong. Or perhaps secretly they are very shy.

They will go out of their way to make themselves ugly to keep people away. Deep down they are quite beautiful but they can’t see it yet. The eyes may be the window to the soul, but the hairstyle is a pretty good tipoff too, along with the clothing.

I think that some people see themselves as dangerous, so they make themselves look dangerous. In reality they aren’t dangerous at all, but they just want to keep you away. It is all a show.

But then there are alligators and sharks. They aren’t putting on a show. They really are dangerous. So maybe my theory means nothing. But, it is probably a good idea to give scary looking people a second (and third) chance. Otherwise you may miss out on a diamond in the rough.