August 2020 - Rector's Ramblings

One of the considered pleasures of lockdown has been to watch a few films and television dramas that might otherwise have passed me by. Many of my evening meetings have not taken place, allowing an unaccustomed gap in my work schedule.

Typically, the dramas have been enjoyed in hour-long intervals over a week or two. Scarcely binge-watching, but nonetheless more concentrated than Inormally manage. Highlights amongst these have been ‘The Split’ - life in an up-market family law firm, whose clients’ traumas reflect the chaos of the main lawyer protagonists; and recently, ‘The Luminaries’, a really weird spiritual adventure set amongst the New Zealand gold rush, and stunning scenery - which, through the BBC’s recent policy, had us watching our sixth and our final episode the very evening that the fourth episode was showing on terrestrial television; and ‘Liar’, the second series of a thriller concerned with a relationship gone-wrong and an unexplained death. I have also watched a couple of three-part biopics, ‘Quiz’ and ‘The Salisbury Poisonings’. It makes me wonder where I found all that time, and whether it was all well-spent!?

I think it is interesting for anyone to reflect on what you have watched, what you have found most enjoyable or compelling, and indeed what you have chosen not to watch, or discarded after an episode or two. Have a think …There have also been films. Among those that have left me feeling enriched, are a delicate, beautifully filmed Spanish life-story (with sub-titles), ‘Julieta’; the fascinating treatment of industrial action by women machinists at the Ford Motor Co. in 1968, ‘Made in Dagenham’; and the latest viewing, the mid- nineteenth century tale of Solomon Northup, ‘Twelve Years a Slave’ - which was awarded the best movie Oscar in 2014.

I passionately believe we should all be learning and feeling and thinking, though the media of film, drama and literature; which often - and with such great resources at hand - can lay bare the human soul, and see us grow, if we are willing.

Come what may, you will choose your own favourites, and the tremendous resource of play-back allows us to delve deeply and productively into the film archives. I’d like to reflect simply on this latest viewing, ‘Twelve Years a Slave’, which, as I write, has moved me more deeply than any other recent film.

The horrors of the global slave trade, and the working of slave labourers in the plantations of the Americas, needs recalling; and digesting; and a
response in our hearts. This movie was certainly not easy watching, but it was, for me, deeply important and arresting. I needed to be awakened, and emotionally aroused, by the dreadful events portrayed. See this film, and you will appreciate afresh. Slavery in 1840s America, was a
brutal, systemic practice in the south of the country. It dehumanised slave and slave-owner alike, though in horribly contrasting ways. It lays the
background for the political debates between the regions of the United States in that era, and it remains a clinging part of the abiding inequality that was challenged in the Civil Rights conflicts of the mid-twentieth century. And, say it loudly, it resonates in our own time, where society is far from ‘healed’. The beautiful-ugly, noble-scandalous, distressing story of this film is current, in subtler ways of course, in the present context of ‘Black Lives Matter’ awareness. Here is a theme which some are keen to disregard; though at the peril of justice, attentiveness and fellow-feeling. Here is an ongoing story that cannot be allowed to be swept away, as Isabella (an 11 year-old prophet) so boldly reminded us in our June edition of this very magazine. A great film. That, though, is a matter for a fuller day. My modest encouragement for now is to invite us to engage with the film-makers, and the writers, along life’s way.

As to the time of lockdown: use it thoughtfully.
As to the power of filmed drama: meet it expectantly.
As to the voice of ‘truth’ - which is not quite the same as ‘accuracy’: well,
desire this thing, and hearken after it, with a listening heart.

Andrew Doye

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