Journal of Religion and Film

From the Editor
By John Lyden

Vol. 15, No. 2 October 2011

[1] It is my great pleasure and privilege to be named as the new editor of the Journal of Religion and Film.

[2] I have had a long relationship with this journal, reaching back to its first year of existence in 1997. The article which I then submitted was my first effort to achieve some clarity about the question of method in the emerging field of religion and film studies. Since that time, my own ideas on religion and film have changed a number of times, and the field has come of age. A body of scholarship now exists that defines the field.  This Journal has been a major contributor to that field, as it has helped to define the issues and the various approaches that may be taken in religion and film studies, and it continues to be the most significant journal devoted to that subject.

[3] At the same time, the Journal has changed over the years. Reviews of recent films have been incorporated, including those that are first seen at the Sundance Film Festival each year. Special issues have been devoted to topics of interest, such as the controversies surrounding Passion of the Christ in the year it was released. The changes continue now, as a new web design and format is coming.  Readers will find a more efficient process for submission and review of articles as well as a new look and menu options.

[4] This issue includes articles that demonstrate the wide range of topics that are now part of Religion and Film.  Some of the articles describe how religious ideas are expressed in films, and how an analysis of the way films process religious ideas can help us better understand the film as well as the religious tradition with which it dialogues. Wendy Wright’s piece on the film, Of Gods and Men (2010) analyzes how filmic elements help to convey the beauty and sacrifice of the spiritual path that accepts suffering for the sake of others, as it seeks to redeem the image of God in all people—and so expresses a distinctively Roman Catholic theological anthropology. In the context of Islamic thought, Michael Pittman’s article on Majid Majidi’s Iranian film Baran (2001) points out how the filmmaker has invoked the idea of “spiritual poverty” that plays a central part in the thought of Rumi, the 13th century Persian poet and Sufi mystic. Two articles on A Serious Man (2009), authored respectively by David Tollerton and Norman Cohen, show how the Coen brothers have created a modern form of the story of Job which yet differs from the biblical version in significant ways. And Diane Corkery’s article on Gran Torino (2008) shows how the main character, Walt Kowalsky, has the characteristics of a Christ-figure.

[5] Other articles extend the filmic dialogue by the use of philosophical theory on religious themes, or historical analysis of the political context of the production and reception of the film. Carrol Fry’s article on Wings of Desire (1987) brings Wim Wenders’ film into dialogue with both the Apocryphal stories of angels as well as Hegel’s philosophy of desire, which expresses the need to enter the world to achieve fulfillment and actuality. Melissa’s Tanti’s article on The Grifters (1990) shows how the story of the film mirrors the process of mimetic rivalry as it is understood by Rene Girard. Finally, Scott Morschauser’s article on The Egyptian (1954) shows how this film, which purports to tell the story of a man who defended monotheism in ancient Egypt, does not use religion to support the ideology of Cold War Nationalism, but to critique it, as the hero is put on trial in a way that is reminiscent of the hearings of the House Committee on Un-American Committee that were occurring at the time.

[6] This issue also includes reviews of a number of recent films, including those screened at the Visionmaker Film Festival in Lincoln, Nebraska, September 30-October 6, 2011. This is the fourth year of this annual film festival that features the work of Native American filmmakers.

[7] We hope that you enjoy this issue and the wide range of offerings it includes.

John Lyden, editor



Blood Simple

Fiddler on the Roof The Graduate
A Serious Man   True Grit

JR & F
Vol. 15, No. 2

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