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Best Drama

Mixed Media


reviewed by Ron VandenBurg

What happens when you questions the religious traditions that have governed your whole life? Set in 1938, at a time when India was still under Britain’s colonial rule and when the marriage of children to older men was acceptable, writer/director Deepa Mehta’s poignant film questions the politics of religion. Cinematographically beautiful, Water examines the plight of a young widow forced to spend the rest of her life in an ashram, an institution for widows, to make amends for the sins from her previous life that caused her husband’s death. Mehta uses water as a powerful metaphor for the difficult lives these faithful Hindu women are made to lead by a society that rejects them. (20th Century Fox)


An Inconvenient Truth

reviewed by Kristy Quist

Is your lifestyle contributing to the destruction of the global environment? According to Al Gore, if you live in North America, you are a big part of the problem. Regardless of your opinion of Gore and global warming, this film should help you examine the footprint that you leave on the earth.  Gore has spent the better part of his life promoting environmental causes, and he has consolidated his concerns into this crash course on global warming. Though an Al Gore lecture isn’t anyone’s idea of a great date movie, it is guaranteed to provoke a good discussion. (Paramount)


Bleak House

reviewed by Lori Vanden Bosch

This gripping miniseries, adapted from Charles Dickens’s ninth novel, carries all the hallmarks of Dickens: a vast cast of characters, an orphan, a romance, and a long-kept, explosive secret. Lady Dedlock, played with brilliant, icy restraint by X-Files’s Gillian Anderson, is hiding something that her power-hungry lawyer, Tulkinghorn, is determined to uncover. Meanwhile, the interminable legal case of Jarndyce versus Jarndyce ensnares two young lovers, aggressive lawyers, and a pitiful array of impoverished innocents and greedy hangers-on. Bleak House not only indicts the “system,” it also portrays the human heart at its most wicked and its most sublime. (BBC Warner)


Akeelah and the Bee

reviewed by Otto Selles

P-u-l-c-h-r-i-t-u-d-e? In this moving film, “pulchritude,” spelled correctly and meaning “beauty,” defines Akeelah. Akeelah is an 11-year-old girl singled out to compete in her school’s spelling bee. Confronted by the opposition of her single mother (Angela Bassett) and the mockery of her inner-city classmates, Akeelah seeks the aid of a demanding tutor (Laurence Fishburne). He pushes her to compete at the state and national level. The film dips at times into the sentimental, but the strong cast creates a marvelous portrait of a talented individual supported by her community. Rated PG, this movie contains some language appropriate for the story, but not for the youngest ears. (Lionsgate)

Books for Black History Month

All Aunt Hagar’s Children

by Edward P. Jones
reviewed by Otto Selles

In this masterful, sometimes gritty, short story collection, Jones shows Washington, D.C., not as the center of government but as a microcosm of African American society. Spanning the 20th century, these 14 stories deal with characters including southern farmers headed North for work, a convict trying to find a new life, a grandfather saddled with his grandkids, and an upper-middle-class D.C. doctor confronted by traditional medicine. While the bitter memory of slavery shadows his work, Jones points to the universal joys and trials of marriage and community by opposing one character’s selfish despair against another’s hope, often found through faith or a providential second chance. (Amistad)

African Americans in the Furniture City: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Grand Rapids

by Randal Maurice Jelks
reviewed by Wayne Brouwer

While riots and firestorms troubled bigger cities, Grand Rapids, Mich., managed racial issues by limping between paternalism and ghetto creation. Calvin College professor Randal Jelks tells this needed corrective to other more heroic histories of West Michigan with restraint and depth. Using exhaustive research, he explains the changing struggle of a modest northern city proud of its magnanimous religious heritage yet deeply caught in cultural racial bigotry. Community associations, the NAACP, and especially churches nurtured constant hope that all races would share the prosperity of the “Furniture City,” but few victories were claimed. Except for Henry Beets, the Christian Reformed Church is unfortunately silent in this very good book. (University of Illinois Press)


by Nikki Giovanni
reviewed by Sonya VanderVeen Feddema

Rosa Parks “was not going to give in to that which was wrong.” Tired of the injustice confronted by African Americans, on Dec. 1, 1955, Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white man. Her action reverberated throughout her community and beyond it, contributing to the Nov. 13, 1956, U.S. Supreme Court ruling that segregation on buses was illegal. Giovanni’s simple yet informative narrative and Bryan Collier’s striking illustrations capture the ordinary people who, when called upon, steadfastly chose justice in spite of the consequences. This book is geared for ages 4-8. (Henry Holt)

The Autobiography of Medgar Evers

edited by Myrlie Evers-Williams and Manning Marable
reviewed by Phil Christman Jr.

With this book, a Civil Rights Movement martyr receives his due. Medgar Evers was an important early voice for African American rights, but he fell to an assassin’s bullet in 1963. This compilation of Evers’s speeches, sermons, letters, and reports is tied together by useful, brief biographical chapters. His words give readers an invaluable glimpse of the day-to-day grind of activism, the hard work, tedium, sadness, and joy that textbooks gloss over. Throughout, Evers’s rock-hard Christian convictions are apparent. “It didn’t take much reading of the Bible,” he writes, “to convince me . . . that I couldn’t hate the white man and at the same time hope to convert him.” His story is one that Christians can ill afford to overlook. (Basic Books)

Other Noteworthy Books

On Being Black and Reformed

by Anthony J. Carter

Carter explores “the Black American experience” with a Reformed perspective.

The Audacity of Hope

by Barack Obama

The popular senator advises getting out there and acting on what you are passionate about.

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