Phil Boatwright: Can Films Help Heal a Divided Nation?

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (BP) — Despite our differences, and possibly because of them, we share a unique stewpot commonality: We’re all Americans.

At times, movies have reminded us of that fact — times when the motion picture industry has both served to admonish us and unite us.

Here are several DVD selections that are entertaining, reassuring and yes, unifying.

“To Kill a Mockingbird” (1962).

Gregory Peck won a deserved Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of attorney Atticus Finch in this tale of rural life, justice and bigotry as seen through the eyes of Finch’s 9-year-old daughter, Scout. A beautifully photographed black-and-white movie with a haunting score by Elmer Bernstein, it exposes wrongs and offers solutions by way of change in the thinking of man, and a willingness to see the other guy’s point of view.

As Atticus Finch states in the movie, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

Though justice is not immediately found, the film points to coming change. After Atticus’ summation of the innocence of a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman, a black minister and others in the courtroom’s balcony stand and he requests that Scout also stand as her father exits the courtroom. The show of respect for Atticus as a good man demanding justice for all points to the truth that when good men fight for right, change will come.

Ken Burns’ “The Civil War” (1990)

In this quintessential documentary on the War Between the States, Burns relays intimate personal stories about the heart of the people of the time, revealing their foibles and their nobility. I believe that viewing this film can help us to understand the devastating outcome of divisiveness.

It’s important to expose wrongs, but just as important to remind future generations of the fact that people have fought and died to correct those wrongs. Ken Burns assembles letters and authorities on the subject, brilliantly compiling one of the best, most informative and most spiritually touching works of art ever to be shown on television. The made-for-PBS miniseries is historical storytelling at its best. Indeed, this six-disc DVD set should be viewed by every high school student.

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Source: Baptist Press