Part I: February 11 • 7 pm eastern time
Join Canon Theologian Kelly Brown Douglas and author Greg Garrett for a deep dive into film, race, and theology. With Garrett’s 2020 release A Long, Long Way: Hollywood’s Unfinished Journey from Racism to Reconciliation as a starting point, Douglas and Garrett explore the history of race and film, noting how film has adapted to changes in cultural perspectives. As Christians and theologians, they’ll tackle questions about how religious traditions can help people of faith interrogate the films we watch, using them as tools to increase understanding of culture and deepen our faith. The conversation ends with an invitation to listeners to watch the three films discussed in Part II: Casablanca (1942), Crash (2004), and Black Panther (2018).
Part II: March 2 • 7 pm eastern time
In the concluding session, acclaimed producer, writer and educator Sonja D. Williams leads a panel discussion with Douglas, Garrett and award-winning filmmaker Phillip Rodriguez comparing Casablanca (1942), Crash (2004), and Black Panther (2018). The films from three eras of filmmaking chart a course from inclusion of a positive Black character through the complications of an explicit multi-racial narrative and into the realm of Black writing and directing. With clips from these films, the online discussion will unpack religious themes about human dignity, conflict, and redemption echoed in these films.
About the Participants
The Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas is Dean of the Episcopal Divinity School at Union Theological Seminary and the Canon Theologian at Washington National Cathedral. She holds the Bill and Judith Moyers Chair in Theology at Union, formerly held by James H. Cone, and is considered a leader in the fields of womanist theology, racial reconciliation, and sexuality and the black church.
Dr. Greg Garrett is Professor of English at Baylor University, Theologian in Residence at the American Cathedral in Paris, and the author of over two dozen books, including A Long, Long Way: Hollywood’s Unfinished Journey from Racism to Reconciliation (Oxford University Press). He is currently at work on book and public projects related to white racial mythologies and racism in the Church.
Phillip Rodriguez is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and founder of City Projects, a production company whose films and educational programs challenge ideas about race and diversity in America. Rodriguez’ documentary films bring to light the complexities of Latino culture, history, and identity at a time when our nation’s demographics reflect unprecedented growth in the Latino community and the concomitant demand for relevant storytelling.
Sonja D. Williams brings a lifelong love of music, literature, and the media to her work. She has served as an educator as well as a multi-award-winning writer and producer of features and documentaries for National Public Radio (NPR), Public Radio International (PRI), the Smithsonian Institution and local radio stations nationwide. Williams is currently a professor at Howard University.
A Long, Long Way: Hollywood’s Unfinished Journey from Racism to Reconciliation
Want to support local bookstores? Purchase through bookshop.org or your favorite local shop. Also available on amazon.com.
In this powerful new book, Greg Garrett brings his signature brand of theologically motivated cultural criticism to bear on this history. After more than a century of cinema, he argues, movies have altered our cultural perspectives in the same way that religious narratives have. And in fact, religious traditions offer powerful correctives to our cultural narratives. A Long, Long Way incorporates both cinematic and religious truth-telling to the subject of race and reconciliation. In acknowledging the racist history of America’s national art form, Garrett offers the possibility of hope for the future.
Casablanca is a 1942 American romantic drama film directed by Michael Curtiz, and starring Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, and Paul Henreid. Filmed and set during World War II, it focuses on an American expatriate (Bogart) who must choose between his love for a woman (Bergman) and helping her and her husband (Henreid), a Czech resistance leader, escape from the Vichy-controlled city of Casablanca to continue his fight against the Germans. (Wikipedia summary)
Crash is a 2004 American crime drama film produced, directed, and co-written by Paul Haggis. The film features racial and social tensions in Los Angeles. A self-described “passion piece” for Haggis, Crash was inspired by a real-life incident in which his Porsche was carjacked in 1991 outside a video store on Wilshire Boulevard. (Wikipedia summary)
Black Panther (2018)
Black Panther is a 2018 American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name. Produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, it is the 18th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The film was directed by Ryan Coogler, who co-wrote the screenplay with Joe Robert Cole, and it stars Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa / Black Panther. T’Challa is crowned king of Wakanda following his father’s death, but he is challenged by Killmonger who plans to abandon the country’s isolationist policies and begin a global revolution. (Wikipedia summary)