Thursday, September 26, 2013

I Am David

A Wonderful Movie
About Faith, Freedom, and Family
By Jan McClure

Movie Review of
I Am David
Director: Paul Feig
Cast: Ben Tibber, Jim Caviezel, Joan Plowright
Last weekend, I watched an R rated film that I thought might be okay to watch, but instead I left feeling assaulted. And I didn’t feel good about spending my money and time on it.  I subscribe to the Read the Catechism in a Year, which included the following last Thursday:
“Many people, especially children, think that whatever they see in the media is real. If in the name of entertainment violence is glorified, anti-social behavior is approved of, and human sexuality is trivialized, this is a sin both of those in the media who are responsible and also of those supervisory authorities that ought to put a stop to it.
“People who work in the media should always be aware of the fact that their productions have an educational effect. Young people must constantly examine themselves to determine whether they are able to use the media freely, with critical distance, or whether they have become addicted to particular media. Every person is responsible for his soul. Those who consume violence, hatred, and pornography in the media become spiritually deadened and do themselves harm” (YOUCAT question 460).
I thought of how we have to continually push away what we see in the media unless we can find something that is restful to the soul. Therefore, for my next movie review I watched a DVD from 2003. It had a good message, and I finished the film feeling refreshed, and my mind was challenged to think about many different aspects of our journey in this life.

Based on Anne Holm's novel North to Freedom, the film is about a 12-year-old boy named David (played by Ben Tibber) who has lived his entire life in a Communist forced labor work camp.  His protector and friend in the camp is Johannes (played by Jim Caviezel, a Catholic actor who had played in the Passion of Christ; on that set he survived a lightning strike with smoke coming out of him; currently he is in a TV show called Person of Interest.) Johannes, an adult, is shot point blank, martyred because he took the blame for a bar of soap that David had stolen.

Johannes had taught David about life from the vantage point of the camp, warning him to trust no one, because people are bad.  After Johannes’ death, someone else befriends David and helps him to escape.  (At the end of the movie, we discover who that someone is.)  David escapes with only a sealed letter, a bar of soap, a loaf of bread, a compass, his knapsack and the clothes on his back. 

We follow his journey as he heads for Denmark, where he is to deliver the sealed letter.  He has several narrow misses and many flashbacks.  During his journey, David’s idea of the world slowly begins to soften as he meets many nice people in the “free” world.  This reminds me of how Jesus slowly transforms us as we learn to open our hearts and as we trust him more. 

One of my favorite parts of this film is when an Italian baker sees David wistfully looking at the baker’s bread.  The baker invites him into the store and begins to talk to him.  David inquires about a picture of St. Elizabeth and the baker gives David a prayer card of her.  The baker tells him that he can pray to this Saint and she will help him. 

The baker is concerned about the boy, because is traveling alone, but David claims to be with the circus.  The baker tells the police that there is something about David's eyes that seems like he is hiding something from the world. David becomes scared and escapes again.  He finds himself lost, alone and frightened in the woods, and then he remembers the prayer card.  He begins to pray, and his prayer is so simple and so heartfelt.  I found it very endearing and thought of how God responds to us when we are lost.

David finds his way out, amazed that prayer works. 

At one point in the story, David rescues a young lady from a burning building and then he is beaten up by one of her family members. The family takes him in, and he learns to trust a little more as the young lady he rescued befriends him.  At dinner, the family prays before the meal. David has no idea what they are doing.

This family is very concerned that David is alone and no one is looking for him.  He again claims that he is with the circus.  The dad raises his voice, believing that David is lying, and David covers and cowers.  The dad apologizes and both parents assure him that they would never hurt him. David feels its time to go again and leaves in the middle of the night.  He leaves his prayer card of St. Elizabeth on the sleeping young lady’s pillow and asked St. Elizabeth to take care of his young friend. 

He travels farther north and comes upon an elderly lady, Sophie (played by Joan Plowright).  She is painting in a vast field and asks David to pose for her.  A friendship develops, and David ends up staying with her.  Sophie, too, notices that David’s eyes are keeping the world out.  Slowly David begins to tell her more about himself.  She is the maternal figure that he craves.

He asks her why do people do terrible and mean things? Sophie explains that not everyone is mean and that most people are good.   She tells David that he needs to live fully, freely and to see the goodness in people.  David is troubled by that, because he doesn’t know how to know who is good and who is not.  The entire scene reminded me of discernment: at first we can’t understand how to hear God talking to us, but as we spend time with Him and start to trust Him and let Him in, we understand more and more and we begin to live fully and freely, and we start to see with Jesus’ eyes.  We begin to see the goodness in people.

At this point in the story, the rest of the film goes very quickly and ties up all the loose ends.  David is drawn to a church and visits, and after this he tells Sophie more of his story.  I don’t want to reveal the ending in case you would like to see the movie, but many of the subplots are tied together and everything makes sense.  Just as God does for us!

I recommend this movie for all ages.  There is so much more to the film that parallels with our spiritual lives, but I recommend that you discover it for yourself. 

Questions for youth groups, families, and other small group discussions (and we hope you will post a comment below!):
  1. Do you remember how you first learned to pray?  Can you still learn more about how to pray?
  2. How do you develop more trust in others, in yourself and in God?
  3. Because we are made in the image of God, the Church teaches that we are good.  Then why do we sin?  (More information can be found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraphs #1264, 1426.)
EDITOR'S NOTE: In making the film, Walden Media partnered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). A central objective was to raise awareness of the 43.7 million people around the globe who currently live as refugees, according to UNHCR estimates.

I Am David was shown as part of World Refugee Day 2004 in Washington, DC, and again on World Refugee Day 2005 in Kiev, Russia and Minsk, Belarus.

As a supplement to the film, Walden Media created multi-disciplinary resources in English/Language Arts, Social Studies, Visual Arts, and Character Education emphasizing ways that educators and students can respond to the refugee crisis in the world today.  (Click here to download the I Am David Educator’s Guide.)

Also downloadable is the I Am David Gameboard; adapted from materials provided to Walden Media by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, this game board is designed to help give students a glimpse into what it’s like to be a refugee.

The DVD can be ordered online.

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