Who Is My Neighbor? Film Retreat

National Film Retreat 2006


      We hosted the 7th annual National Film Retreat this past weekend at our Pauline Center for Media Studies in Culver City June 30 – July 2. The theme of the retreat was “Who is My Neighbor?” and we screened Crash, The End of the Spear, Beyond the Gates of Splendor, The Station Agent, and The Mighty. After each film we had refreshments (coffee and cake during the day; wine and cheese at night) and then a very insightful and fruitful sharing on each film.  


(A group photo….)



This year’s retreat was framed by Marjorie Suchocki’s ‘9 Hints for Watching a Film Theologically’Marjorie Suchocki is professor emerita of theology at Claremont School of Theology and director of the Whitehead International Film Festival. Her framework of inquiry guided us to find seeds of the Gospel in the films we watched. (Marjorie has been a member of the ecumenical jury at the Berlin Film Festival in 2004 and will serve again in 2007.)


(At lunch in our patio outside our book store)


32 people from eight states, including Wyoming, Ohio, New York, Massachusetts, Virginia, Connecticut, and Georgia attended the weekend retreat. Most participants, however, were from Southern California including Irvine, El Cajon, and San Diego. More than 200 people have made the retreat since 2000, and some folks have come 2, 3, even 4 times. It’s wonderful when people come again, because a kind of community is formed.


Among the group were catechists, a member of NACMP (National Association for Catechetical Media Professionals), screenwriters, two Catholic high school teachers, a college film instructor, an actor, a filmmaker, two priests, a college student, a grad student in theology, and a diocesan young adult minister.


The first National Film Retreat was held in the Camden, NJ diocese in 2000 and was the brainchild of Camden priest Father Michael Mannion and Frank Frost who identified the desire of many film lovers to gather, talk about, and pray the movies in a retreat setting. Since then retreats have been held at the St. Thecla Retreat House in Billerica, MA, Marymount University in Arlington, VA, the Center for Spiritual Development in Orange, CA, St. Leo’s University in Florida, St. Francis Retreat House in Easton, PA, and Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.


(At Mass)


We all want to thank our sponsors of the retreat that include the Sisters of my own community, the Daughters of St. Paul, Paulist Productions, Open Call, Catholics in Media Associates, Deeper Dimensions, and the Academy for Communication Arts Professionals. This assistance is invaluable to the continuation of the retreat.


One retreatant said that she thought the retreat’s theme: ‘Who is My Neighbor’ is timely because of “today’s ongoing debate about immigration laws. The films addressed this question in challenging ways for believers.” “And I appreciated the opportunity to encounter God,” said Carmen Svensrud of Torrance, “through the art form of contemporary films and to see them from the different perspectives of other people at the retreat.”



(Going to dinner at the Chinese restaurant across the street on Saturday evening)


For more information about this year’s retreat and for the 2007 retreat (that information willbe posted around January 1st), visit www.nationalfilmretreat.com.



(One of our conversations after a film)


Writing our personal prayers of integration at the end of the retreat….



Nine Questions for Watching a Film Theologically

By Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki

 1)        What issues does the filmmaker select for emphasis?

 2)        How does the film frame the problematic aspects of human existence?

3)         How does the film resonate with typical religious ways of framing the problematic aspect of human existence?

4)         Does the film offer new insight into this problematic?

 5)        What kind of resolution does the film suggest?

6)         How does the film handle ambiguity?

7)         How does the resolution within the film compare with your religiousunderstanding concerning resolution?  What is the role of ambiguity for you?

8)         Is there an implicit or explicit spirituality within the film? If so, how is it expressed?

9)         Does the film challenge, contradict, or enlarge your views of the issues it presents?



The Claremont School of Theology E-Journal of 1-06

[From Creative Transformation (Fall 2004), a quarterly journal of process-themed essays, liturgies, and reflections.  Published by Process and Faith, The Center for Process Studies.]


(Sr. Rose caught munching a fortune cookie on the way back from dinner on Saturday evening!)


1 Comment

  1. Thank you for the summary, Sister Rose! While it couldn’t approach the coolness of being there, it did give me a look at this year’s event and see some familiar faces and some new ones. Your photos of the inside of the new Center are beautiful and have me longing to see it. I like that Fr. Alberione’s “Poeniten cor tenete” is translated “Live with a penitent heart” instead of “Be sorry for sin.” I have the Latin phrase as my screen saver, and when people ask me what it means, I translate it as “Hold to a penitent heart”. It has become a guiding principle since I had it explained and translated more literally, in one of the Pauline courses.

    This year’s selection of movies was wonderful. At one point, I thought of renting them all and holding my own film retreat, or getting together with Eva Vary to do so. But then life intervened with plenty of tasks for me for the weekend — no wonder they call it a “retreat”! All one can do is “advance” when remaining in the thick of things.

    Maybe next year, even if it’s still in California. I want to get out there one of these days anyway.


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