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John M. Kelly Library

Research Guide for Christianity and Film

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This research guide is designed for use particularly by undergraduate students in the Christianity and Culture Program. It was originally created by Armen Svadjian and is now maintained by Noel McFerran. It was last updated July 2012.

Essay Collections

Routledge Companion to Religion and Film

The Routledge Companion to Religion and Film.

Edited by John Lyden. London: Routledge, 2009.
[St. Michael's 2nd Floor PN 1995.5 .R68 2009]
Includes several historical chapters about the relationship between Christianity and film, and chapters on specific categories including redemption, apocalyptic, and Jesus and Christ-figures.

Reel Spirituality: Theology and Film in Dialogue.

Reel Spirituality: Theology and Film in Dialogue.

Robert K. Johnston. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006.
[St Michael's 2nd Floor - PN 1995.5 .J59 2006]
A valuable companion for the Christian wishing to become a more thoughtful and discerning film viewer. Included are chapters on Theological Approaches to Film Criticism; Image and Music; Responding to Film Ethically: Moving Beyond the Rating System, and more. Very comprehensive bibliography.

Reframing Theology and Film: New Focus for an Emerging Discipline.

Reframing Theology and Film: New Focus for an Emerging Discipline.

Edited by Robert K. Johnston. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007.
[St Michael's 2nd Floor - PN1995.5 .R43 2007]
In addition to providing a good overview of the film and faith dialogue, this book offers useful suggestions on how it can actually move forward. The essays are by recognized scholars and fall into one of six sections, such as Moving Beyond a Literary Paradigm and Extending Our Conversation Partners.

Into the Dark: Seeing the Sacred in the Top Films of the 21st Century.

Into the Dark: Seeing the Sacred in the Top Films of the 21st Century.

By Craig Detweiler. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008.
[St Michael's 2nd Floor - PN1995.5 .D48 2008 ]
This insightful book explores forty-five recent popular movies for theological substance. The films are organized by theme into three parts — Identity, Community, and History — and represent many genres. The general bent is that of emergent/post-liberal Christianity. The author draws convincingly on theology, popular culture, and critical theory, and is eager to learn from those outside the church.

Faith in Film: Religious Themes in Contemporary Cinema.

Faith in Film: Religious Themes in Contemporary Cinema.

Christopher Deacy. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2005.
[St Michael's 2nd Floor - PN1995.5 .D38 2005]
Smart, densely-packed essays touching on many relevant topics: religion and popular culture, audience reception, the star system, similarities between religion and cinema, and popular vs. art-house cinema. Includes reasonably detailed readings of seven Hollywood films and a useful bibliography.

Explorations in Theology and Film: Movies and Meaning.

Explorations in Theology and Film: Movies and Meaning.

Edited by Clive Marsh and Gaye Ortiz. Oxford: Blackwell, 1997.
[St Michael's 2nd Floor - PN1995.5 .E96 1997]
Older yet still relevant, the articles here interact well with both theology and film theory. After attempting to stake a place for theology within film studies, the book uses a number of films and filmmakers as occasion for exploring such themes as redemption and liberation. Closes with article A Future Agenda for Theology and Film.

Catholics in the Movies.

Catholics in the Movies.

Edited by Colleen McDannell. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.
[St Michael's 2nd Floor - PN1995.9 .C35 C38 2008 ]
There are thirteen essay here, each on a movie in which Catholics feature importantly. The essays are organized by release date of film and seem to be written with one another in mind, making the book feel like the work of a single author. It amounts essentially to a history of Hollywood through its relationshipon and off-screenwith Catholics and the Church. At the same time, each essay is a model of intelligent critical engagement with a film text and can be read on its own.

Non-Academic Essay Collections

Lights, Camera Faith!

Lights, Camera Faith!

Peter Malone and Rose Pacatte. Boston: Pauline Books & Media, 2002. 3 volumes.
[St Michael's 2nd Floor - BS2565 .M27 2001]
This unique 3-volume set matches appropriate films to each of the readings in the Lectionarys 3-year cycle. Each chapter follows a basic format: Synopsis, Commentary, Dialogue with the Gospel, Key Scenes and Themes, For Reflection and Conversation, and a brief closing prayer by the authors. Ideal for faith and film groups.

The Hidden God: Film and Faith.

The Hidden God: Film and Faith.

Edited by Mary Lea Bandy and Antonio Monda. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2003.
[Pratt Library - PN1995.9 .R4 H53 2003]
Shorter (3-4 page) essays on fifty films with representations of the divine. Mostly written by non-religious critics and scholars with film choices ranging from predictable (Groundhog Day, Babettes Feast, Ordet) to delightfully unexpected (Love Affair, Utamarro and His Women). The variety of contributors make for a somewhat diffuse book; however, the articles are insightful and refreshing in their lack of methodological rigour.

Reverse Shot.

Reverse Shot.

[Available online.]
This issue of the online journal Reverse Shot features sixteen essays on films reflective of a spiritual tendency in cinemathrough the mediums very form, within or without of the narrative, or where the work reproduces the spiritual within the writers themselves. Thoughtful and lively meditations on an eclectic set of films similar to The Hidden God.

Aesthetics

Transcendental Style in Film: Ozu, Bresson, Dreyer.

Transcendental Style in Film: Ozu, Bresson, Dreyer.

Paul Schrader. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1972.
[St Michael's 2nd Floor - PN1995 .S417]
A seminal text, totally unique in its concern with aesthetics. Examination of films by Ozu, Bresson and Dreyer reveals certain formal properties"austerity and asceticism"best suited for expressing the spiritual. Dated somewhat by its tendency to distinguish too neatly between sacred and profane; otherwise a good place to start exploring the neglected role of style in the film-faith dialogue.

Journals

Journal of Religion and Film.

Journal of Religion and Film.

[Available online.]
This peer-reviewed online journal published "examines the description, critique, and embodiment of religion in film". Contains substantial reviews of current movies as well as lengthy essays written in academic style ("In this paper I will argue that"). The contributors are scholars from a variety of faith backgrounds.

Prescriptive Reviews

Decent Films.

Decent Films.

[Available online.]
Essay-length critical reviews of several hundred popular movies "from the perspective of the historic Christian faith". Includes a four-part ratings system which evaluates films for artistic and entertainment value, moral and spiritual value, overall recommendability, and age-appropriate audience. Most of the reviews are written by Steven Greydanus, film critic for the weekly newspaper National Catholic Register.

Film Reviews, Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.

Film Reviews, Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.

[Available online.]
Fairly detailed reviews of over 1200 films produced between 2000 and 2009. Slightly less stress on moral and spiritual content than Decent Films.

USCCB Movie and Family Video Reviews.

USCCB Movie and Family Video Reviews.

[Available online.]
Short reviews with ratings for over 8000 movies. Prepared by the Office for Film and Broadcasting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Movie Concordance.

Movie Concordance.

[Available online.]
An index to spiritual themes (e.g. covenant, humility, Pentecost) in particular movie scenes.

Finding Journal Articles

Index to Film & TV Periodicals.

International Index to Film Periodicals.

[Available online (1972 - present) for UofT use.]
Citations to over 300,000 articles from more than 300 academic journals and popular magazines.

International Index to the Performing Arts.

International Index to the Performing Arts.

[Available online (1864 - present) for UofT use.]
Citations to articles from over 240 performing arts periodicals including over 60 film periodicals. More recent citations also include a summary of the article.

Catholic Periodical and Literature Index.

Catholic Periodical and Literature Index.

[Available online (1981 - present) for UofT use.]
[Print version (1930 - 1980): St Michael's 1st Floor Reference Area - AI 3 .C3]
Over 200,000 bibliographic citations to Catholic books, book reviews, and journal articles from more than 160 Catholic magazines. To search for articles about a particular movie, type motion pictures into the first box and select the SU Subjects field; type the films title in the second box below and select the TI Title field.
To search for articles about movies on a particular subject, type motion pictures into the first box and select the SU Subjects field; type a search term (e.g. redemption) in the second box below.

ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials.

ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials.

[Available online (1949 - present) for UofT use.]
Over one million bibliographic citations to journal articles, essays in books, and book reviews in the field of religion.
To search for articles about a particular movie, type films into the first box and select the SU Subjects field; type the films title in the second box below and select the TI Title field. To search for articles about movies on a particular subject, type films into the first box and select the SU Subjects field; type a search term (e.g. redemption) in the second box below.

It is possible to search the ATLA Religion Database and the Catholic Periodical and Literature Index at the same time: when you are using one or the other index, click on the blue "Choose Databases" tab at the top of the webpage, place checkmarks against both indexes, and then click on the "OK" tab.