Religion & Film in Global Perspective

I’m slated to teach “Religion & Film in Global Perspective” in Fall 2016 (second eight weeks) for Indiana University’s Global Village Living-Learning Center. Suffice it to say, I’m pretty excited for it. I’m imagining it as a Religious Studies meets Film Criticism meets Anthropology of the Media type of course. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. Scroll down to see some of the films (and portions of films) we will screen in the class. I tend to choose films that highlight fictional deployments and representations of boundary maintenance across the registers of nationality, gender, sexuality, religious affiliation, socioeconomic structure, but I’m also a sucker for choosing films I’ve enjoyed that do some sort of socioreligious work. Any suggestions? Inspired by this recent edited volume, I’m thinking about working in at least one Cohen brother film.



Tilda Swinton Teaches Religion


Passengers, this is not a shoe. This is disorder. This is size ten chaos. This—see this?—this is death. In this locomotive that we call home, there is one thing that’s between our warm hearts and the bitter cold. Clothing? Shields? No. Order. Order is the barrier that holds back the frozen death. We must all of us, on this train of life, remain in our allotted station. We must each of us occupy our preordained particular position. [Mason/Swinton places the shoe on the victim’s head and then addresses the crowd.] Would you wear a shoe on your head? Of course you wouldn’t wear a shoe on your head. A shoe doesn’t belong on your head. A shoe belongs on your foot. A hat belongs on your head. I am a hat; you are a shoe. I belong on the head; you belong on the foot. Yes? So it is. In the beginning, order was prescribed by your ticket. First class, economy, and freeloaders like you. Eternal order is prescribed by the Sacred Engine. All things flow from the Sacred Engine. All things in their place. All passengers in their section. All water flowing, all heat rising, pays homage to the Sacred Engine. It its own particular, preordained position. So it is. Now, as in the beginning, I belong to the front. You belong to the tail. [Mason gestures forward and rearward, finger placement reminiscent of an airline stewardess.] When the foot seeks the place of the head a sacred line is crossed. Know your place. Keep your place. Be a shoe. 

Watch the relevant clip from Bong Joon Ho and Kelly Masterson’s 2014 Snowpiercer here. Here’s the image source.