The Bay Area’s fifth annual Atheist Film Festival plays one day–Saturday, September 14–at the Roxie. That’s Yom Kippur. I’ll assume it’s a coincidence. I also assume that it won’t hurt the box office much.
I have nothing against atheism. The belief that there is no God is a perfectly reasonable one, and nothing to be ashamed of. My parents were both atheists, and they were wonderful, loving, ethical human beings who taught me right from wrong. As a young adult, I turned from atheism to agnosticism, and then became a religious Jew (while remaining an agnostic). My parents accepted these changes gracefully. That’s not surprising. Among the virtues they taught me were tolerance for other people’s religious beliefs.
I do have a problem with the preachy, annoying, intolerant attitudes of some so-called “new” atheists, but then I have a problem with anyone who proselytizes their religious (or anti-religious) beliefs. (I can put quotes around new because I was a preachy, annoying, intolerant atheist myself more than 40 years ago). When people refuse to acknowledge the comfort and joy found in ritual, or the good works inspired by faith, or when they insist that open-minded people of faith are enabling fundamentalists, they sound very much like fundamentalists themselves.
But I’m here to talk about movies, not religion, and from what I see, the Atheist Film Festival appears to have a pretty good lineup. I’ve seen two of the features to be screened, and I can recommend both of them–even to religious people like myself..
Can a religious hoax improve people’s lives? New Jersey-born Vikram Gandhi grew out his hair and beard, moved to Phoenix, and assumed a new identity as an Indian holy man. And he soon found himself dispensing actual advice and, arguably, good advice. Starting as a fake guru, and then becoming the real thing, made it all the more difficult to do what he had always planned: confess to his followers that he was a fake. For a charlatan, Gandhi comes off very well in this documentary. But then, he directed it, so it’s reasonable to assume that he’s slanted the story in his own favor.
Kūmāré plays at 5:20. Read my full review.
The Magdalene Sisters
I haven’t seen this Irish drama in years, so I won’t give it a grade. I remember liking it, though, and being shocked and horrified by the story. Based on actual events, it follows four young women in Ireland in the 1960s, who are imprisoned and effectively enslaved by the Catholic Church for the crime of having sex outside of marriage. The men they had sex with, of course, suffered no consequences. It’s frightening that such things were going on in Western Europe in my life time.
The Magdalene Sisters will close the festival at 9:45 in the evening.
By then, Yom Kippur will be over.