When construction on the historic Wilshire Boulevard Temple was completed in 1929, the structure was built near what was then the western border of Los Angeles.
To see it still standing today in the heart of Koreatown at the intersection of Wilshire and Hobart speaks to how much the city, and the congregation, have changed over the decades.
In reality, though, the temple and its vibrant community were almost eclipsed by the region’s socioeconomic shifts over the generations and very nearly disappeared from the city’s cultural landscape.
Wilshire Boulevard Temple’s hard-won renaissance, as chronicled in Aaron Wolf’s fondly crafted documentary, proves to be a vigorous affirmation of the vitality of Jewish tradition in Los Angeles that will fascinate the faithful and enlighten the curious.
To view a statue carved by the Bushi—a community of Japanese sculptors who create intricate wooden replicas of Buddhas and bodhisattvas—is to view a style of sculpture that has been virtually unchanged for nearly 1,400 years.
In Yujiro Seki’s new documentary, “Carving the Divine,” viewers get an inside look at how the Bushi have passed on their meticulous carving techniques from generation to generation.
The film introduces us to Master Koun Seki, who has devoted his life to his craft while also running a school for apprentices and other emerging artists.
Watching Master Seki interact with his pupils, viewers quickly learn that the craft requires immense dedication.
It would seem a tad worrying that Wim Wenders’s documentary about Pope Francis had the full participation of the Vatican. Usually “authorized” documentaries about public figures come off as more hagiography than actual examination of the person’s life and legacy.
But in this case, it’s to the film’s advantage. Francis has not been terribly shy about talking with media and appearing on camera, but most of what the average person gets to hear and see about him is filtered through the broader news media or political commentary or perhaps religiously oriented analysis.
For “Pope Francis – A Man of His Word” though, Wenders actually sat down with Francis on several occasions. The interviews form the backbone of the film, mixed with footage of Francis all over the world meeting with refugees, prisoners, children, hospital patients, victims of natural disasters, aid workers, and more.
Much of the debate around recent religious freedom laws in the U.S. has centered on legislation ostensibly designed to protect the beliefs of conservative Christians that nonetheless directly impacts those who don’t share those beliefs.
But what about instances where the law protects actions only within the ranks of the faithful, yet those actions (or inactions) are deemed abhorrent by many outside their community?
“No Greater Law” investigates one such case, in which Idaho government officials faced pressure regarding a particular congregation’s refusal to treat parishioners’ medical issues with anything more than prayer — a religious choice that’s resulted in childhood death rates ten times more than the state average.
Tom Dumican’s scrupulously neutral documentary examines a type of conflict likely to become more and more common in a current climate in which evangelical forces are gaining political clout and “separation of church and state” appears to be a value losing its currency.
“The Exorcist” is to exorcisms what “The Godfather”is to the Mafia.
That is, the film is the font of every cliché about its subject and barely rooted in fact. Just as Francis Ford Coppola’s 1972 mobster classic invented many of its gangland rituals out of thin air, William Friedkin’s landmark 1973 horror movie didn’t have much to do with the real-life case it was based on.
One could view Friedkin’s new documentary, “The Devil and Father Amorth,”as an act of atonement, since it involves Friedkin shooting a real-life exorcism in all its mundanity.
But more than that, the film feels like a director thinking back on the work that defined his career, for better and worse.