March 7, 2012

Seeing the Divine in Humanity

Two Unique Films Reveal The Spirit of Humanity:
Cave of Forgotten Dreams & Life In A Day

Occasionally, in the course of watching films, I get lucky. I watched several films in close succession that seem to move me along a deeper understanding of our human condition, our common humanity - and they were delights of the craft of film-making.  Two documentary films moved me further along a deeper appreciation of the human spirit. At the same time, they had disturbing revelations of true and raw humanity. Even though I have been going through my own difficulties in life, these films seemed to bring me to a place of healing in my own humanity with all flaws and failures intact. If we are made in the image of God (as I believe we are), then these films also reveal something about God's image in us, or perhaps it is only a glimpse of divinity in us seen in the reflective medium of film.  See for yourself.

These two films were in theatrical release in 2011 and are currently available on DVD and Blue Ray.

Cave of Forgotten Dreams

An amazing documentary of a slice of humanity from around 32,000 years ago by film-maker and cinematographer Werner Herzog.  He was given almost exclusive access to film inside the Chauvet caves of Southern France. In 1994, the caves were discovered on private property with Ice Age paintings that are the oldest known pictorial creations of humankind. The outstanding natural magnificent cave shadows and the lighting used for filming created haunting images of the cave and the ancient paintings. Many of the wall paintings in the cave are so beautiful and life-like they could be showcased among the greatest masterpiece paintings of any era.

The French government immediately cut-off all access to the caves due to its cultural significance. They gave access to a few archaeologists and paleontologists... and Herzog...  before sealing the cave again to preserve its pristine condition.

Contemporary human visitors are no longer allowed to visit the cave and its paintings in person.  But, through the documentary, Herzog invites us into a place of ancient humanity. Asking scientists to explain what we are seeing, he realizes these paintings and this cave reach into our very soul and reflect the consciousness of our most ancient ancestors and of each of us.

It is clear that there are spiritual intentions in the life-like depictions. Those primitive artists are not painting for themselves, but for their brethren, for divinity, and, perhaps without intention, for us in the 21st Century.

In this cave, where cave bears lived for generations and humans only visited and painted, humans most likely worshipped.  There is a stunning image of a cave bear skull intentionally mounted on a rock facing the entrance.

In one of the interviews, an archeologist proclaims, "with this [Ice Age] evidence, we should not be called homo sapiens, but rather homo spiritualis."

Herzog tells of the footprints of an eight year old human along side the paw prints of a cave wolf.  He asks, "were they friends? was one stalking the other? or were they walking the same places thousands of years apart?"  We may never know, but Herzog, in asking questions, brings the spirit of the cave and the spirit of our most ancient ancestors into the contemporary existential search for understanding our own lives - but with 32,000 years of perspective. With such a long view, there are some things that become clear even as others are obscured, assigned to the mysteries of life that continue around us. 

Here is an official web page:

Life In A Day

(2011) Rated PG-13, 95 minutes, Documentary | Drama

An absolutely important film that clearly demonstrates the global reality of contemporary humanity.  Filmed during the 24 hours of July 24th, 2010,  80,000 submissions, 4500 hours of footage, from 192 countries were submitted to director Kevin MacDonald, who, with some help, put together a 95-minute documentary.

Not only was the project breath-taking in its scope, truly encompassing the entire world, the finished edit is an amazing compilation that flows from one family to the next, from one country to another, telling an amazing story of a single day of 21st Century humanity.  All that is important to our common humanity makes an appearance, including birth, childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, middle-age, coupling, parenting, old-age, illness, death, career, occupation, eating, and worship - all with diversity, yet an underlying unity. 

At the end of the day's journey, one is in awe of the raw and honest presentation of humanity. The spirit of this venture will open minds and hearts to our common struggles, move us to tears AND make us giddy.

Although English is the main language throughout the film, there are moments in several different languages with subtitles.

National Geographic official web page:

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