Film: Sacred (2016)

June 11, 2017 | By

Film: Excellent

Transfer: n/a

Extras: n/a

Label:  n/a

Region: n/a

Released:  n/a

Genre:  Documentary

Synopsis: Footage from 40 filmmakers is distilled into a collage of chapters addressing varying facets of faith.

Special Features:  n/a

 


 

Review:

Somewhat inferred in promo materials as a cinema first, Thomas Lennon’s Sacred is comprised of curated footage tied to aspects of faith, grouped into three chapters using footage shot by 40 teams of directors & cinematographers from around the world.

The concept of grouping material into themed modules isn’t unique – Simon Pummell’s Bodysong (2003) had the filmmakers raiding film archives and organizing industrial and news footage into aspects of human growth, conception, birth, youth, adulthood, conflict, and death – but similar to the works of Ron Fricke (Baraka) and Godfrey Reggio (Koyaanisqatsi), there’s a genuine curiosity in seeing whether material shot from all around the world can be winnowed into a cohesive narrative.

Sacred isn’t about religion but living with (and for some, without) faith.

The first chapter, “Initiation,” introduces a monk in Japan as he treks up and around a mountain before he endures several days of prayer, minus food, water, and sleep, and ultimately commits himself to his faith. The white-garbed figure plonking his way along ancient trodden paths with his huge bamboo stick become the film’s through-line, as Lennon occasionally returns to the monk, checking his progress before closing the 86 min. film with the monk’s successful spiritual and physical journey.

The first chapter more or less follows a birth in Poland, a bris in France, and boys taking baby steps towards new lives as monks in Myanmar, and sliced between these larger montages are brief shots from other lands and cultures. Those reduced to quite literally a few shots aren’t given short shrift; they’re merely instrumental colours in a large movement that make up a small yet affecting symphony.

“Practice,” the film’s middle chapter, focuses on marriage, fertility aspirations in a Japanese temple devoted to phalluses, and a mother wanting a third child in a sacred Haitain waterfall ritual. Other segments feature aspects of practicing / demonstrating faith, as in a T-shirt vendor who’s nailed to a cross in the Philippines, a mask festival in Peru, and select convicts in America’s Angola Prison who’re given greater latitude within the penitentiary grounds if they become ministers, and build up faith among the incarcerated population.

It’s around the final chapter, “Passage,” where the film cleverly begins to affect us – not because it’s imposing an opinion on any religion, but shows individuals in very different phases of faith: an old woman who forgives the murderers of her son after visiting Mecca; a dying mother in Connecticut who articulates how ‘prayer matures’ over time; and perhaps most moving, a fragile old man who steps down to a temple in the ancient Ethiopian town of Lalibela, and after being anointed by its priests, sits quietly on the temple’s steps, and weeps under the sun.

Sacred is filled with many private moments, and regardless of how rustic (Madagascar), bleak (Ebola-plagued Sierra Leone), or blazingly colourful (India), Lennon’s narrative weaves through a vast array of cultures to show the cohesion that exists within the human spirit. Faith and its sacred mechanics do play a supporting role in the lives of Lennon’s global community, but its role is to temper, moderate, and inspire instead of divide.

Augmented by many striking images, Sacred also benefits from Edward Bilous’ score which draws from several organic sounds and ethnic instruments to smoothen scene and shot transitions.

Sacred is currently screening at the Hot Docs ted Rogers Cinema.

 

 

© 2017 Mark R. Hasan

 


 

External References:
Editor’s BlogIMDB  — Composer Filmography
 
Vendor Search Links:
Amazon.ca —  Amazon.com —  Amazon.co.uk

 


 

 


 

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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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