Cinematic States by Gareth Higgins - A Book Review

March 16, 2014

My next few posts will be book reviews  - my periods of depression have kept me from posting them as regularly as I usually do, so you will be getting a bunch in a row, but hopefully they will serve to inspire and give you food for thought.

This was a Speakeasy book and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.  It was a quick, easy, and interesting read.  The premise is that Higgins, who has come to live in the United States from Ireland, needs a way to connect with his American neighbors and since he is a film buff, he decides to watch and analyze films that he feels represent each American state to see what he can learn about its people.  
As I was reading, it was fun to guess what films he would pick to represent each state-some were obvious, like Gone with the Wind for Georgia or The Wizard of Oz for Kansas and some were not so obvious, like Fight Club for Delaware.  I was disappointed that so many of the movies that represented the South portrayed it in a bad light, but I really was not surprised.  Most of my favorite sections were on the Midwest states.
Another delight about the book is that Higgins is a peace activist and spiritual writer and he infuses his insights on our society, ways to attain peace and thoughts on spirituality within the film analysis. I included many quotes in my inspirational quote book. My only criticism is that the passages were too short and I sometimes felt that he could have gone a lot more in depth.  Again, the passages about each state were fun to read as Higgins included references to famous people and events from each state that made me feel a little ashamed that I did not have as good a grasp on my own country's history.  
I recommend the book for fun and insight and the insight that has stuck with me the most is the fact that the most common element Higgins found in the films was violence.  In his book, he examined films from the early days of cinema to now and while the violence has become more graphic over the years, it was always present.  America nurtures a culture of violence and this makes me sad.  As a Christian and as a fellow peacemaker, I want America to be known as leader of peace and of positive, healthy communities, but this the opposite of how people think of us and for good reason.  Over and over again, violence towards women and degradation is practically celebrated by our TV shows and movies, instead of inspiring dialogue about peace and true liberation.  One way that I try to support peace-making is by not supporting movies and TV shows that show gratuitous violence, especially in regards towards violence to women-I flat out refuse to pay money to watch a movie with a rape scene in it if it does not directly further the plot and even then I am hesitant to support it.  I know my point of view is not very popular, but I do not believe the way to peace is found by glorifying violence.  Right now I am reading All About Love: New Visions by Bell Hooks and she talks about the very thing that Cinematic States inspired me to ponder-that we must work hard to transform our society into one that is loving, instead of violent and greedy.

You can find Gareth Higgins on Huffington Post
The Film Talk - a pocast of film reviews and interviews 
and on his blog, God Is Not Elsewhere
I really recommend his blog if you are interested in movies from a unique peace-making perspective, as opposed to every other voice in this culture's violence-obsessed perspective.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *