Monday, August 10, 2009

Sonlight 5 Movies

I’m going to edit this as we go, but here is a more or less complete listing of the movies we are watching alongside our Core 5 year. I post this knowing that people are going to be upset that we allow our children to view some of these.

First - a couple of series:

Pilot Guide, or GlobeTrekker, travel videos for many of the locations. These are targeted towards adults, so be sure to be with your kids, and have the remote handy. We have watched every one our library has, and a few others. The most objectionable content is usually in Western hemisphere ones -- and if you read the description, you’ll have a pretty good idea as to whether or not you are likely to have problems.

Hello from Around the World - we get these from the library.

Schlessinger Media has a couple series that tell about children in different countries, and about various hyphenated Americans. These are about 20 minutes, and quite informative, if not a little silly.

On to the movie list:


Ghost and the Darkness - probably not appropriate for younger viewers. There are a couple really scary moments involving lions eating people. My older boys really like this movie. Based on a true story.

Sahara - a family favorite. Rated PG13, mostly for violence. We always stop the movie before the beach make-out scene at the end. There are some great marketplace scenes, prayer calls, discussion of some of the tribal wars, and a trip to Gao.


Shackleton - starring Kenneth Brannagh - very, very long, and there are scenes where he is spending time with his mistress - nothing graphic, just clearly implied. The Antarctic stuff though is incredible. And the special features are fantastic as well.


Quigley Down Under - not a very accurate picture of Australian life, but gives a bit of the story of Aboriginal life, and the attitudes of some ‘whitefellas’ (to quote Red Sand, Blue Sky). Also gives a good feel for the immenseness, and harshness, of the Australian interior.

Rabbit Proof Fence - I don’t know about this one. It was nice to get a bit more of the Aboriginal point of view, but this just felt like a very long movie. The first part is almost all in an Aboriginal language, with subtitles, but it does switch almost completely to English after the first 10 minutes or so.


Big Bird in China/Big Bird in Japan/Aleph-bet Telethon - the two Big Bird movies are cute, and my preschoolers loved them. Great scenery, plenty of silly antics, and loads of very, very cute kids. My older kids did watch too, rolling their eyes when Big Bird said he couldn’t walk on ‘the wall’ because he’d get the wallpaper dirty. If you have younger kids, these are worthwhile. I wouldn’t go out of my way at all if you are doing the Core with just older kids. Aleph-bet Telethon, however, when you do Israel -- oh, DO get this one. Some great guests, and working through the Hebrew ABC’s is great. Unless you have children who truly hate Sesame Street (mine have never seen enough to have a strong opinion), this one is worthwhile.

Chariots of Fire - the movie is a little slow, and not completely accurate, but I think it is a must-view after reading the story of Eric Liddell (we watched it after finishing the Olympics chapter). My kids all like it, and there is nothing really objectionable in the movie. I’ve read that the actor did a very good job of imitating Liddell’s running style, and based on photos, it seems that way to me. If you don’t want your kids to have a spoiler, you might want to stop the movie before the ending, where text on the screen tells you that Liddell died in a prison camp in China in WWII.

Eric Liddell - Torchlighters - this is an animated version of Liddell’s life, which was enjoyable. It covered a couple events from his childhood, a few events from his running career, and a few events from his post-Olympic life. It does not really deal with his time in the prison camp, at least not in the animated part. The animation is not terribly good. My youngest children enjoyed this, but the older ones were a bit disappointed. However, the material on the bonus features was fantastic. The story of Liddell’s life is told through interviews with a number of people, including an Eric Liddell biographer, his oldest daughter, a Scottish pastor who worked on Chariots of Fire, and a LOT of people from the prison camp. There is footage from the Olympic win included. Everyone in the household over 7 was glued to the television for the documentary. I highly recommend this, and have holds on others in the Torchlighter series.

Gladys Aylward, from the Torchlighter’s series. We liked the animation better than in the Liddell one, and the documentary was fantastic too. Fascinating to actually hear her speak. I just wish there were more of these available (the other titles aren’t Eastern Hemisphere related - John Bunyan, William Tyndale, Jim Elliot, Richard Wurmbrand -- we may do his while doing Central Asia, aka former USSR countries, although he is from a European Soviet Block country, not Asia.)

Inn of the Sixth Happiness - Dale wanted us to watch this again -- he & I had watched it years ago and enjoyed it -- but it was really tough to watch (at least the second half) this time. The whole romance thing, and some of her ‘inclusive’ comments about religion, and them singing “This Old Man” as they marched through the mountains, and no prayer that a way could be found across the river, and... the kids basically said, “That was more fiction than fact.”

The Keys of the Kingdom - I wish we had waited and watched this alongside our reading of Mission of Cathay, which we started the day after the movie. The movie is based on an apparently fictional Roman Catholic priest (Gregory Peck) who serves as a missionary in China. I was really impressed with how the Chinese people were treated as actual characters (the movie is from 1944) and the protestant missionaries who move into town are also nice people -- and the Catholics and Methodists do get along.


Gandhi -- great movie to watch after reading the book. Gets into a lot more about his time in South Africa than the book does, and doesn't really deal with his life before that point. Some violence (his assassination, the massacre at, umm, wherever that was. Note to self, post stuff like that when you are *awake*). The movie is long and not exactly action-packed. My preschoolers could not care less... but the oldest two watched it fairly seriously. The 8 year old was absolutely appalled at how Gandhi was treated on the train, so I know he was watching. At least part of it.

Rikki Tikki Tavi -- we watched this after reading Just So Stories and The Jungle Books (we added this to the core). It was fun, and my younger ones especially loved it. It did follow the story very closely. I'm glad we added it.

Mother Teresa -- 2003 made for TV movie starring Olivia Hussey. This was good, although not completely accurate in details, assuming the SL biography is accurate. One thing that bothered us was that she was being called "Mother" when she was still just a Sister. This was well worth watching.


Big Bird in Japan - see Big Bird in China

The Last Samurai - there is a fair amount of violence, and Tom Cruise’s character is a drunken has-been soldier at the beginning. I would advise watching this one yourself to decide about whether it is appropriate for your kids. The highlight for us was the main samurai who was a good example of the whole artist warrior thing. Honestly, this is not a movie *I* would choose to let the kids watch.

Sayonara - if you choose to watch the entire movie, you may want to have a remote handy. Not that there was much that was inappropriate. Honestly, I was making dinner while dh was watching with the kids, so I don’t know the specifics. What is worthwhile, though, is to find the puppet show towards the end and watch that part. This goes along with The Master Puppeteer really well. We had to rewind and watch the puppet show part a few times (yes, I left the kitchen at that point!). The first time, we were focused on the storyline of the movie, so backing up and watching the puppet show itself without thinking about the movie characters was good. We backed it up and watched it a third time, focusing on the puppeteers. Worth renting, just for that scene.


The Way Home - this one is in Korean, with English subtitles. The kid swears a fair amount, which is off-putting. The basic plot is a mother leaves her totally undisciplined son with his grandmother for a period of time. The kid is a total brat, and grandma isn’t really in a position to discipline him. He eventually actually does do a couple of unselfish things. The grandma is mute, so there isn’t actually a lot of dialogue, and we did enjoy it.

Middle East

Aleph-bet Telethon -- see Big Bird entry in China. Well worth watching.

Secondhand Lions - this movie is a family favorite. A fun combination of coming-of-age, fantasy, and adventure. Has very little actually to do with Africa or the Middle East, but fun anyway.


The Story of the Weeping Camel - in Mongolian, and everyone groaned about another subtitled movie. But seeing them in the yurts, and seeing the sand storm blow up, and hearing the music, and seeing the satellite dishes outside some of the yurts... well, it gave a nice feel for some of the hardships they suffer, some of their traditions, and some of the clash of modern culture.

Pacific Islands

Finding Nemo - the kids got a kick out of seeing things like the fish forming the Sydney Opera House. I put this in mostly to reinforce some of the reef life aspects of Australia, especially for my younger ones.

Island of the Blue Dolphins - the movie was roughly based on the book. Roughly. Nobody here particularly enjoyed it, and I certainly wouldn’t spend money to add it. If your library has a copy, it might be worth checking out. Some of the loneliness came through, but very little of the hard work and determination of Karina. The best thing I can say about the movie is that we had a great MST3K style hack-job going between us all. If only we could have projected our shadows onto the TV.

Molokai: the Story of Father Damien - this takes place in the Pacific Islands, and deals with a leper colony. May not be suitable for younger viewers or the squeamish, but we were all glad we watched it.


Anastasia (the animated one): This was fun. And we had some great discussions about it, and pulled up info in World Book to discuss reality. I had checked out the "classic" version of the story too, but I just didn't want to watch them both, so that was returned, unwatched.

Fiddler on the Roof: coming right after a discussion for the Showman activity badge about the difference between operas, operettas, and musicals -- this was great. I've always really enjoyed this movie, and the "Sunrise, Sunset" song is more of a tearjerker with each passing year.

Southeast Asia

The King and I: Okay, well, it was fun to watch. And we pulled up some websites to discuss the historical accuracies (or lack thereof), which made it a bit more educational. Of course, my kids are wandering the house, waving one hand in the air, saying, "Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera!"


Around the World in 80 Days -- we watched a number of things. I'll make separate items.

1) Disney version starring Jackie Chan as Passepartout. It was fun, I guess, as long as you go into the movie knowing that it is VERY loosely based on the book. As in, the names are similar, it takes place in about the same time period, and it does involve Fogg going around the world on a bet. Besides that, well, not much is similar. It did give us a bit to talk about though, and some scenes did give us a sense of the countries covered. I wouldn't pay to see this.

2) The 1956 one, starring David Niven, and winner of the Oscar for Best Picture. This followed the plot of the book slightly more than Disney did. It could have been a lot shorter had they cut all the scenes like Passepartout and the bullfight, and other similar scenes. Fogg was not played in the stiff upper lip manner we expected from the book.

3) The TV show from the BBC starring Michael Palin. This one was a winner. They weren't trying to "do" the book, the premise is that Palin is sent to see if he can get around the world in 80 days without the use of airplanes. This was fun. No rescuing Indian princesses or anything, but as they travel, the do spend some time in the various locations, and they do reference the book some. There were two scenes we fast forwarded... one in Tokyo, as he is going to bed in a "capsule hotel" where they show him watching 'adult programming' (nothing graphic is shown). The other scene was on the train from Chicago to New York, where he gets into a conversation about male strippers with some fellow passengers. Everyone in the house really, really enjoyed this, and I highly recommend it. We were able to get it from the library, and I know Netflix has it too.


Kimberly @ Raising Olives said...

We are half way through Sonlight 5 and while we rarely watch any TV or videos this is a good idea. We actually did watch Chariots of Fire when we were finished reading about Eric Liddell and our children really, really enjoy the movie.

Thanks for the list.


Debra said...

We watch too many movies, no TV though. By "normal" standards, we don't watch all that much television, I guess.

Anyway, Core 5 is fantastic to add movies to though. It has helped my kids a LOT to get the 'feel' of the countries and cultures. I'm glad we're doing it this way.