Monday morning this week found me getting a bit teary at my desk. (And no, not because it’s January and it’s cold and I wanted to be back in bed.) The news was full of inspiring women speaking up for themselves, amplifying the voices of others – and perhaps, finally, being heard.
At the 2018 Golden Globes, the #TimesUp movement was the talk of Hollywood. The black dresses on the red carpet were, as actress Amber Tamblyn explained, not a fashion statement. ‘It is a statement of action. It is a direct message of resistance. Black because we are powerful when we stand together with all women across industry lines. Black because we’re starting over, resetting the standard. Black because we’re done being silenced and we’re done with the silencers. Tonight is not a mourning. Tonight is an awakening.’
Last night our team braved the cold to attend the premiere of Darkest Hour in London’s glittering Leicester Square. The Christmas decorations were up, the stars were out, and Joe Wright’s gripping Winston Churchill biopic was enjoyed by a packed cinema audience.
Our community guests for the event included veterans from the Second World War, as well as from more recent conflicts. Retired Royal Marines Lance Corporal Justin Montague, who came with his wife Melissa, has served in Afghanistan – an experience which took him on a personal journey with a surprising destination. Justin is now training to be a Christian minister, saying that ‘my faith has grown deeper in the midst of my own “darkest hours”‘.
I spoke to him about the film’s exploration of leadership, and what this meant to him as someone who’s been a leader in two very different contexts.
We’re so inspired by the community organisations we partner with, who this year have included the brilliant organisations below. The work they do and the values they represent are amazing all year round, of course. But at Christmas they have a special relevance.
Inspired by our partners, I’ve picked some of my personal favourite films which capture the spirit of what these organisations do – and reflect the real reason for the season.
You won’t find any tinsel or sleigh-bells here: these are films with an evergreen message.
In 1930s Tenessee, 31-year-old ‘spinster’ Laura (Carey Mulligan) makes a marriage of convenience to Henry McAllen (Jason Clarke) – despite being more attracted to his charming brother Jamie (Garret Hedlund). When the war breaks out, Jamie enlists, while Henry announces that he will be moving Laura, their children and his elderly father (Jonathan Banks) to a farm on the Mississippi delta.
Hap Jackson (Rob Morgan), one of Henry’s tenants, longs to own the land that he farms, as did his slave ancestors before him. His wife Florence (Mary J Blige) agrees to work for the McAllens, fearing what her absence might mean for her own children. Meanwhile their son Ronsel (Jason Mitchell) becomes a sergeant in a tank regiment, discovering that in Europe he’s seen as a liberator and a hero, not a second class citizen.
When the war ends, bringing Jamie and Ronsel home, the precarious balance of both family’s lives comes under threat.
On 5th October, New York Times journalists Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey published a story detailing decades of sexual harrassment allegations against Hollywood mega-producer Harvey Weinstein. This predatory behaviour had been part of the rumour mill for years, but previous attempts to publish anything substantial had fallen foul of Weinstein’s far-reaching influence.
This article went off in Hollywood like a bomb. Within days, Weinstein had been sacked, and more women were coming forward. On 10th October, the New Yorker published a piece by journalist Ronan Farrow accusing Weinstein of many more counts of sexual harassment and assault. High-profile actresses like Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow joined the chorus.
And it didn’t stop there. Emboldened, women – and men – across the entertainment industry spoke about their own experiences of being sexually harassed, assaulted and intimated at work. Their stories implicated Kevin Spacey, Steven Segal, producer Brett Ratner, comedian Louis CK, and many more. They lifted a lid on a toxic culture where powerful men feel entitled to do whatever they want, without fearing consequences.
This is a child-friendly guide; some of the discussion questions are for younger viewers. Paddington 2 is rated PG for mild threat.
Paddington (voice of Ben Wishaw) is now living happily with the Brown family, and has friends all over the neighbourhood. But though he’s settled into London life, he’s still thinking of Aunt Lucy (voice of Imelda Staunton), who he left behind in Peru. He wants to send her a very special birthday present, and he thinks he’s found the perfect gift – a beautiful pop-up book showing famous landmarks of London.
But while Paddington is trying to save enough money to buy the book, it catches the attention of egotistical faded actor Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant). He knows that there’s more to the book than meets the eye, and hatches a devious plan to steal it and frame Paddington for the theft.
With their beloved bear wrongly imprisoned, it’s up to Mrs Brown (Sally Hawkins), Mr Brown (Hugh Bonneville) and the rest of Paddington’s friends to clear his name.
K (Ryan Gosling) is a Blade Runner, hunting down old-model replicants, synthetic slaves who once mounted an uprising against the human race. In the neon and shadows of futuristic Los Angeles, K lives a lonely life. His only companion is his holographic girlfriend Joi (Ana de Armas), who is programmed to please him.
Then while out on a routine job, K stumbles across a mystery which could disrupt the delicate truce between humans and replicants, leading to all-out war. As he follows the trail of clues, pursued by ruthless replicant-maker Niander Wallace (Jared Leto), K must confront a crisis that goes right to the heart of who he is.
Damaris Media CEO Tim Waldron blogs about his time at the Mothers’ Union General Meeting in Edinburgh
We’re thrilled to have partnered with Mothers’ Union to spread the word about Victoria & Abdul, the historical drama still charming audiences in UK cinemas.
Queen Victoria was the first Royal Patron of Mothers’ Union. The organisation believes in the power of relationships to bring down barriers – and Victoria & Abdul tells the story of the most unlikely friendship in history.
We worked with Mothers’ Union to create a special companion booklet offering a glimpse behind the scenes of the film, and a chance to reflect on themes of reconciliation and ‘welcoming the stranger’ – ideas close to the organisation’s heart.
Mothers’ Union is an international charity that aims to demonstrate the Christian faith in action through the transformation of communities worldwide. They work with people of all faiths and none in 83 countries to promote stable marriage, family life and the protection of children.
Last weekend I was able to take a (pleasingly short) flight up from Southampton to Edinburgh, and join in with the Mothers’ Union General Meeting. This gathering, which takes place every year, is a day of fellowship, celebration and inspiration, welcoming members and non-members from across the UK. The theme this year was ‘Faith in Action’, featuring a keynote speech from Canon Sarah Snyder, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s top advisor.
Damaris Media aims to build sustainable, mutually beneficial relationships with community groups, and it was fantastic to meet lots of people who had used and loved our Victoria & Abdul resources. The feedback we got from delegates was extremely positive and there was a real sense of buzz around the topic of our partnership, which was highlighted on the main stage as a great new venture for the Mothers’ Union team. People were impressed with the quality of the resources – and they loved the film.
‘We had a wonderful branch outing to see the film; Our members all thoroughly enjoyed it.’ – North Yorkshire branch
I heard countless stories of groups seeing and enjoying the film together – there was even a group of delegates going to see the movie that evening in Edinburgh! Others had left their branches strict instructions to see the movie over the weekend so that they could use our Companion Booklet at next week’s branch meeting.
I left the gathering feeling hugely encouraged about the impact of what we do: our work with Mothers’ Union is a prime example of how our partnerships work. The film company covers the costs, Damaris Media works with the community group’s central body – and as a result, local groups get a valued opportunity. Everyone’s a winner!
First They Killed My Father is available on Netflix
Loung (Sareum Srey Moch) lives an ordinary life in Pnom Penh with her brothers, sisters, mother (Sveng Socheata) and beloved father (Phoeung Kompheak). She catches glimpses of fighting and bombs on the television, but none of it means much to her. Then one day an army marches through the streets outside, and Loung’s world changes forever.
The Khmer Rouge have taken power in Cambodia, and Loung’s father – an educated employee of the former government – could be in serious danger. The family must hide their identity as they are turned out of their home and forced into a labour camp. As conditions worsen and her former life begins to feel ever further away, Loung loses her innocence piece by piece.
It’s the latest thing in food production. Lucy Mirando, the new CEO of the formerly ruthless Mirando corporation, is happy to announce that they have developed a new breed of genetically engineered super-pig. As part of a publicity stunt meant to bolster Mirando’s touchy-feely new image, twenty six piglets will be sent out to farms in different parts of the world to be raised by local farmers using traditional methods.
In South Korea, a pig named Okja is brought up by young Mija (Seo Hyun) and her grandfather (Byun Hee-Bong). Girl and pig share a close bond – and Mija is heartbroken when the Mirando corporation return to claim what’s theirs. To make matters worse, animal rights activist Jay (Paul Dano) tells her that Okja is being sent to America to be slaughtered. Can Mija and her friends make a stand and save Okja’s bacon?