Christmas is About…

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. 

This year our partners have included:

Continue reading Christmas is About…

A closer look at… Paddington 2

This is a child-friendly guide; some of the discussion questions are for younger viewers.  Paddington 2 is rated PG for mild threat.

The Scoop

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.

Continue reading A closer look at… Paddington 2

‘Everyone’s a winner’: Reflecting on our partnership with Mothers’ Union

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.

Companion Booklet cover (MU) 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.

Download the companion booklet on the Mothers' Union website
Download the companion booklet on the Mothers’ Union website

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.

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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

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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!

A closer look at…Dunkirk

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The Scoop

Dunkirk, 1940. Allied soldiers, surrounded by the German army, have retreated to the beaches and desperately await evacuation.

On the ground, a young soldier (Fionn Whitehead) survives the slaughter of his unit and takes desperate measures to get on the next boat out. But his ordeal is only just beginning.

In the air, a daring pilot (Tom Hardy) risks his own life to take out the German bombers who are killing the men below.

And at sea, a civilian (Mark Rylance) in his own small boat sets out to do what little he can to bring the stranded army home.

Continue reading A closer look at…Dunkirk

Screening ‘The Shack’: Community comment

Sophie faceEarlier this year we supported the release of The Shack, an adaptation of the bestselling book starring Octavia Spencer and Sam Worthington. We knew that because of its unusual approach to exploring questions around faith and suffering, this film would particularly resonate with the UK church community.

‘Damaris were passionate about sharing the film effectively and as widely as possible throughout the UK church community, covering all denominations.  I found them to be very creative with their ideas, to have a great network of relationships, and to be reliable and efficient at introducing the film to leaders and laity alike.’ – The Shack director Stuart Hazeldine

Lots of people seized the opportunity to see The Shack in cinemas, and we had a great response to our resources. In Reading, Ann and Keith Wilson brought together about 150 people from their Baptist church community and beyond to watch the film and talk about it afterwards – I asked Ann how this came about.

‘As a Union of 2000 churches, Baptists Together live and breathe engaging with their local communities. To enable this, they need good support and excellent resources. Damaris, through their film resources have been helping us brilliantly for a long time. Enabling local churches to put on their own screening of The Shack is a significant and exciting development in that equipping.’ – Mike Lowe, Baptists Together 

Continue reading Screening ‘The Shack’: Community comment

‘Summer in the Forest’ Companion Booklet

Imagine sitting down for a meal with someone different to you.

 Something stopped you coming here before. The expectation of awkward silence, perhaps. The suspicion that your worst fears about the other person might be confirmed. Your discomfort with the unknown.  

 But as you begin to look at each other, to eat together, something shifts. You talk about everyday things, and begin to enjoy each other’s company. A joke catches you off-guard, and you start to laugh. You forget yourself.

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Download the free companion booklet

Life-affirming new documentary Summer in the Forest is in cinemas and online June 23. This poetic film follows the life of the L’Arche community in Trosly, France, where people with learning disabilities and those who support them have found what it truly means to be human.

This companion booklet introduces the stars of the film, and the transforming wisdom of Jean Vanier, who founded the L’Arche movement.

More at summerintheforest.com

Summer by the sea: A journey into L’Arche Bognor (part 2)

Sophie faceAs chronicled in part 1 of this post, I recently spent time with the L’Arche community in Bognor Regis, as part of creating a special resource for new documentary Summer in the Forest.

Hugh Campkin is the community leader at Bognor, and I spoke to him about the joys and challenges of this unique role.

Hugh Campkin (left) with a core member at L'Arche Bognor
Hugh Campkin (left) with a core member at L’Arche Bognor

Continue reading Summer by the sea: A journey into L’Arche Bognor (part 2)

Summer by the sea: A journey into L’Arche Bognor (part 1)

Sophie faceWe couldn’t be more pleased and proud to be supporting the release of Summer in the Forest, a beautiful and life-affirming documentary which will be released in cinemas and on V-O-D 23rd June.

The film (directed by Randall Wright) follows Philippe, Michel, Andre and Patrick, who were locked away and forgotten in violent asylums until the 1960s, when the young philosopher Jean Vanier took a stand and secured their release. Together they created L’Arche Trosly-Breuil, a community at the edge of a beautiful forest near Paris. A quiet revolution was born.

L’Arche (which now has 151 Communities in 37 countries) has a vision for a world where people with learning disabilities and their carers can discover a fuller life together. As part of the process of creating a companion booklet to go alongside Summer in the Forest, I paid a visit to the L’Arche Community closest to where Damaris Media is based: L’Arche Bognor Regis, on the South coast a short distance from the sea.

Continue reading Summer by the sea: A journey into L’Arche Bognor (part 1)

A closer look at… A Long Way Down

This guide comes from our archive. It was written by Rachel Helen Smith.

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The Scoop

Martin (Pierce Brosnan) is a disgraced TV presenter. Jess (Imogen Poots) is the wild child daughter of a politician. JJ (Aaron Paul) is a failed musician from America. Maureen (Toni Collette) is a single mother with a disabled son. These four characters could hardly be more different, but they share a common intent: they want to kill themselves.

Their lives collide one New Year’s Eve on the roof of ‘Toppers’ House’, a popular London suicide spot. The unlikely situation allows them to form an equally unlikely bond, and they all commit to surviving the next six weeks. One holiday, two trips to the hospital and one media firestorm later they’re still friends. But will it be enough to convince them that life is worth living after all?

Continue reading A closer look at… A Long Way Down

A closer look at… I, Daniel Blake

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The Scoop

59-year-old Daniel Blake (Dave Johns) is in an impossible situation. Told by his doctor that he should’t work because of his dodgy heart, he nonetheless fails a Work Capability Assessment. So now he can’t claim sickness benefits, but he can’t look for a job either.

He meets and befriends young single mother Katie (Hayley Squires), whose own dealings with the benefits system have been equally nightmarish. Together they must fight to keep their dignity, and find hope in the midst of their desperation.

Continue reading A closer look at… I, Daniel Blake