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 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.
Earlier 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
Note: Guides from our archive are in a slightly different format and have been edited here to make them more user-friendly.
Philomena is rated 12A for infrequent strong language and moderate sex references. The film is available to buy on DVD or to stream on Amazon Instant Video.
Labour spin doctor Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan), fired after an unforgivable political blunder, is down in the dumps. Once a journalist, he vaguely considers writing a book, though scoffs when someone suggests he look for a ‘human interest story’. He looks down his nose at this kind of ‘soft’ journalism – but then, just such a story falls right into his lap.
He hears about Philomena Lee (Judi Dench), a retired nurse from Ireland, who after a lifetime of silence has just told her daughter (Anna Maxwell Martin) about the baby boy she gave up for adoption fifty years before. A teenaged single mother, she was taken in by nuns who forcibly separated her from her son. Now all she has is a faded photograph of little Anthony, and a heavy burden of guilt and regret which her continued belief in God can’t relieve. She’s willing to share her story with Martin, if he will help her find out what happened to Anthony.
The search takes them to America, and into unfamiliar territory for both the cynical Martin and the frightened – but still faithful – Philomena.
Midnight Special is rated 12A for moderate violence, threat
The Scoop – Intriguing, affecting Sci-Fi which keeps its cards close to its chest
Two men and a young boy are on the run in the dead of night. Sneaking out of a motel room, they climb into a nondescript car and drive away. To avoid being spotted by the police, they turn off the headlights, the driver donning night-vision goggles so he can see the road in the darkness. The boy in the back seat is wearing goggles too – for a very different reason.
He is Alton Meyer (Jaeden Lieberher), an eight-year-old possessed of mysterious powers which mean that he must be kept out of daylight. One of the men, Roy (Michael Shannon), is Alton’s father; the other, Lucas (Joel Edgerton), Roy’s childhood friend. Having kidnapped Alton from a cult which sees his abilities as messianic, they are on their way to rendezvous with Alton’s mother, Sarah (Kirsten Dunst).
Roy, Lucas and Sarah believe that they are taking Alton to meet his destiny. But other people, with other ideas, are in pursuit.
The Scoop – An affectionate and frequently hilarious Hollywood satire
It’s the golden age of Hollywood, and behind-the-scenes fixer Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) has his work cut out making sure that the stars don’t lose their shine. A typical day includes covering up the pregnancy of unmarried actress DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson), fending off twin gossip columnists Thora and Thessaly Thacker (Tilda Swinton), and persuading pretentious director Laurence Laurentz (Ralph Fiennes) that singing cowboy Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich) is the perfect leading man for his new film.
But when matinee idol Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) is kidnapped by communists in the middle of filming swords-and-sandals epic Hail, Caesar!, even Eddie has to concede that the show may not go on.
The Scoop – An intelligent drama which manages to be both restrained and powerful.
It’s 2001, and the Spotlight investigative team at the Boston Globe are looking for their next big story. They’re dubious when their new boss, Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber), asks them to dig deeper into a case involving an abusive priest, John Geoghan. The documents are all legally sealed, and any attempt to access them will be viewed by the Church as a hostile move. In a city where Catholicism is part of everybody’s life, the Globe doesn’t want to alienate its readers.
But when journalists ‘Robby’ Robinson (Michael Keaten), Mike Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams) and Matt Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James) start asking questions, they realise that Geoghan is just the tip of the iceberg. Not only are there more abusive priests in Boston than anybody had guessed, but the cover-up encompasses powerful figures from the Church and across the city.
Shining a light into this story will involve not only confronting the painful experiences of the many victims, but also coming to terms with the shocking complicity of everyone involved.