Category Archives: Reviews

Tale as old as time hits the big screen

By Sarit Bridell

Movie poster for the new Beauty and the Beast remake that just hit the big screen (photo courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures).

The long-awaited remake of the family favorite “Beauty and the Beast” hit the big screen this month, captivating viewers all around. “Beauty and the Beast” was one of this years most anticipated films and a family classic.

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La La Land: An instant classic

by Sarit Bridell  

Still from La La Land

Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone on set of La La Land (photo courtesy of Rotten Tomatoes).

Love, life, and Hollywood

La La Land paints the classic story of what it takes to make it in Hollywood, with the added complications of falling in love. Directed by the talented Damien Chazelle (Whiplash) and produced by Black Label Media, the film has set new standards for what makes a great musical.

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Threads: Tying together diverse communities through art, music and drama

Graham McKee's art

Graham McKee's art

Graham McKee (left) explains his art piece (photo courtesy of Sarah Peterson).

Threads, an exploration of diversity, exploring differing views and learning about our neighbors.

Aaron Bloom, a former Northwestern student, started Threads, a conglomerate of music, art, spoken word and theater, to help people from different backgrounds and beliefs come together under the same roof. Jan. 26 was the first event held in 2017, though there have been three others held previously. This one was hosted at Honey, a restaurant modeled after underground bars in New York. Honey is in a stretch of Northeast Minneapolis that holds many hidden gems, and this restaurant/bar was no exception. Nestled on a busy street, Honey is a hip spot to go and grab a bite to eat.

Entering, you walk down a long flight of stairs, which leads you to a long bar and a room where the walls are lined with leather couches, small tables and low, tasteful lighting. Glancing into the other room, you see the dimly lit stage and another concrete-lined floor filled with tables and rows of chairs. Purposeful graffiti fills some of the walls, while chipping paint and bare concrete covers the rest.

“Right vs. Wrong” was the theme of the night, and this tension was demonstrated through the artists and musicians that performed. One of the spoken word speakers was an atheist, and the band was from a local church.

Why the diversity of people? To get to hear about the worldview of others whose thinking differs from that of a typical Christian.

“I dealt with a lot of angst at Northwestern because I am a very liberal-minded person,” said Bloom. “So I started these nights because I wanted to explore different types of thoughts with a wide variety of people.”

And a wide variety he got. While the spoken word was dealing with heartbreak and the purpose of life, the theatre performance portrayed someone going through life naïvely and not understanding why bad things happen to good people.

“We are able to talk about these issues in a way that we don’t typically get to [in the Christian community],” said Bloom.

Along with the live performances, there was also a piece of artwork that Graham McKee, another former Northwestern student and local upcoming artist, created to allow the viewers to discover “Right vs. Wrong” in their own way. The art piece resembled a scale and a road beneath, covered in red and white paint, representing right and wrong.

“It’s a roadmap to view the world in regard to morals,” explained McKee. “There’s so much more room for opportunity than we already have on the plate. It’s not always straight forward.”

McKee had a story and an explanation to go along with the art, but he allowed others to explore it themselves before he clarified his reasoning behind the piece.

This was the point of the whole evening, hearing and seeing “Right vs. Wrong,” being played out before your eyes and then having discussions afterwards. That’s why Bloom arranged this night so that people would feel comfortable coming together and agreeing to disagree.

“The theme is whatever I have been thinking about. It takes two or three months to write the whole thing,” Bloom concluded, “I’m not just doing this by myself, though. I’m talking with Christians, Agnostics, Atheists, Buddhists…I’m throwing ideas off of everybody. I like to pretend it’s all me! But it’s actually a lot of [different] people [and their work] that go into these nights.”

More information about Threads, its mission and upcoming events can be found on the group’s website.

Moonlight: An epic journey to manhood

By Gillian McIntosh

“Moonlight” is a dramatic film that explores the issues of identity in an eloquent and heart breaking way. Its critics are calling Berry Jenkins’ film “Moonlight” one of the essential American films. The film won three Oscar’s for “Best Motion Picture of the Year,” “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role” and “Best Adapted Screenplay.”

The film’s plot explores and develops its characters, while also dealing with identity, sexuality, family and masculinity. The movie never feels like it is preaching of moralizing; it simply captures deep, complex themes. It is clear that the director stays focused on each individual aspect of the movie in order to capture the scenes most accurately.

The protagonist of “Moonlight” represents the conflicted and fluid masculinity of young African-American men in the United States today. The movie is separated into three chapters – “Little,” “Chiron” and “Black.” These are the three names used to refer to the single character that the film follows through adolescence to adulthood. The boy turns into a man who is continually struggling to figure out his place in the world, which is articulated through three separate actors.

The film starts with Chiron as a boy who is given the nickname “Little,” played by Alex R. Hilbert. The skinny kid is being pursued by a group of bullies, and he ducks into a condemned building to escape. Juan, played by Mahershala Ali, follows him into the building and the two stare at each other. Inside this building that likely is in its condition due to riots, the two mirror each other; one looking into his past, and one looking into his future. Juan takes the boy home to feed and nourish him where we are introduced to Juan’s partner Teresa, played by Janelle Monet. Little used this paring as his makeshift family. His dad is gone and his mother is a drug-addict. Juan becomes something like a father figure. He sees something good and innocent in Chiron and wants to build him up, even as he provides the product that is ruining his home life.

The film jumps to Chiron as a teenager, who is dealing with more intense bullying and questions about sexuality. Chiron, now played by Ashton Sanders, struggles to find himself amidst a time where everyone claims to be sleeping around and violence takes precedence over compassion. It takes kindness from his friend Kevin, played by Jharrel Jerome, to bring him comfort.

In the last chapter, we meet Chiron as a young adult, played by Trevante Rhodes. Kevin, now played by Andre Holland, reaches out to a very different Chiron who is now living in Atlanta where his mom is in rehab. The themes of the movie come together in an emotionally resonant way, without monologues or melodrama.

“Moonlight” is a coming-of-age story about a boy often overlooked by society. The trio of performances perfectly coincide and never falter in that regard. Jenkins’ work with his ensemble creates consistency from chapter to chapter, even as the cast changes as it does. “Moonlight” is a film about faces. Chiron is a young, black, gay, poor and largely friendless character that feels like he could literally vanish from being so unseen. This film is representative of the struggles of many young African-Americans.

‘Nefarious’: Raising awareness to put an end to the sex slave trade

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by Grace Gaskill

In the 1800’s Victor Hugo said: “We say that slavery has vanished from European civilization, but this is not true. Slavery still exists, but now it applies only to women and its name is prostitution.” Unfortunately, 200 years later, slavery is still the fastest growing criminal industry in the world. Women and children are being sold for sex, and it is happening both legally and illegally all over the world. There’s no difference between legal and illegal prostitution. Either way, women are being exploited. Women find themselves caught in the chains of the trade in a variety of ways. Some are abducted and some are lured in by someone who appears to be romantically interested.

Sex trafficking is heavily prominent in Eastern Europe, and because of this it is easy to feel detached from the crime. However, there are legal brothels right here in America. In the United States, the average age of entry into trafficking is 13-14 years old. 

“Slavery still exists…and its name is prostitution.” – Victor Hugo

There are many resources ranging from books to articles to movies, and they all seek to educate others and hopefully one day eradicate human trafficking all together. Additionally, there are many organizations established that work to see the eradication of sex trafficking. Organizations such as End It, A21 Campaign, and International Justice Mission (IJM) are all worth looking into for more information about this topic.

While it is good to get involved with the big organizations on a national and global level, it is also important to be involved on a local level. SOURCE and Breaking Free are two organizations that exist right here in the Twin Cities. SOURCE (sourcemn.org) and Breaking Free (breakingfree.net) are fighting the trade through awareness, prevention and rehabilitation. Both organizations are actively helping women get out of the slave trade and back on their feet.

It costs $21,000 to get one woman through the SOURCE program for one year, and while that may seem like a large sum, it is completely feasible. If every undergraduate student at Northwestern gave $11.60, one woman would be able to go through the program. Think about forgoing three to four cups of overpriced coffee a year (not a month) so that one woman can find rehabilitation and freedom. SOURCE even has an option to give online. Go to: sourcemn.org/donate.

There is also a ministry right here on Northwestern’s campus that is working to raise awareness about human trafficking. Writing in the Sand seeks “to offer ourselves as instruments and agents of God to prevent sex trafficking in our communities through awareness and outreach” (WITS mission). Writing in the Sand is led by Anna Heruth, Kaelly Danielson and Ashley Rains.

“We are passionate about bringing awareness to the campus and surrounding communities,” says junior interdisciplinary studies major Anna Heruth. She first became aware of human trafficking one summer on a missions trip in Haiti.

This year Writing in the Sand’s big ministry focus is awareness. They meet once or twice a month, but it is mainly an event-based ministry in order to be flexible with crazy college schedules. Writing in the Sand has a prayer walk in Minneapolis once a quad that entails walking through and praying over an area with a heavy strip club and prostitute presence.  In the Spring semester the ministry is looking forward to “Community Crawls” — going around the community and to places like Mall of America, which is a huge hub for sex trafficking, to hang awareness flyers, post the hotline number and get people talking about the trade.

“We want more male involvement,” continues Heruth. “It’s great to have diversity with gifts and talents. Men are crucial to the healing.” This is also a big reason why Writing in the Sand has shifted their ministry focus this year: so that more men can be involved in raising awareness.

Another way that Writing in the Sand is raising awareness is by showing “Nefarious” here on campus. A few weeks ago, the documentary was shown in one of the carousels, and although the event was held on Northwestern’s campus, the showing brought students from surrounding universities.

Photo courtesy of pixabay.com.

Photo courtesy of pixabay.com.

“It’s easy to get frustrated and overwhelmed with how big of an issue this is,” said Ethan, a student from North Central University who attended the showing.

“Nefarious: Merchant of Souls” is a documentary about sex trafficking that explains the trade from both a local and global perspective.  It is written, produced, and directed by Benjamin Nolot, who traveled the world with a team of people investigating this dark and larger-than-life industry. The movie specifically focuses on stories in Moldova, Thailand, and the U.S. (Nevada).

In Moldova victims are sold unknowingly and unwillingly, in Thailand the women are in the trade because they see no other way to earn a living; in Nevada it appears to be glamorous and entices women. In actuality, no one wants to sell themselves. Women find themselves caught in the trade, wanting to escape, but not having the means (physically, emotionally, mentally or financially) to do so.

One story talked about a club that provides a variety of services. At the end of the night the customer may get a receipt that reads: “Beer: $4, Grapes: $5, Girl: $3.” How is this okay?

“I am afraid to close my eyes when I sleep because when I do, all I see is pain,” shares Stefa, a former sex trafficking victim and interviewee in the documentary.

Countless former victims shared horrific stories of the things they have experienced. They talk about physiologically becoming two different people: they do anything they are told and they think they enjoy it, while at the same time hating it and wanting to be free.  On average, women only last about six to eight years before they have sexually transmitted diseases or are killed.

“Nefarious” contains the message of redemption and God’s love for these women. “God wants to set the captives free,” said Ohad, a former trafficker. The documentary is emotionally moving and eye-opening. Overall, Nefarious encourages its viewers to get involved in three simple ways: prayer, awareness, and giving. Sex trafficking does not need people to sit on the sidelines and feel sorry; it needs people to take a stand and fight the trade. For more information go to nefariousdocumentary.com or the Writing in the Sand Facebook page to see how you can get involved.

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