By Michael Nacey ’19 PC: bcp.org
Tuesday, October 2 marks the start of the Justice Summit Film Series for the 2018-2019 Gender Summit with the showing of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Karen Gillan, Kevin Hart, and Jack Black.
“People have asked me about it, like, ‘What does Jumanji have to do with gender?’” said Mr. Sigrist, one of the faculty members organizing the Justice Summit Film Series this year about Jumanji. Despite the speculation, he contends that it’s actually a great movie to start with because it’s fun. It’s not a traditional Justice Summit movie, as most of the films shown as a part of the Justice Summit in the past few years have not been blockbusters.
Jumanji does have some depth though, and, as Mr. Sigrist puts it, “It’s not the smartest movie in the world, but it’s actually smart about some things and we’re going to talk about how it cleverly deals with gender norms. But then at the same time, it’s a good example of how we can point out certain things, where [the movie] is not super smart with gender and actually feels kind of problematic or regressive.” A discussion will follow the film that will bring up these points and allow those attending the event to add more commentary to them. But Jumanji is not the only Justice Summit movie this year.
Although the list is not yet final, some of the movies under consideration for the Justice Summit Film Series this year include Eighth Grade, Tootsie, and the documentary The Work. Eighth Grade (2018) tells the story of an eighth-grade girl, Kayla Day, wading through adolescent awkwardness before her transition to high school. Adds Mr. Sigrist, it is a film that represents “what it’s like to be young and female in this world with social media and at school, and feeling awkward and not being sure what to do with yourself.” Tootsie (1982) with Dustin Hoffman and Robin Williams “is classic because of this idea of cross-dressing (done by Hoffman’s character in the film) to see what the experience of another gender looks like.” Lastly, The Work (2017) is a documentary “about men who are incarcerated in Folsom Prison and how they are reflecting in a group therapy session about how they got to where they’re at.”
All of these films focus on the process where, as described by Ms. Bauman, another Film Series organizer, “things that relate to one gender are expanded to be expanded to both genders.” By attracting a mass audience, Eighth Grade and Tootsie thrust issues of gender into the spotlight and inspire conversations nationally and worldwide, which they will do at Bellarmine later in the year. Ms. Bauman continued to say that “the media images are so pervasive and especially [with] what we see, that’s what we often latch on to as a reality even if it’s [just] in a movie. We still internalize what we see in those scenes and translate it into our lives. I think that when there are only limited notions of what different genders look like… that’s what we believe to be true, and so until that changes… or as it’s changing, we can open up our own minds too and not just be limited to stereotypes anymore.”
Documentaries are no less significant. Says Mr. Sigrist, “they ask a little more of the audience.” Documentaries have no characters and none of the tropes and mechanics of fictional stories, but they can connect with audiences in ways that films such as Jumanji or Tootsie can’t. Alluding to Ms. Bauman’s earlier statement, films present new realities, realities that may not be wholly accurate which audiences accept. Documentaries channel reality through the film; they provide a more complete education while being no less entertaining than feature films, and are therefore an essential part of the Justice Summit Film Series.
Despite their differences, these movies are linked to the goals of this year’s Justice Summit. As stated by Mr. Sigrist, these films will collectively present “where gender expectations come from, how they’re perpetuated by institutions and power structures, the inequities created by these, how to recognize them, especially when they feel implicit or unconscious, and then finally, thinking about the call to justice from God and other places to create a more equitable world with gender in mind.”
The Justice Summit Film Series provides a chance to see the justice in art. Even in Jumanji. The screening will be this Tuesday, October 2nd at 7:00 pm in Sobrato Theater.