I had the privilege last month of conducting a telephone interview with Kathy DiFiore, founder of Several Sources Shelters, and Ronald Krauss, director/producer of Gimme Shelter (a new motion picture starring Vanessa Hudgens, Rosario Dawson, Brendan Fraser, and James Earl Jones). I had hoped to provide you, my faithful readers, with a transcript of the interview, but my voice recording software didn’t play nice. What follows are my recollections of the conversation.
According to Ms. DiFiore, after going through a painful divorce, and after getting her life back on track she wanted to do something to give back. So she started a shelter for teen girls with unplanned pregnancies in her own home.
That is not a typo:
Ms. DiFiore opened her home to girls who, through circumstance, and happenstance had nowhere else to go. Where they had received rejection at the hands of family and friends, they were now to be received with open arms. The movie’s tagline is: “Sometimes you have to leave home to find your family.”
And that is what Kathy provided: a home. In that home, the girls found something more: grace. They were given, despite perhaps poor life choices, hard circumstances, difficult upbringings, countless rejections, a safe environment where they could feel loved, accepted, human.
Over the course of decades, Several Sources Shelters was born. It went from one home to many. It was while visiting family back east, that Mr. Krauss first heard of Several Sources, told that he should very much check into them. As a socially conscious filmmaker, it was something that he was very much prepared to do.
After some careful investigation, Mr. Krauss was convinced that Kathy DiFiore was the “real deal,” and he would make a documentary. It was as he got to know the girls (he lived in one of the shelters for a year as he wrote the screenplay) that the idea of a documentary morphed into a narrative.
He could reach more people with this amazing story through a motion picture.
And that is what Gimme Shelter is: the story of one girl, Agnes ‘Apple’ Bailey, who stands in for all of the real girls whom Ron got to know during his time in the shelter. I’m told that Miss Hudgens, in preparing for the role, also lived in one of the shelters for several weeks, getting know the girls.
According to both interviewees, making the film was a transformative experience for them. That is indeed what the film is all about: transformation. Taking lives which have been written off, and giving them a home.
And hope… for now, and for the future.
I hope you will see Gimme Shelter in theaters. It opens this Friday, January 24th.
Thank-you for reading!
Hope to see you at the movies!
Sometimes, there are no happy endings. Scratch that. Many times, there are no happy endings. We need look no further than the world around us: that car accident we may have passed on the way to work, the cat’s corpse laying dead in the street (some would say this isn’t a bad thing. Tell that to the child whose cat this was), the death of a spouse, parent, grandparent, friend… a marriage’s end. These are not happy tidings. No, this is more par for the course in this place the Scriptures term a “vale of tears.” Life isn’t fair, things don’t work out the way we want.
In this, we find ourselves in august company:
Abraham, who looked forward to the promise, yet died before it was fulfilled.
Righteous Lot, whose soul was vexed, living there in Sodom.
Moses, who through anger, lost the Promised Land.
David, whose hands were too blood-soaked to build the temple he longed to erect as testament to his love of God.
Solomon, who despite his much-vaunted wisdom, piddled away his kingdom via compromise.
Yesterday, I wrote of being disappointed in the movie Oblivion. This stems, I think, from its kitschy, tacked-on happy ending. I understand why Hollywood is in love with the happy ending–it’s embedded deep within us. Somewhere, buried down deep in our marrow, we know the world as it is is not how it’s always been. Call it Eden–call it what you will–we know there was once something better, instinctively that we are something more. Hence our love of fairy tales, of happy endings. Thing is, as John Eldredge says, we live in the Third Act of history. The in-between. There’s no going back to what once was, but the Fourth Act has not yet begun. We’re stuck between the now, and the not-yet. Every happy ending we posit is a kind of wish fulfillment–either a looking back, or a questing ahead. We try to regain what we’ve lost, or grab hold of what’s not here yet.
But it never quite works out.
Truth be told, God has a way of shattering our illusions. The truth is: life is hard, and then we die.
But in dying we find life.
That is the truth of the Gospel. It has the quality of fairy tale, but it is no mere wish fulfillment. Christ had to die, else there would be no resurrection.
Likewise, sometimes (oftentimes) our hopes, dreams, all that we have lived for, given our lives to has to die as well… For God to bring new life.
Yet we fight Him, wanting our happy ending now–without putting in the hard work. Lest we forget: Christ emptied Himself of divinity, became a cluster of cells, a zygote, an embryo, and squalling shitting baby (no matter what Martin Luther tells us about “no crying He makes.” He lied). From infant to toddler, toddler to child, child to young man–all the while learning from, and being obedient to, His parents. By all accounts, He learned the trade of carpenter from his stepfather, Joseph. By all accounts, though not included in Holy Writ, He lost Joseph sometime before His earthly ministry began. Think on it! The Holy One, God the Son, born in ignominy, toiling in obscurity: He emptied Himself of all divinity.
And eventually humbled Himself to become obedient to death on the cross!
“Who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame.” And He “learned obedience through those things which He suffered. ”
Think on that! Christ, God the Son, learning obedience! That is the crux:
Sometimes (oftentimes), happy endings have to die, privations must be endured, for joy’s sake.
Make no mistake: there will be a consolation of history. But we are not there yet. Like Job–like Jesus before us–we must patiently endure.
Until the faith shall become sight.
Sacrifices must be made, hopes will fade, and dreams will die. But “unless a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abides alone.” The trick is, in this vale of tears, to keep the true light alive:
Fan the embers into flames, my friends. Go with God, and walk in the light.
[SPOILER WARNING. SERIOUSLY. IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN OBLIVIOUS, ER, OBLIVION, STARRING THOMAS CRUISE MAPOTHER III BACK AWAY FROM THE INTERNET NOW. Thank-you.]
I know, I know. Oblivious… I’m sorry, Oblivion came out almost a year ago. But it’s new to me. As in I’ve only just seen it. The reasons for this are many, but come down to: $. And my movie $ were spent elsewhere last year. (And I didn’t even think of seeing M. Night Shyamalamdingdong’s After Birth).
I’m not saying Oblivious, I’m sorry–Oblivion–is bad. It’s… entertaining. To a point. It’s entertaining in the ways the most Hollywood “high concept” pictures are entertaining these days.
In fact, I imagine the pitch going something like this:
Studio flunky #1: “We’ve got this great piece. High concept. Dystopian future. Like Hunger Games. Only not.”
Studio Exec: “Tell me more. What do you mean like “Hunger Games?”
Studio flunky #2: “Well, it’s like Hunger Games in that it’s set in a Dystopian future. That’s what’s like. But you know what? Think more in terms of alien invasion. But not.”
Studio Exec looks perplexed, but give his best “Temba, his arms open” look and gesture: “Tell me more.”
Studio flunky #1: “Yeah, it’s dystopian like Hunger Games, but if you think more like Independence Day meets Michael Bay’s The Island you’d be closer to the mark.”
Studio flunky #2: “Yeah, that’s totally it! It’s Independence Day meets The Island! Cause we’ve got an alien invasion and clones!”
Studio Exec: “Clones? Where do the clones come in? And who’s it got? Who’s attached to star?”
Studio flunky #1: “Well, you know how ID4 had Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum? We think we need to mix it up like that, too…”
Studio flunky #2: “Yeah, instead of those guys, we’ll have Morgan Freeman and Tom Cruise!”
Studio flunkies #1 and #2 in unison: “And it’s a total misdirection! We start in media res, and make the audience think one thing–when it’s totally something else! Tom Cruise is a clone!”
Studio Exec: “Tell me something I didn’t know.”
Studio flunkies exchange a bemused look.
Studio flunky #1: “There’s of course a love interest, a resistance group on earth, and cool special effects. And a happy ending!”
Studio flunky #2: “We think it’s got legs. It’ll do boffo box office.”
Studio Exec: “Where do I sign?”
I call the film Oblivious, because, #1 the studio heads have to be completely clueless when such hackneyed tropes get used over an over again; and #2, they count on us, the movie going populace, to be completely oblivious when they do so. The story really does borrow heavily from both The Island and ID4. There is an invasion, but it happens before the movie’s beginning. We think (are in fact told) that humanity won the war, but ruined the planet (when the the truth is we did not). This is totally telegraphed, and by the time the big twist drops, we know. I knew what was coming: Tom Cruise is a clone. Not only that, but like Bay’s before: there is no Island (in this case, Triton). We’ve seen it all before. We’ve seen it done better…
I wanted to like Oblivion. I really did. But the ending? Ugh. Total Hollywood! Not only do they blatantly steal the “blow up the alien mother ship” sequence from ID4, they take the sacrifice the Tom Cruise character makes, and take a dump all over it with a tacked-on, schmaltzy happy ending. A sacrifice is a sacrifice precisely because it costs somebody something.
But not, I guess, in Hollywood.
Where far too many folks are, you guessed it, oblivious. Or maybe I’m just cynical and jaded.