Miracles from Heaven

One of our wonderful Year 11 students who has almost finished her time at Thomas Knyvett College has emailed to let us know there’s a great film to revise Religious Studies Unit 1 Section 1 ‘Believing in God’ called Miracles from Heaven.  Apparently it shows evil and suffering, miracles as well as unanswered prayers. Could this be a good revision film to watch for Year 10 students before Thursday?

On IMDb it says: MIRACLES FROM HEAVEN is based on the incredible true story of the Beam family. When Christy (Jennifer Garner) discovers her 10-year-old daughter Anna (Kylie Rogers) has a rare, incurable disease, she becomes a ferocious advocate for her daughter’s healing as she searches for a solution. After Anna has a freak accident, an extraordinary miracle unfolds in the wake of her dramatic rescue that leaves medical specialists mystified, her family restored and their community inspired.



Shawshank Redemption – useful revision?

This might be a useful film to watch for RS GCSE students thinking about forgiveness, redemption, custodial sentences and rehabilitation, however it may also be used as a media source in Unit 1 Believing in God. It shows the prison governor referring to his Christian beliefs by quoting from the Bible and the prisoner responding. Is this all a negative portrayal of Christian beliefs or positively showing how a prison governor is aided by his faith?

Useful films to watch for GCSE RS

Here are just a selection of films Year 11 might try to watch over the holidays to help them think about topics in our RS GCSE.


Cider House Rules Honored with two Academy Awards, Best Supporting Actor, Michael Caine, and Best Adapted Screenplay, John Irving, THE CIDER HOUSE RULES tells a heartwarming story about how far a young man must travel to find the place where he truly belongs! Homer Wells (Tobey Macguire) has lived nearly his entire life within the walls of St. Cloud’s Orphanage in rural Maine. Though groomed by its proprietor, Dr. Larch, to be his successor, Homer nonetheless feels the need to strike out on his own and experience the world outside. Then, while working at an apple orchard, Homer falls for the beautiful Candy (Charlize Theron) and learns some powerful lessons about love.

Vera Drake In 1950, in London, Vera Drake is a simple woman of a low-class but happy family. She works cleaning upper-class houses; her beloved husband is a mechanic and works with his brother in a repair shop; her son is a tailor; and her daughter tests and packs electric lamps. The helpful Vera is a very good and cooperative woman, helping her sick mother, a handicapped neighbor and whoever needs her. She also induces miscarriages in women who do not want to have children, for no payment. When a woman has complications with her intervention and goes to the hospital, the police investigate the occurrence…

Juno A whip-smart teen confronts an unplanned pregnancy by her classmate.


I can’t find a decent quality trailer  so this will have to do for The Life of David Gale When anti-death penalty activist David Gale is convicted and condemned to death for the murder of a colleague, reporter Bitsey Bloom sets out to learn the story behind Gale’s crime. What she finds challenges her belief in Gale’s guilt and, finally, in the justice system.

Dead Man Walking A nun, while comforting a convicted killer on death row, empathizes with both the killer and his victim’s families. Here’s also the Reconciliation scene near the end of the film.


This 2004 film The Future of Food can be watched in its entirety on YouTube; offering an investigation of genetically engineered food which is in the shops without you realising it. I’m squeezing in these TV programmes incase the thought of watching a whole documentary is just too much to stomach: Horizon: Goats with Spider Silk and a very short trailer for Genetic Engineering Intelligent Babies.


Hotel Rwanda Nominated for 3 Oscars, including for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Don Cheadle) and Best Original Screenplay. Hotel Rwanda is  based on real life events in 1994 Rwanda, when hotelier Paul Rusesabagina attempted to save his fellow citizens from the ravages of the Rwandan Genocide. The film, which has been called an African Schindler’s List, documents Rusesabagina’s acts to save the lives of his family and more than a thousand other refugees, by granting them shelter in the besieged Hôtel des Mille Collines. Hotel Rwanda explores genocide, political corruption, and the repercussions of violence.

Fog of War A film about the former US Secretary of Defense and the various difficult lessons he learned about the nature and conduct of modern war.

The Unknown Known This time about the former United States Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, who discusses his career in Washington D.C. from his days as a congressman in the early 1960s to planning the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The Interpreter Political intrigue and deception unfold inside the United Nations, where a U.S. Secret Service agent is assigned to investigate an interpreter who overhears an assassination plot.


Million Dollar Baby

This is a great film for GCSE Religious Studies (Year 11) students to watch about how Maggie wants her boxing coach and friend Frankie Dunn to help her die as she is paralysed  – thereby performing euthanasia which is against the law.

A summary of the film: Frankie Dunn has trained and managed some incredible fighters during a lifetime spent in the ring. The most important lesson he teaches his boxers is the one that rules life: above all, always protect yourself. In the wake of a painful estrangement from his daughter, Frankie has been unwilling to let himself get close to anyone for a very long time. His only friend, Scrap, an ex-boxer who looks after Frankie’s gym, knows that beneath his gruff exterior is a man who has been seeking, for the past 25 years, the forgiveness that somehow continues to elude him. Then Maggie Fitzgerald walks into his gym… Maggie Fitzgerald, a poor thirty-one year old waitress from the very lower classes and with a dysfunctional loser family, decides to make a difference through boxing. She convinces the experienced hardened boxing trainer Frankie Dunn to coach her and be her manager, with the support of his old partner Eddie Scrap-Iron Dupris, who sees her potential as a boxer. Frankie has a problematical relationship with his daughter, and practically adopts Maggie along her career.

Actor wants his mum to be allowed to die as she has ‘no quality of life’

John Hannah, a Scottish actor famous for his part in Four Weddings and a Funeral, has said he wants his eighty-four year old mother who’d in a nursing home with dementia to be allowed to die.

John Hannah

‘She really doesn’t want to be here,’ says Hannah, 53.

‘Maybe there comes a time when you are done with that natural cycle. I am hoping, by the time we get to that age, there will be an assisted exit programme. My mum’s got no quality of life whatsoever. I don’t know if she knows who we are when we go in. But if someone said you can let her go now, my sisters and I, we would say, yes, do that. She can’t say it now — now the dementia has developed.’

You can read more of this article about assisted suicide (euthanasia) on the Daily Mail.

Otherwise he is the famous scene from Four Weddings and a Funeral when John’s character reads the poem by W H Auden called Stop the Clock at his lover’s funeral. Apologies for the swear word in the opening sentence.

Films (to learn from) in 2015

Everybody knows that we remember images better than words, so what better way to learn some Humanities topics, than sit back with a large popcorn and watch a film with friends.


Here are a few films due for release in 2015 which might let you learn whilst you relax, as long as the age rating is appropriate (information from the Guardian):

I Am Michael
James Franco plays a gay activist who rejects his homosexuality and becomes a Christian pastor. Zachary Quinto is his boyfriend. Premieres at Sundance.

Last Days of the Devil
Ewan McGregor is Jesus and the devil in an imagined chapter from the Bible’s desert-set bit. Premieres at Sundance.

Louder than Bombs
Jesse Eisenberg plays the son of war photographer Isabelle Huppert in a New York-set family drama directed by Joachim Trier, making his English language debut.

Racing Extinction
The new documentary from Louie (The Cove) Psihoyos examines animal extinction by means of grisly and traumatic undercover footage. Premieres at Sundance.

Scorsese returns to religious themes with this adaptation of Shusaku Endo’s 1966 novel, following the travails of Jesuit missionaries in 17th century Japan. Liam Neeson and Andrew Garfield lead the way. An awards run is in the air, so end of year release likely.

Meryl Streep plays Emmeline Pankhurst in this timely dramatisation of the struggle for women’s voting rights in the UK, backed up by a starry cast including Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter and Ben Whishaw. Prime awards fodder, with autumn festival run and September release in the UK planned.

New film Calvary is about sexual abuse in the Catholic Church

You can read the whole article from the Guardian about Brendan Gleeson who plays the main character in the film but it is quite long. I’ve nabbed a few important parts which are useful for RS students deciding on whether the media should be able for report on religious issues and if it can influence people’s beliefs.

Brendan Gleeson grew up in Ireland:

When he was 18, Gleeson went to France and was shocked by its secularism. “We’d come from a place where the church would be full for four or five masses on a Sunday morning to a place where nobody went. Well, maybe three or four elderly people.” Now, he thinks, Ireland is playing catchup, and the time is nigh to start imagining a post-religion society.

He discusses how he won’t discuss his own faith as it would affect how this religious film is seen by the audience:

The elephant in the room is Gleeson’s own faith, which is off-limits today. He won’t even give a verdict on the new Pope. Why not? “Anything I say at the moment will damage the film,” he says. Should he come out as a practising Catholic, he thinks people will read the film as a defence of the church; if he says he’s renounced religion, it’ll be seen as an attack.

At first, this feels slightly confounding. So central is the theme to the film, all subsequent questions feel leading, intentionally or not. He was certainly raised devout, the son of Pat and the “hugely religious” Frank. He attended Catholic school in Dublin and taught maths until he was 34, then quit to act full-time. Every opinion he ventures – about suicide, society, on-set behaviour – suggests a liberal socialism rooted in scripture and reconciled to reality. He fairly bleeds reason and wisdom.

Do people ever treat him like a priest? “No! Yes! I can’t say,” he laughs. Yet there is something of the perfect preacher about Gleeson. Today, he’s clad totally in black, clergy-style, layer upon layer of linen from his ankles to his collar. 

Even from the trailer you can catch some useful facts for an exam answer: