Documentaries on religion and morality?
May 27, 2011 9:43 AM   Subscribe

Suggestions, please, for provocative, informative, hilarious, and/or disturbing documentaries about religion and social/moral/ethical issues?

I'm going to be teaching a brand-new-to-me course on religion and moral issues to college undergraduates. It's probably going to be a mostly thematic approach, and I'd love to include perspectives from religions other than Christianity, but I'm also okay with just sort of a vaguely "religious" approach to the issues.

I'd like to find a few good films to supplement the lectures and texts and to provoke some good discussion. Documentaries are probably my best bet. I had in mind something like "Faces of the Enemy" (I haven't seen that yet, but it's been recommended).

Some of the topics we'll be covering include:
- abortion
- euthanasia
- torture
- capital punishment
- same-sex marriage
- animal rights
- drugs/addiction
- global warming
- war and terrorism

...and general moral/ethical issues. Ideally there should be some (vague is ok) connection with religious issues/perspectives.

Have you seen any films on these issues that have really stuck with you?

posted by devotion+doubt to Education (24 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
The documentary Trembling Before God, which is about gay and lesbian Orthodox Jews, is pretty good.
posted by callmejay at 9:46 AM on May 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

I haven't seen Sons of Perdition yet, but I am a bit obsessed with FLDS.
posted by Duffington at 9:49 AM on May 27, 2011

Jesus Camp
posted by empath at 9:49 AM on May 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

You've seen Jesus Camp, right? It's got abortion, war and terrorism, and (if I remember correctly) even a bit on global warming. And it's pretty entertaining in its own right. (Even better since the subject of the documentary thought it was a fair depiction of her camp, so there weren't too many bad feelings on that side.)
posted by phunniemee at 9:50 AM on May 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

Good site to peruse.

And I trust you'll be showing Religulous?
posted by Ideefixe at 9:52 AM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you can find a DVD copy of Fires in the Mirror, it would probably fit in well. The film version resembles a talking-heads documentary, and the monologues are based on interviews with real people, but they are all performed by a single actress. The subject is the Crown Heights Riot, and it goes into the religious and cultural conflicts that fed into the violence.
posted by burnmp3s at 10:05 AM on May 27, 2011

The Protocols of Zion is a rather personal and irreverent documentary about anti-Semitism. The director really gets into it with some people.
posted by griphus at 10:06 AM on May 27, 2011

Marjoe might be of interest. It raises some serious ethical issues about what the main character was doing.
posted by perhapses at 10:19 AM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seconding Louis Theroux as being awesome. (And adorable!)
I wasn't impressed with Religulous. I haven't seen it since it came out, but I remember finding it obnoxious. Don't remember why.
posted by phunniemee at 10:19 AM on May 27, 2011

The National Geographic channel had a program to supplement their wonderful magazine article about the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints members, who practice polygamy and wear uniform clothing and hairstyles. I believe NG got some sort of national award or recognition for presenting such a balanced and fair article. Can't remember when the article was; info on TV series here.
posted by Melismata at 10:32 AM on May 27, 2011

The Education of Shelby Knox (2005)

From the link:
Small-town Texas teenager Shelby Knox becomes an advocate for sex education (and the local media's so-called "Sex Ed Girl") when she tries to improve the county's sky-high teen pregnancy rate by challenging her high school's policy of teaching abstinence. In this documentary from Marion Lipschutz and Rose Rosenblatt -- which uses footage shot over a three-year period -- the action unfolds almost effortlessly, revealing a stunning transformation.
posted by juliplease at 10:40 AM on May 27, 2011

I love Mysteries of the Bible on A&E. I'm not religious.
posted by amodelcitizen at 10:41 AM on May 27, 2011

Fierce Grace

Lake of Fire
posted by hermitosis at 10:43 AM on May 27, 2011

Osama. (unrelated to Bin Laden) It was the first film shot in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban, and explores the experience of women under their control, through the story of a young (fictitious) girl named Osama. Excellent, excellent film.
posted by hasna at 12:10 PM on May 27, 2011

Seconding Louis Theroux (if you're out of the UK, try - it's got his recent one from a Florida prison). Also "The Farm" (hard to find, but about Angola Prison) and Dead Man Walking (the book is non-fiction, and the movie is a conglomeration of the two convicts from the book).

I also like Intervention for drug/addiction. Not really a documentary.
posted by guster4lovers at 1:14 PM on May 27, 2011

The Fog of War is a most amazing remembrance by and interview with Robert McNamara about the Vietnam War.

McNamara was defense secretary in both the Kennedy and Johnson administrations and is often said to be the architect of the war. Many people know that over 55 thousand American lives were lost during the conflict; many do not know that over 3 million Vietnamese died.
posted by PaulBGoode at 1:32 PM on May 27, 2011

TheocracyWatch has several possibilities. I recommend The Rise Of Dominionism.
posted by perspicio at 1:53 PM on May 27, 2011

Persepolis - animated film based on the graphic novels by Marjane Satrapi, detailing her experiences growing up in Iran.

Vera Drake - about a woman who secretly assists with illegal abortions in 1950s England.

The Magdelene Sisters - fictionalized account of the abuses of the Magdalene Asylums in Irish.
posted by bunderful at 2:54 PM on May 27, 2011

Who Wrote the Bible

A History of God
posted by empath at 3:31 PM on May 27, 2011

Sorry, actually meant to link the the Story of God from the BBC
posted by empath at 3:33 PM on May 27, 2011

Death on Request (link goes to a synopsis because the imdb profile is empty) is a documentary about a man who dies via assisted suicide. I watched it in a social studies class when I was in high school. Dutch with English subtitles. Disturbing but not overly graphic.
posted by janepanic at 5:58 PM on May 27, 2011

What about National Geographic's Taboo series? They discuss a lot of unusual religious/cultural practices in a fairly even-handed way.
posted by tautological at 11:35 PM on May 27, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone--these are great suggestions! I'll spend the next month watching them. I love "Jesus Camp" and have shown it in my intro class, but wasn't sure if it would work in this class...but now I'm thinking that it might, too. Thanks again!
posted by devotion+doubt at 6:14 PM on May 28, 2011

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