The movie is the message
It's a classic scene, indelibly etched in the memory of anyone who has seen the 1967 movie Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?
After grappling with his own prejudices, Spencer Tracey delivers an impassioned speech about life and love, in which he gives his blessing to the interracial marriage of his debutante daughter to her suitor, played by Sidney Poitier.
This is one of the thought-provoking messages communicated in the ground-breaking film, which earned Katherine Hepburn an Oscar for best actress.
It qualifies as the type of films that will be shown in a new monthly series of community movie nights in Pierrefonds. Guess Who's Coming to Dinner launched the series last Saturday night at the Baha'i Centre in Pierrefonds. Lively and informal discussion afterwards of moral and other issues relating to the featured film is an important component of the evening, explained Charlie Changizi of Pierrefonds, who spearheaded the concept.
"There is a parental as well as a racial aspect to that movie, so there were different issues that people could sink their teeth into," said Changizi, who attended Lindsay Place High School and John Abbott College.
"I'm a big movie fan myself, and am very critical. I've been wanting to do something like this for a while."
They're not targeting a specific age group, he said.
"The media has a strong influence and sends some very powerful messages which have an impact regardless of age or gender," said Changizi, who is studying at McGill University and plans to become a teacher.
"Christopher Stonebanks, the teacher of my multiculturalism class, really supported the idea; it was even discussed in class. He has volunteered to be a guest speaker at a future event."
Changizi got the project off the ground with the help of Sahar Sabati of Baie d'Urfé. Both are active members of the Baha'i faith and have worked on activities together in the past. But while the idea is "Baha'i- inspired," it's an independent undertaking.
"It gives a new twist to movie night," said Sabati, an emergency room nurse at the Montreal General Hospital.
"I hope it helps people acquire critical thinking," she said.
They have yet to choose which other films they'll be showing, but a few come to mind, "including Dances with Wolves with Kevin Costner, which is about the Amer-Indian people not getting the respect they should," Changizi said.
"Others might deal with touchy subjects like homosexuality," he pointed out, adding Philadelphia starring Tom Hanks is a good example of a movie with a message.
"Another topic we may look at is orientalism," said Sabati, who is of Persian descent and said she is disturbed by some of the popular images she sees. The concept first was explored a few years ago in the book 'Orientalism' by Edward Saeed, which discusses negative portrayals of foreigners by Americans.
She cites the Disney blockbuster Aladdin, which has been widely criticized for reinforcing negative stereotypes.
"In the movie, the Arabs are portrayed as the bad guys. They're the mean-looking ones carrying big knives," said Sabati, who lived in Africa for five years before enrolling at the Université de Québec ˆ Montréal.
While the main objective of the movie nights is to stimulate debate and raise awareness, they're also intended to entertain.
Admission is free, all are welcome, and it's a potluck affair.
"Last weekend somebody brought the juice, other people brought cookies, popcorn and other snacks to share," Changizi said.
The next get-together is tentatively scheduled for mid-December.
For more information, e-mail Changizi at firstname.lastname@example.org.
©Copyright 2002, Montreal West Island Chronicle (Canada)