Cinema and Religion

Ref: C2224370

This course will explore some films which deal seriously with different religions, moral choices and life themes from early silent movies by Cecil B. DeMille to post war treatments of mortality (A Matter of Life and Death), through to modern biopics of religious figures (Little Buddha, Gandhi). Films will be clustered into pools: Judaism and Islam, Jesus and Christ figures, Saints and Sinners, The Secular, Moral Choices, Buddhism, Shamanism and New Age, Afterlife. The first session will be an introduction to Religion and Film studies using Groundhog Day, Chariots of Fire, Yentl and Life of Pi. Well known directors such as Scorsese (Last Temptation of Christ, Kundun, Silence), Peter Weir (Witness,The Truman Show), Spielberg (E.T., Schindler's List, A.I.) as well as Dreyer(The Passion of Joan of Arc) and Bergman (Seventh Seal) will feature. .

Course aim

To explore some ways religions and spiritualities are represented in mainstream films past and present.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • No skills or experience needed
  • This course is suitable for beginners and improvers
  • An interest in films, culture, media and religion in the modern world.

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • Identify and comment upon films from a named religion e.g. Judaism
  • Identify and comment upon films about a named theme e.g. atonement, doubt.
  • Identify and comment upon the films of a named director e.g. Scorsese
  • Identify and comment upon a film which explores a moral issue e.g. pacifism, capital punishment
  • Identify and comment on the reception a film has received

How will I be taught?

  • The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you and the group to be actively involved in your learning
  • You may be asked to undertake additional work in your own time to support your learning
  • Each session will include a slide presentation which focuses on important films (some clips) and give time for the consideration of questions they raise. There will be some questions which can be researched at home on the WEB

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • A range of informal activities will be used by the tutor to see what you are learning which may include quizzes, question and answer, small projects and discussion
  • You will have opportunities to discuss your progress with your tutor
  • You will be encouraged to share your work with the group and discuss your learning
  • Tutor will welcome dialogue by email or face to face during, before and after the session

What else do I need to know?

  • Nothing else is needed
  • Some DVD's will be available to loan on a weekly basis

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • No pre reading is required but research on the subject on the internet or in the library may be helpful
  • Watching films mentioned and others known to be relevant would help learning. A further list of films will be available on request.

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course
  • Progress to a course with another provider
  • Become involved with the WEA in a range of voluntary work and other activities including campaigning as a WEA member
  • Become involved as a volunteer for a WEA partner or another organisation
  • Access the WEA What Next? booklet here
  • Films about religions may lead on to the study of religions at various levels. Coursera has online courses which are free.

Download full Course information sheet

Cinema and Religion


You can if you meet all of the following requirements:

  • are paying the standard fee or are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • are paying with a credit/debit card or are not paying a fee because of a qualifying benefit
  • have a valid email address
  • have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2017
  • have read and accept the standard terms and conditions
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