In this illuminating guidebook, film teacher and critic Roy Anker explores some of cinema's most profound depictions of human beings searching for meaning in life. The films he delves into -- The Thin Red Line
, American Beauty
, Crimes and Misdemeanors
, The Shawshank Redemption
, Dead Man Walking
, The Apostle
, and twelve more -- are, with few exceptions, not overtly "religious" or "Christian." Yet from the world of secular Hollywood he succeeds in drawing together some of the most religiously provocative movies of our time.
Providing synopses, commentary, background information, and both pre-viewing comments and post-viewing discussion questions for each film, Anker -- without being preachy or didactic -- offers movie buffs profound new insights. Watching this diverse collection anew through Anker's eyes, readers will find these films not only enjoyable but also deeply enlightening.
S. Brent Plate
— author of Religion and Film: Cinema and the Re-Creation of the World
"Roy Anker again illuminates film's powerful ability to enliven religious life. His earlier work in Catching Light is continued here with more films and further reflections on many of the same films. With lucid writing, helpful questions, and suggestive strategies for religious film viewing, Of Pilgrims and Fire will be a welcome resource to those who seek light in the dark spaces of the theater. "
Robert K. Johnston
— coauthor of Finding God in the Movies: 33 Films of Reel Faith
"A perfect follow-up to Anker's masterful Catching Light. It recognizes that some movies might dazzle, but only a few seek to show that Light which illumines the darkness of our own lives. In this book Anker introduces twenty such movies to his readers. Here is a book for you to use with a group of friends as you watch great movies together."
John R. May
— author of Nourishing Faith through Fiction
"Of Pilgrims and Fire is an ideal complement to Roy Anker's earlier text, Catching Light — ideal for university classes and adult discussion groups and for general readers who want to sharpen their understanding and appreciation of the religious dimensions of film."
"Your average moviegoer probably doesn't equate movie night with a holy pilgrimage, but in this thought-provoking guide, Anker does exactly that. From American Beauty to Superman, Anker posits that man's most basic needs, to find light and share stories, can both be met by watching movies. The films he chooses to discuss — many of which are unexpected choices — are particularly inspirational in their depictions of a character's encounter with God after a search for light and meaning. Anker breaks the book down into different interactions with the divine, from witnessing the glorious to wrestling with demons, and then provides the reader with several films that exemplify the type. Each entry has a filmography, a brief discussion of what the movie is about, and a list of major themes and symbols. Post-viewing commentary, questions, and critical comments allow Anker to expand on the film's religious references and give the readers a jumping-off point for further discussions. Throughout it all, Anker manages to sidestep any urges to sermonize and instead presents a solid field guide to the spiritual side of movie watching."
"Wonderfully readable, well-organized and insightful."
"Well-written: careful, vivid, not obscure or pedantic."