A note from Jana Segal of Reel Inspiration:
Our MOST INSPIRING FILMS OF 2009 list is compiled of films that have been promoted through our reviews on Reel Inspiration’s blogs. Diverse films with entertaining, powerful stories that uplift, challenge, give hope or inspire. Some weight has been given to films with themes that are particularly relevant to the issues of our time.
Due to time restraints, I must limit the kind of films I review. For instance, I don’t review documentaries and I rarely review animated films. I am less likely to review a Hollywood blockbuster (they are highly marketed) unless I am EXTREMELY moved as with last year’s MICHAEL CLAYTON.
I would like to make an exception by recommending two of the most inspiring films of the year: THE HORSE BOY and AFGHAN STAR. In both of these documentaries, the heroes take great risks to follow their “unreasonable” paths. In THE HORSE BOY, an autistic boy speaks clearly when put on a horse. His family travels across Mongolia in search of a horse Shaman to heal the boy.
In AFGHAN STAR, a Afghani woman risks her life to express herself in song and dance on the national talent show. www.afghanstardocumentary.com/
After reviewing this list, I found a trend in the many of the films: the theme of the importance of human connections. Perhaps in this time of war and financial hardships, our connections with others are even more important.
It is my pleasure to present…
Reel Inspiration’s MOST INSPIRING FILMS OF 2009.
1) Up in the Air
Ryan Bigham, an elite frequent flyer, enjoys riding high above the clueless employees he fires as a corporate hatchet man. He discovers that despite the hassles, it’s our connections with others that make our lives rewarding. This film stands out as one of the few recent adult comedies that is truly witty.
In a city bustling with people and their busy lives, it’s time to start living by connecting with others. This touching film brims with hope and life. (subtitles)
Newly elected President Mandela sets an example for his country by forgiving and working along side of his vicious suppressors. He uses the universal language of sports to present a unified Africa to the world. Truly inspiring.
When his dream of being a cellist is destroyed, Diago finds his true path in the most unlikely of professions – preparing the recently departed with the traditional Japanese cleansing rituals of Nokanshi. DEPARTURES has humorous scenes reminiscent of SUNSHINE CLEANING, but it takes us on a deeper spiritual journey. (subtitles)
This powerful, acclaimed film with heart achingly honest performances, demonstrates the strength of the human spirit to survive extreme abuse and find hope. It shows the transforming power of having one person – a teacher – who believes in you.
Cinematic magic. This “fictional” film follows the daily life of a nomad family, but it feels more real and less intrusive than a documentary. Spontaneous acts of nature are caught on film and seamlessly incorporated into the story. It ruminates on how modern civilization encroaches on the happiness of a simple life. (subtitles)
7) Rachel Getting Married
Troubled Kim is released from rehab to attend her sister’s wedding. Desperate to reconnect, she makes clumsy attempts to get her family’s attention. But the hardest part is coming home to the people you hurt. Despite it’s flaws, Kim learns that being a part of the family is worth the effort. This film is full of the painful truth, but there is also the hope of forgiveness.
Sugar becomes a local hero in his small town in the Dominican Republic when he is recruited to play minor league baseball in the United States. But his pursuit of the American Dream is hampered by his struggles with the language and the cultural barriers of acclimating. More than just a sports film, Sugar deals with the issues of being true to yourself in a foreign country and the struggles facing illegal immigrants. (subtitles)
2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY lite. This mostly two set, two actor production was one of the best Indie films of the year. Sam Bell has been stationed at the mostly automated lunar base for three years with his robotic assistant Gerty. His only human contact are recorded transmissions from his family back on earth. MOON illuminates what it is to be human: the necessity of hope and our need to connect with other people.
10) The Messenger
War “hero” Will Montgomery returns from Irac and is assigned to the Army’s casualty notification service. He has not gotten any grief counseling since receiving his own battle wounds – just a quick lesson in protocol from his jaded partner Tony who instructs the soldier to avoid physical contact with the next of kin. But their grief hits close to home. When he finds himself drawn to a widow with a brave facade, he questions his ability to be good for anything but war. THE MESSENGER shows the resiliency of the human spirit to move through grief to hope.
11) Wendy and Lucy
The antithesis of Disney talking animal films, WENDY AND LUCY shows the realistic bond between a young woman and her dog. Wendy relies on her dog Lucy for a sense of security and companionship as she travels to a fish cannery job in Alaska and sleeps in her car at night. When her car won’t start in the morning, it is towed away leaving Wendy stranded in a town with no job opportunities and a hungry dog to feed. Wendy must deal with the hard responsibilities of having a pet.