In 2006, during the New Orleans Saints’ first post-Hurricane Katrina home game against the Atlanta Falcons, safety Steve Gleason blocked a punt that led to a touchdown. The Saints won the game 23-3. Steve retired from football in 2008 after seven seasons with the Saints, and married Michel Varisco Gleason.
In 2011, he was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). Soon after his diagnosis, their son, Rivers, was born. Knowing the prognosis for the disease meant that he would lose motor control and the power of speech, Steve began a video diary during his wife’s pregnancy so that their son would know his voice and understand the wisdom that Steve believed a father needed to pass on to his child.
Gleason opened at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, the result of five years documenting Steve and his family’s life as ALS took its toll. One of the first things that he wanted to do before he lost his voice was to reconcile with his father, Mike. His parents had an acrimonious divorce when he and his brother were young.
Now, after AA, Mike is a Christian. He questions his son’s faith and convinces him to try faith healing. One of the most moving parts of the film is when Steve tells his father, “Stop trying to understand with your mind the realtionship between God and my heart! I know I am saved!”
Gleason is the story of an optimist and his family that is filled with unimaginable challenges. Seeing Steve’s relationship with his wife, speaking from the heart to his son, “banking” his voice, and learning to write with his eyes before his body closes down, is incredibly inspiring.
Not yet rated, R ♦ Language, mature themes.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople
If you are looking for a film that is at once funny and kind, be sure to see Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Ricky (Julian Dennison) is a 12-year-old foster child who doesn’t fit in anywhere. Children’s services in New Zealand place Ricky with Bella (Rima Te Wiata) and her surly husband, Hec (Sam Neill).
Ricky doesn’t like the remote homestead, though Bella is so welcoming that he decides to stay. He tells Bella and Hec that he wants to be a rapper and gangsta. When he sneaks out at night, unsure if he should stay or go, Bella finds him. But tragedy strikes, and Ricky decides, once and for all, to run away. Hec finds him, but when the old man breaks his leg and cannot move, the real fun starts.
This film is as delightful as it is poignant. Ricky and Hec save each other after a most unpredictable journey. Rachel House, as the children’s services official, has great comedic ability, as does Dennison, who is an absolute star. Neill is also excellent. This beautiful film addresses foster parenting, understanding children, and so much more.
Not yet rated, PG-13 ♦ Language, peril, mature themes.
Fatima (Soria Zeroual) works hard to support her two daughters—the pre-med student Nesrine (Zita Hanrot) and the disrespectful high school student Souad (Kenza Noah Aïche). Twenty years earlier, Fatima immigrated to France from North Africa.
Now divorced, she struggles under the pressure of working three jobs so that her daughters will have what they need to be successful in their own lives.
In addition to the cultural disapproval the three women feel from their Muslim neighbors, they also face racism and suspicion from others. The central theme of this wonderful film is communication: Fatima can barely speak French; and while Nesrine is more tolerant of her mother, Souad is immature and denigrates her mother’s inability to speak the language. Both daughters are embarrassed because their mother cleans toilets to support them.
The beauty of the film is Fatima, who, despite a lack of education, writes poetry that is infused with love and the challenges and beauty of the world around her. She never gives up. This award-winning film is a brave look into the lives of immigrants who strive for a better life. It is loosely based on Prayer to the Moon, autobiographical poems by Fatima Elayoubi.
The amazing film is in French and Arabic with subtitles.
Not yet rated ♦ Language, mature themes.