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How do people from different cultures exercise spirituality? How does the concept of God transcend cultures, languages, and religions? Our upcoming short film series “Words with Gods” attempts to answer these questions.

Words with Gods” was conceived by writer-director Guillermo Arriaga and is an exploration of the relationship between different cultures and religion. Aboriginal Spirituality, Catholicism, Islam, Judaism, Shinto Buddhism, Orthodox Christianity, Umbanda, Hinduism, as well as Atheism, are represented in in this two-hour film, which will be shown in five short segments to Rubin Museum audiences.

Each film, though brief, will leave you full of questions and a desire to learn more about the cultures and religions depicted. Luckily for you, we have invited scientists, faith practitioners, and cultural experts to discuss the films and the questions they generate.

Still from True Gods.
Still from True Gods.

True Gods, the first film in the series, will be shown tomorrow, March 4, at 7:00 PM. Directed by Warwick Thornton, the short takes us deep into the outback desert, as a lone Aboriginal woman (The Sapphires star Miranda Tapsell) searches for a suitable spot in which to give birth.

Of this filmmaking experience, Thornton—an Aboriginal himself—says, “When I started to look for a reason for being on the project “˜Words with Gods,’ I peeled back the folk tales, urban myths, and legends. Deep into my dreams I looked for the great and worthy, the one who was first, the CREATOR. But there in the dark alone I found my mother, my sister, and my grandmother. . . . The miracle of birth. Someone who can gift life is a GOD to me.”

The screening of True Gods will be followed by a discussion between Australian aboriginal representative Sonia Smallacombe and psychotherapist Joe Loizzo of the Nalanda Institute for Contemplative Science.

Still from The Man Who Stole a Duck
Still from The Man Who Stole a Duck.

The Man Who Stole a Duck, the second film in the series, was directed by Héctor Babenco. The film explores Brazil’s Umbanda faith (a blend of Christian beliefs and African religions) through the lens of a man driven insane by grief, who finds catharsis in a dialogue with God. Founder of the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute, Marta Moreno Vega, and psychotherapist Jeffrey B. Rubin will be on hand to discuss this installment when is screens on March 29 at 6:00 PM.

Still from Sometimes I Look Up.
Still from Sometimes I Look Up.

In the third short film, Sometimes Look Up, directed by Bahman Ghobadi, conjoined twin brothers—one more dedicated to Islam than the other—must negotiate a trick impasse when one wishes to pursue a sexual relationship with a woman. The film, which will be screened on April 10 at 7:00 PM, will be followed by a conversation with psychoanalyst Pilar Jennings of the Nalanda Institute for Contemplative Science.

Still from Book of Amos.
Still from Book of Amos.

On April 18 at 6:00 PM, we’re screening Amos Gitai‘s Book of Amos, the penultimate short film in “Words with Gods.” In this episode, Gitai uses passages from the eponymous Hebrew text, which are recited by a relaying group of street folk as soldiers face down a public riot. Amos is preaching for social justice, using metaphors (below) from his experience as a peasant and as a shepherd.

Can two walk together, except they be agreed?

Will a lion roar in the forest, when he hath no prey?

Will a young lion cry out of his den, if he have taken nothing?

Can a bird fall in a snare upon the earth, where no gin is for him?

Shall one take up a snare from the earth, and have taken nothing at all?

Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid?

Shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it?

Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing,

but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.

-Amos, 1, 1-7

Still from Our Life.
Still from Our Life.

The final screening will be Our Life, playing April 29 at 7:00 PM. Directed by Emir Kusturica, this film focuses on the idea that humanity has a god— a man who is always sacrificing himself for his own good and for his well mental being. Neuroscientist Sonia Sequeira of the Nalanda Institute for Contemplative Science will lead a post-screening discussion

We hope to see you for True Gods tomorrow and for each of the Words with Gods screenings after that!