Movies and Midrash: Pop­u­lar Film and Jew­ish Reli­gious Conversation

Wendy I. Zierler
  • From the Publisher
December 22, 2017

Movies and Midrash uses cin­e­ma as a spring­board to dis­cuss cen­tral Jew­ish texts and mat­ters of belief. A num­ber of books have drawn on films to expli­cate Chris­t­ian the­ol­o­gy and belief, but Wendy I. Zier­ler is the first to do so from a Jew­ish per­spec­tive, explor­ing what Jew­ish tra­di­tion, text, and the­ol­o­gy have to say about the lessons and themes aris­ing from influ­en­tial and com­pelling films. The book uses the method of invert­ed midrash”: while clas­si­cal rab­bini­cal midrash begins with exe­ge­sis of a verse and then intro­duces a mashal (para­ble) as a means of fur­ther expli­ca­tion, Zier­ler turns that process around, begin­ning with the cul­tur­al­ly famil­iar cin­e­mat­ic para­ble and then ana­lyz­ing relat­ed Jew­ish texts. Each chap­ter con­nects a sec­u­lar film to a dif­fer­ent cen­tral theme in clas­si­cal Jew­ish sources or mod­ern Jew­ish thought. Films cov­ered include The Tru­man Show (truth), Memen­to (mem­o­ry), Crimes and Mis­de­meanors (sin), Mag­no­lia (con­fes­sion and redemp­tion), The Descen­dants (birthright), For­rest Gump (clev­er­ness and sim­plic­i­ty), and The Hunger Games (cre­ation of human­i­ty in God’s image), among others.

Discussion Questions