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 CNS Story:

COMPASS-GUIDE Dec-5-2007 (500 words) With COMPASS-DEBATE. xxxn

Nun-critic offers media literacy guide for 'The Golden Compass'

By Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Sister Rose Pacatte, a Daughter of St. Paul who has written books on spiritual themes in movies, has developed a "media mindfulness strategy" for the new film "The Golden Compass."

"'The Golden Compass' film challenges believing adults to articulate their faith and values and to brush up on church history, theology, and literature and literary forms to do so -- not because the film deals with these issues but because of the culture surrounding the release of the film," Sister Rose said in her guide to the movie.

"This film is an opportunity for us to develop our critical thinking skills: to ask questions and seek and articulate the answers: the answers to 'why?'" she added.

She admitted, "This is a difficult assignment for busy parents and teachers, but an excellent way to engage in our culture rationally and faithfully and with relevance. To 'just say no' is not a valid option in today's media world. Let us respond, rather than react, to the world around us."

The movie, which was to debut in theaters Dec. 7, stars Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig.

It is based on the first book of British author Philip Pullman's trilogy of fantasy novels for young readers, titled "His Dark Materials" and considered by many to be an overtly anti-Christian work. Pullman describes himself as an atheist.

"His Dark Materials" recounts the adventures of Lyra Belacqua, a 12-year-old girl in an alternate universe that resembles our own. With the assistance of several other characters, she sets out to overthrow the Authority, which is God in Pullman's work. The novels depict him as a weak, false god and, in the final book in the trilogy, he actually dies.

Sister Rose's guide asks a myriad of questions about the movie and plot developments, but they are grouped around four central areas:

-- "What's going on? What's the story? How is the film's reality created and why?"

-- "What's really going on? Who is telling the story and why? (The film business; the author; the screenwriter)"

-- "What difference does the film make? Is it really atheistic? Or does it evoke thoughtful conversation about things that matter?"

-- "What difference can I make? What did the characters in the film learn? How did they grow and change? Did they? What, if any, light did the film shed on how I can live the Christian life in ways that respect human dignity?"

By addressing these questions, Sister Rose said, "families can make an informed decision about seeing the film and once they see it, talk about it in meaningful ways with young people. Catechists and religion teachers can also use this strategy as a means to talk about theology and philosophy in the greater context of the books -- presuming that they will choose the wise approach and read the books and see the film before entering into dialogue."

The complete guide can be found online at: http://journals.aol.com/rosepacatte/MyMovies/.


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