Today’s theme is the Shofar. It’s too obvious to just use a film with a shofar such as The Ten Commendments. So let’s take a moment to talk about the shofar. Rambam (Moses Maimonides) explains its meaning best: “Awaken, you sleepers! Arise, you slumberers! Examine your deeds, do teshuvah and remember your Creator! …Improve their ways and rectify their deeds!” The shofar is an alarm clock to action. It is a signal to change our ways.
There is a genre of movie that fits this perfectly. A human alarm that warns the rest of us – sometimes in vain – to a fraud, deception, corruption and evil-doing. This person challenges us to make a change despite incredible odds. And though they sometimes fail, the movies celebrate their courage to speak out. This is the whistleblower.
A Whistleblower is a real term. In America, it s a messy term. Those who expose secrets of powerful companies and the US Government are subject to considerable backlash. Legal protection of the whistleblower remains slow, but does seem to be improving. However, in the MOVIES, the whistleblower is always a hero. Often based on a true story, the whistleblower is the heroic protagonist or the tragic victim (or both).
Whistleblower movies of note include All The President’s Men, Silkwood, Erin Brockovich, Serpico, the awkwardly named The Constant Gardener, The China Syndrome, The Insider, and Michael Clayton. Hollywood LOVES the whistleblower. These 8 films received 42 Oscar nominations between them. And while it is sometimes noted that a man playing someone with mental retardation or a woman going “ugly” is a great way to win the Oscar, playing a whistleblower is another excellent ticket to the show. In 7 of these 8 films, all of the actors or actresses playing the actual whistleblower were nominated for an Oscar with Julia Roberts and Rachel Weisz both winning. The exception is All The President’s Men where neither Dustin Hoffman or Robert Redford were nominated, but the film still received 8 nominations including best picture and won 4.
The Shofar of the movie world, the Whistleblower, is popular because it stirs our soul to action, it speaks to the best of our possibilities. Elul is our time to reach out and become that person. If you can expose a corrupt company or government, great! But if this time leads you to change the bad practices in yourself, that’s award worthy too.
A recommendation: Not all whistleblower movies are serious dramas. Check out Matt Damon being brilliant in The Informant!, directed by Steven Soderbergh. Also if you’ve never seen The Constant Gardener, it is well worth it.
#BlogElul is the brainchild of @imabima who blogs at imabima.blogspot.com. For the 30 days of Elul, the spiritual preparation before the Jewish High Holy Days, many Jews will be reflecting on the themes of the season. My posts will all be through the lens of movies. You can see all the themes in the graphic. Follow all the other excellent postings through Twitter at #BlogElul along with related items #Elulgram and #PopCultureElul.