Film Descriptions




Directed by  Yôhirô Takita (Japan, in Japanese w/English subtitles), 2008, 2h10)

Daigo Kobayashi is a devoted cellist in an orchestra that has just been dissolved and now finds himself without a job. He answers a classified ad titled “Departures” thinking it is an advertisement for a travel agency only to discover that the job is actually for a “Nokanshi” or “encoffiner,” a funeral professional who prepares deceased bodies for burial and entry into the next life. To say that this comes as a shock is severe understatement. . .

Guest presenter/discussion leader: Sam James, James Funeral Home (Huntersville)



Directed by Shubhashish Bhutiani (India, in Hindi w/English subtitles), 2016, 1h42.

An ominous dream convinces 77-year-old Dayanand Kumar that his end could be near. He takes the news to his son Rajiv, knowing he wants to breathe his last in the holy city of Varanasi and end the cycle of rebirth by attaining salvation. Being the dutiful son he is, Rajiv is left with no choice but to drop everything and make the journey with his stubborn father. Daya and Rajiv check into Mukti Bhawan (Hotel Salvation) in Varanasi, a guesthouse devoted to people who wish to die there. . .

Guest presenter/discussion leader: Dr. Job Thomas, Cultural historian of India, Davidson College Professor Emeritus of History, Former Director of South Asian Studies


Directed by Michael Haneke (Germany, in German w/English subtitles), 2009, 2h24.

From July 1913 to the outbreak of World War I, a series of incidents take place in a German village. A horse trips on a wire and throws the rider; a woman falls to her death through rotted planks; the local baron’s son is hung upside down in a mill; parents slap and bully their children; a man is cruel to his long-suffering lover. People disappear. A young teacher, who courts a nanny in the baron’s household, narrates the story and tries to investigate the connections among these accidents and crimes. What is foreshadowed? Are the children holy innocents? God may be in His heaven, but all is not right with the world . . .

Guest presenter/discussion leader: Dr. Maggie McCarthy, Professor and Chair of German Studies and Coordinator of the Film & Media Concentration, Davidson College



Directed by SHLOMI AND RONIT ELKABETZ (Israel, in Hebrew w/English subtitles), 2014, 1h55.

An Israeli woman seeking to finalize her divorce from her cruel and manipulative husband finds herself effectively put on trial by her country’s religiously-based marriage laws in this riveting drama. In Israel there is neither civil marriage nor civil divorce; only rabbis can legalize a marriage or its dissolution, which is only possible with the husband’s consent. Viviane Ansalem has been applying for a divorce for three years, but her husband Elisha will not agree. His cold intransigence, Viviane’s determination to fight for her freedom, and the ambiguous role of the judges shape a procedure in which tragedy vies with absurdity, and where everything is brought out for judgment, apart from the initial request.

Guest presenter/discussion leader: Rabbi Michael Shields



Directed by László Nemes (Hungary, in Hungarian, Yiddish, and German w/English subtitles), 2015, 1h47.

In this searing drama, an Auschwitz inmate in 1944 tasked with burning the corpses of his own people discovers the body of his young son and must choose between participating in the clandestine uprising being planned among the prisoners or securing a proper Jewish burial for his child.

“You will never shake this film off, ever, and that is a powerful and enriching thing.” Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun-Times

Guest presenter/discussion leader: Dr. Karl Plank, J. W. Cannon Professor of Religion, Davidson College