I did a couple of television interviews on the morning of my inauguration service on 30th September. At the end of the second interview, Emma from ITV asked me a question which should have been very simple: “What’s your favourite film?”
My mind went completely blank. There was an awkward silence. Then I remembered Ann’s favourite film (Notting Hill). I’ve watched it so many times, I couldn’t in all honesty claim it was my own. In the moment I couldn’t think of any films I liked enough.
But the question stayed with me through the day of the service. Thanks to all who came and all who worked so hard to make it happen.
The question stayed with me through the weekend. Finally, late on Sunday afternoon, after all the family had gone home, I had an answer to the question. At least, I’ve narrowed it down to two films.
The first is Jerry Maguire, directed by Cameron Crowe, released in 1996 and starring Tom Cruise and Renee Zellwegger. It’s a great romantic comedy and a good sports drama. I love it for the opening scene where Jerry Maguire, a sports agent, writes a long memo to his colleagues about the corruption in his industry. Everyone agrees with him then a few days later he is fired. The story is about his journey back and it celebrates integrity, truth love and putting people first.
My second is Invictus, directed by Clint Eastwood, released in 2009 and starring Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela, then President of South Africa and Matt Damon as Francois Pienaar, the captain of the South Africa rugy union team. The film tells the story of the 1995 Rugby World Cup hosted and won by South Africa.
I remember watching the match live on television. I love the film because of Nelson Mandela’s inspirational leadership, his perseverance in adversity and his ability to see good triumph over evil. The film’s title is taken from a short, powerful Victorian poem by the Englilsh Poet, William Ernest Henley, which helped Mandela in the darkest times on Robben Island.
“It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishments the soul
I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul”.
There is a moment in the film when Mandela invites Pienaar to tea. He speaks of the need for inspiration to take us beyond ourselves.
“In order to build our nation, we must all exceed our own expectations”.
The film is a summons to greatness in the face of immense challenges. We live in one of those moments in the story of the world where the challenges are great beyond our reckoning. The challenges of poverty, of climate change, of conflict are immense. We are called by God in our generation to rise to those challenges, to be the best we can be in confronting them.