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Close Encounters: Reverend Peter Gomes & Howard Zinn

Each month, the Harvard Film Archive invites members of the community to select a favorite film and introduce the work to the public. This season, we are pleased to present selections by our distinguished guests the Reverend Peter Gomes and historian Howard Zinn.


September 21 (Thursday) 7 pm
Introduced by the Reverend Peter Gomes

Babette's Feast (Babettes gaestebud)

Directed by Gabriel Axel
Denmark 1987, 35mm, color, 105 min.
With Stéphane Audran, Jean-Philippe Lafont, Jarl Kulle

Adapted from a short story by Isak Dinesen, Babette’s Feast is the delicately told tale of two devoutly religious sisters who have retreated into the desolate but safe enclave of their pious upbringing. Into their lives comes Babette—a maid who, unbeknownst to the two women, was once a celebrated chef in her native France. When Babette wins the French lottery, she rewards the sisters’ kindness by preparing a memorial dinner for the dwindling religious community. Academy Award winner for Best Foreign Film, Babette’s Feast is an inspired celebration of the triumph of art over puritanical zeal.

Reverend Peter Gomes is the Pusey Minister at Harvard University’s Memorial Church and the Plummer Professor of Christian Morals. He is the author of The Good Book: Reading The Bible With Mind And Heart and Sermons: Biblical Wisdom for Daily Living.

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October 26 (Thursday) 7 pm
Introduced by Howard Zinn

Lawn Dogs

Directed by John Duigan
England 1997, 35mm, color, 101 min.
With Mischa Barton, Sam Rockwell, Kathleen Quinlan

In the beguilingly offbeat Lawn Dogs Australian director John Duigan (The Winter of Our Dreams, The Year My Voice Broke, Flirting)—who has always had an affinity for outcasts and the young—and Kentucky poet and playwright Naomi Wallace teamed up to create a memorable fable of the friendship that develops between an imaginative little girl and the outsider who mows the lawns of her gated community. In a larger sense, it is the story of America and the ugly class distinctions that belie our mythology of equality and justice for all. "Like the best southern Gothic fiction," as the Washington Post has pointed out, "Lawn Dogs is an alternately lyrical and harrowing narrative of love and hate." Funny, touching, and poetic, this unusual cross-cultural collaboration remains a unique, if overlooked, contribution to contemporary cinema.

Howard Zinn is a historian, playwright, and social activist. Professor Emeritus at Boston University, where he taught history and political science, Zinn is the author of more than ten volumes, including the contemporary classic A People’s History of the United States. In 1995 he published the memoir You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train. He has been the recipient of the Upton Sinclair Award and the Eugene Debbs Award, among others.

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