Saturday, March 28, 2009

An Excellent Film: A Mighty Heart

I've just finished watching the movie, A Mighty Heart with Angela Joli. I 've avoided watching this movie, I confess. It seemed too difficult to confront the real murder of a journalist through the eyes and experience of his pregnant wife, Mariane, who is also a journalist. Some of you know that my own mother was murdered and I find these stories difficult to watch. I remember the media that surrounded my mother's murder and the opportunistic way that those involved tried to use the story to foster their own often unrelated causes.

In Mom's case, the Huron Township Police Chief, Mr. Cagal, tried to use her murder to argue against gun control. Others carried the story with an emphasis on property line disputes emphasizing how people allow their emotions to get out of control. The problem with these interpretations was that Mom and her partner, Christine Puckett, were treated as somehow responsible for the event. Their same sex relationship was hinted at but not addressed as the real reason for the murders. One article was published with the headline, "Two Lesbian Women Shot" and this created a stir in the gay community. No one except the gay community wanted to admit that it was a hate crime. The general media tone was geared to comfort their reading audience by couching the truth in a mild it-could-never-happen-to-you message. I had a shocking realization that the news reports were gently placing the blame on my mother and Christine by subtle inference even though the facts tell us that they did not kill him, they did not carry out weapons, and they were innocent of any crime.
One of the reports, revealed that James Brooks had used a shovel to attempt to hit Christine. Mom went into the house and called the police. Soon after this, she called the police again to report that Christine was shot. Does this sound like a woman who would let her emotions get out of control? She was on the phone when she witnessed Christine's murder, she dropped the receiver and she went out to help. Brooks came out with a shot gun, came up close to Mom, and she didn't turn away. She spoke with him as he shot her at close range. There is no doubt that the newspapers were placing the blame on the victims by their objective stance. There is a feeling that we have to uncover the real story. (It couldn't be an unprovoked murder.)

The problem with objectivity is clear. If Mom was enraged or "over-emotional" she would have gotten a weapon herself. Friends, this is rural Michigan, everyone has guns. Mom had a license to carry a handheld weapon because she transported substantial sums of cash and was occasionally threatened in her real estate business. She also had the "normal" weapons, rifles and such that you have on a farm. Brooks had weapons, too. Only he used them to shoot animals that crossed onto his property,e.g. chickens, dogs and a goat. And he used his guns to shoot and kill both Mom and Christine. They were the innocent of any crime so why did the papers try to shape the story in a way that softly but securely placed part of the blame on those murdered instead of securely on the the murderer?

When Brooks was questioned as to why he killed them, he said "It had to be done." Did the community of reporters, police, and passersby agree? I reflect on the thinking, "So two lesbian women were killed? Life goes on. Don't get in fights with your neighbors." And under these messages there is that subtle message, "If you are lesbian, watch out. Keep it a secret. You also could be killed."

The movie murder depiction has something in common with hate crimes. It is talking about terrorism and senseless murders but also it successfully delivers a message about tolerance. One review, criticizes the lack of information provided about the cross-cultural undercurrent that contributed to the murder; and though I understand the film director's choices (Michael Winterbottom) I do think many "why" questions are left unanswered.

I think that the story could have benefited from a historical placement of the conflict between Muslims and Hindus because many viewers do not understand the history of religious tension and peace between the two groups. Unfortunately, most people like to have an easy target in which to place the word terrorist, usually depicted in an image wearing a head wrap of some sort which results in the meaning: head wrap + dark face = terrorist. I've had friends who were detained by the airport security because of suspicious skin tone, or an Arab look. (Puerto Ricans are a multi-cultural group.)

That's me in my cold university office warming myself with a makeshift sweater head wrap. Watch out!


Mariane Pearl's memoir, A Mighty Heart; The Brave Life and Death of my Husband, provided the inspiration for this film. Mariane tries to show the world a way to understanding through continued dialogue and a shift from the focus on fear and retaliation. Pearl's insight is informed by Buddhists principles and as she continues sharing the story, she extends both her husband's and her own committment toward peaceful action in this world. (Here is the link to the organization Mariane Pearl founded.)


  1. Wonderful review and brave correlation to your mother's murder. Bless you Cynthia....

  2. this is very powerful, cynthia, and so courageous of you to write it and continue to question and seek answers to what happened to your mother and her partner....I cannot imagine the depth of your pain but through your words, I can grasp a level of the trauma and also, and more importantly, the power that comes from suffering...

    I honor you and say Namaste~~

    may you have a life filled with beauty, where the divine shines upon you each morning and sleeps with you at night.

  3. Hey Watch Out for that head-wrapped woman armed with a book!!! Terrific post, C. I saw Mariane Pearl on - I think it was Charlie Rose. It may be available to view on his web site. Thinking of you -

  4. Hey Cyn.........Great post on a sad movie and two even sadder events! The only way to find answers, is to continue to seek them!
    That waiting in Natchez I believe!!
    I'm really feeling a sense of place after yesterday!I'll be going over there on Wednesday.Can't wait to see how it feels!

  5. Cynthia, you are very brave indeed to put yourself through another emotional journey you didn't have to go through - I am in awe of you.

    You look well-rested and energised in your picture - I hope life for you continues to rise and rise as if you were being carried along on the wings of a mythically large sacred owl... I can see you there.

  6. Cynthia, I just think that you are such a brave person- this review is wonderful, and I feel that it must have been very diifficult for you to watch and review this movie. You just put yourself aside to shed light for others, thst is so remarkable and endearing. Thank you.

  7. What a powerful story. People must know about this tragedy.We need to be aware of hate-crimes and denounce them unacceptable. You are making a significant contribution to stop the insanity. Your insight is truly powerful. We need to be educated about this matters. The price to pay if we do not is too high. Thank you for sharing.

  8. You look like an angel in your new profile picture (and with your lovely head wrap).

    I don't know how a person begins to make sense of this, but you seem to be able to. Your reference to Owls, your spirit guide?, seems so appropriate for you. I always feel a beautiful energy when I come here,there is strength, humility and wisdom.
    I am so happy to know you. I think you are beautiful and brave.

  9. You are much braver than I...I looked at videos to rent this weekend and just couldn't be brave...rented Pineapple Express (I'd rather have watched old Three Stooges); The Devil Wears Prada (no, I hadn't seen it yet and it made me happier at my job) and Nights in Rodanthe (where's my Doctor...but that could happen, more later).

    Ok, that is light-hearted, but I always know I can come to your blog and feel the zen and leave more at ease...

  10. HI Cynthia!
    My first time here! Firstly am very sorry about what had happened to your mom. Sometimes people's act is so disheartening, some people take it out on others- thier frustration, the anger and mostly when their hatred towards their life or themselves. We must have a system to identify these symptoms & get them counseled before they hurt the people around.

    And a great review dear. I am not a very strong person to have the courage to watch such movies. Your review is very well written.

    Warm Regards,

  11. Oh Cynthia,it's not been an easy time for you and what do you do - you go and see a film that from everything I've read about it can wrench the heart out of a person.

    I love that picture of you - thought you'd converted to Islam for a moment

  12. The details of your mother's death are so very sad.
    Yes, it's terrible how some people use tragedy to further their own agenda.
    You are very brave to reveal it.
    I have not been able to see the Pearl film because I'm too over-emotional. ... and involved a bit in that part of the world. I should make the effort.
    Much love from NY

  13. Hi, Cynthia, Another thought provoking post from you, thank you. I know that every effort to raise awarness, no matter how big or small, is needed to fight cruelty and injustice.

    I tried to email you, but I am having issues with my laptop. Basically, I wanted to say that my post that I wrote about people watching, was meant to be a tongue in cheek, observation of blogland. When I started writing it, it seemed arrogant to me, so I moved it into "I" statements. Since I read your response this morning, I wanted to clarify that I understand TOTALLY, what you were saying and unfortunately, just took it for granted that people would understand my way of "having a bit of a jab". I intended it as a bit of fun, not to pick on anyone in particuar, and certainly didn't mean you. Whoops! I am really sorry if I came across that way, it wasn't my intention. We Aussies are a sarcastic lot, and I didn't take into account that it would be perceived differently.I think you are absolutely marvelous in every single way (even with your head gear on!) and I hope you won't think too poorly of my Ning-Nong Self, I really mean well, deep down.
    Much love to you,

    Natalie Ning Nong.xx♥♥

    P.S. I love your new profile pic. too. :D

  14. How sad these senseless and awful tragedies that in short are based on fear if one delves deeply enough - hence the blame gets subtly placed elsewhere to avoid confrontation.
    Kudos for your strength and courage Cynthia.

  15. Excellent movie has a lot of inspiration to the people.
    Health information
    Humor & Fun World

  16. ya it's a thought-provoking post and u r indeed brave and good spirited..cheers friend..

  17. Sheila,thank you for your kind words and may you (and your daughter) be blessed in all of your expressive artistic endeavors. <3

    Linda, your own courage and spirit shines through all of your work and writing. Thank you for blessing mine. Namaste to you as well, friend. <3

    Catherine,cute! I'll look for the Charlie Rose YouTube. I enjoyed your creative work you posted. It's interesting to see how people express at different times in their lives. Take care.xx <3

    Carol,I like my nickname, Cyn, thank you for your visit and sharing so much with me. I'm so excited to hear about your writing project.<3

    Fhina (Woman of Importance),Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me. I appreciate the strength of your spirit. <3

    Ms. Lucy,Your kindness shines through your words. I'm so glad that we found each other's blogs. <3

    Mr.Pink Cowboy, thank you for your words of encouragement. You are a dear friend. <3

    Teri,I know how difficult it is to confront emotionally powerful movies alone. I frequently, watch them in pieces so that they are a little less impacting.

    Lori Ann, hi, dear California dreamin' friend,you are the owl finder! Great exploration of trails and mountains on your blog...and your personality is so charming too. My blog is named for my mother, she was delighted about her Oct.31st birthday...and she gave me a special book about owl medicine- the woman healed herself through visualization and a healthy whole (non-eating meat) diet. She said it reminded her of me. It was the last book that she gave me before she died.

    Oasis Writing Link = OWL = Mom's spirit is with me. Namaste friend. <3

    Elizabeth,thank you for reading my posts...I think it's fine to be emotional. We just work to maintain our balance in various ways. I appreciate your heart-here's one of mine- <3

    Natalie, Thanks for taking so much time with my comments. I thought you brought up some good points-even if it was for fun! xx <3

    Marutham, so happy you found Oasis and I hope you come back again.

    Mrs. French Fancy, ha! I though I would create that impression! <3

    Janice (Thompson),hello, Ms Poet. I so enjoy your insight and your visits.<3

    Skywind, welcome to Oasis...have you seen the movie? <3

    RRamesh, thank you for coming over and reading. You have a generous spirit, friend. <3

  18. Teri, (I wasn't finished)thank you for coming over and reading/commenting. May you have a lovely week! <3

  19. Thanks for the review so much. I can't stand Angelina Jolie (though I know she's a good actress) so I never watch her films. It was really courageous of you to sit down with this after what you've been through.

    Your sweater head scarf is quite beautiful. You look like Audrey Hepburn. Dashing!

  20. Wonderfully told! I have seen many stories slanted just as your Mother's was - with information supplied that has nothing to do with the event so that fault and blame is wrongfully assigned to the innocent. It's all about selling the story - not telling the story.

  21. Cynthia, how awful what happened to you and your mum. You must have been a very strong woman and still are. I can understand that you don't like movies with aggression in it. Thanks for your visit.Have a great week!.

  22. I've avoided this movie, but your post makes me think I might just rent it after all. Thanks for sharing, friend. XO from England.

  23. Hello Cyn,

    Nice head wrap!

    Thank your for this review. I have difficulty taking myself to tragedies. I prefer the escape of lighter fare. It is also a time issue. How to watch something heavy with small children in the house?

    I was talking with Carol Feiser Laque yesterday, a poet in Cincinnati, OH, and was telling her about your encouragement. She told me to go out and buy all of Jamaica Kincaid's books immediately. "Jamaica Kincaid opened up her vein dipped in a quill and wrote in blood," her poetic way of putting it. Apparently they have met in Vermont.

  24. Reya, Thanks for the Audrey Hepburn comparison :-) but I think it's a bit more like Brigett Jones when she goes off for a mini-break and the wind carries her scarf into the breeze. She arrives to the hotel with whipped up hair to accidently run into D'Arcy where she struggles to maintain her composure. <3
    Muse Swings, yes that's what I've noticed too. It can be so manipulative. Thanks for reading! <3
    Reader Wil, Hello and nice to hear from you. Movies with too much violence or a too difficult story line are hard to watch.<3
    DaPRA (Just a Plane Ride...)Thank you for reading,I don't think the movie is too difficult to watch. They don't show what happened to her you remember it was on the internet? I didn't see it...but was concerned that it would be there somehow...too horrible. Did you get many surprised reactions from your April Fools joke? I'm glad you have a bit more time to explore other parts of the world. <3
    Butternut, when my kids were young I didn't want them exposed to any sort of aggressive messages or horrible scenes. This movie isn't interesting to children because its documentary style. (Almost no violence is shown...though I did leave the room for one interrogation scene.)
    Maybe you could write under another name for a while? I think your poet friend Carol wants you to express yourself, too. <3

  25. I haven't seen this movie Cynthia but when I do I shall think of you, your courage and this very moving post. Have a wonderful weekend, xv.

  26. There is something Earth Motherish about Angelina Jolie - very sexy indeed.....I love your blog, you have the most wonderful posts and I have bookmarked this!

    By the way, are your volunteer tomatoes still alive?

  27. Hi honey... I have typed and erased 4 comments now. I'm speechless.. I feel shocked, weak, and weepy yet am boiling with anger at how the media contorted so much at the same time. I give you the biggest bear hug you amazing woman!

  28. Cynthia, to tell you the truth, if I were to have experienced what you've experienced, I don't know how I would be, you know how nervous am I and hyper. You have a sense of peace, that's great. It is so hard to understand this, as a daughter. As a stranger you can analyze it 'karmically'. but even so, i'ts very difficult. I sometimes feel that God took my mom away too soon because I still miss her, I cannot imagine if someone shot her. I hope he felt remorse in jail for what he did. well take care and I might read that book, do you think I would like it.
    I love the photo of you in the office, you look very nice,
    see you,
    I want to start a blog to tell people about my magnets. Next week of maybe in May when we took have a lot of work I can the computer to the university and you can help me, I want to download what I have on my page of facebook, Happy Easter!!!!!!!!!

  29. GOd Cynthia, I just read my message and I missed a couple of words, I have to read what I write before I send it, I'm too fast that I make mistakes
    When I take my computer to the UP, you can help me


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