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Netflix


Netflix

Documentary

Fighters in the sky

Spitfire tells the story of the WWII airplane that helped save Britain

A single-propeller Spitfire loops and soars over the green British countryside, its pilot reveling in the craft’s liveliness. Spitfire, a documentary available on Netflix, tells the tale of the last of the fighter planes without a jet engine, a plane that became a symbol of British courage during the Second World War.

By 1940, the Nazi war machine had conquered nearly all of Europe. Adolf Hitler set his sights on the British Isles, and rather than launch an immediate invasion, the German dictator relied on the powerful Luftwaffe and its thousands of bombers and fighters to soften up resistance.

Airplane manufacturer Supermarine had developed a fast, powerful, and responsive fighter plane, the Spitfire. With a unique wing shape, a Rolls-Royce engine, and a narrow fuselage, it became an instant favorite of the Royal Air Force. British pilots were outnumbered 4 to 1 in 1940, although they had the advantage of radar technology.

The documentary lets veteran pilots tell most of the story. From the vantage point of their advancing years, they look back with amazement on the exploits of their late teens and early 20s, shaking their heads at their own youthful courage and naiveté. They describe the intense fear of every mission, when sweat poured down over their eyes and faces as they saw enemy planes all around. Some recall their prayers as they fought. They lost close friends and comrades, and the memories remain near the surface all these decades later. (A few instances of profanity dot the TV-14 film.)

After months of intense aerial fighting, the pilots won the Battle of Britain and the nation lived to fight on. The Spitfire saw 24 different iterations during the war years, becoming more powerful, able to chase and shoot down the hated German V-1 rocket missiles. By the end of the war, jet engines made the Spitfire less relevant. But the plane remains today a powerful reminder of when the freedom of the Western world hung in the balance.

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Mark Joseph

Adam Carolla (left) and Dennis Prager
Mark Joseph

Documentary

No Safe Spaces

No Safe Spaces is a freewheeling primer on the assaults on free speech

The roll out of No Safe Spaces, Dennis Prager and Adam Carolla’s documentary about assaults on free speech, seems to underscore the movie’s point. First Facebook refused to carry ads for the film. Then the MPAA insisted on giving it a PG-13 rating instead of PG. The reason? It shows footage of a protester punching a conservative student in the face for passing out tracts. And because of a brief tongue-in-cheek cartoon showing the First Amendment being shot. 

Mildly incendiary? Maybe. But less provocative than plenty of double entendres that pop up in PG-rated Dreamworks animated movies.

But despite a few digressions, No Safe Spaces succeeds because it does a solid job making its case journalistically. Carolla and Prager interview plenty of experts who would be considered ideological opponents, like Van Jones, Cornell West, and Andrew Sullivan. They also have some interesting panel discussions with nonpolitical figures who’ve fallen afoul of modern speech police. 

A lecturer at Yale sparks protests after suggesting students can decide for themselves which Halloween costumes are offensive. A professor at Evergreen State College is mobbed by radical students because he refuses to cancel class for an event for minority students known as “A Day of Absence.” He is eventually fired. Worse, the administration does nothing to ensure standards or order or even the safety of its staff. A teaching assistant loses her job because she plays a clip of a professor of transgender studies debating Jordan Peterson as an illustration about grammar usage.

What the film doesn’t do as well is delve into thornier issues of free speech, like where private companies’ rights end and the public’s interest begins.

Toward the end, No Safe Spaces loses focus somewhat, drifting into generic gripes about millennial snowflakes. This would seem to undermine its stated aim to encourage dialogue and clarity. Still, it offers a freewheeling primer on just how vulnerable the First Amendment has become.

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Fai Studios


Fai Studios

Documentary

Iranian awakening

Sheep Among Wolves Vol. II describes a growing ‘resistance church in the Middle East.’

The new documentary Sheep Among Wolves Vol. II describes mass conversions of Muslims to Christ inside Iran. The film relates this good news amid some production foibles and controversial missiology, yet rightly challenges viewers to self-examination and prayer for the persecuted church.

Successful evangelization among Muslims “flips the script,” the filmmakers say, on Western methods. Instead of winning converts then discipling them, Christians teach nonbelievers how to worship, pray, and read the Bible. Muslims learn they owe submission to Jesus, not Allah. Conversions follow, often reported in connection with visions of Christ. The disciple-making movement (DMM) has thrived in cultures where a strong sense of obedience to the divine already exists. (For more on DMM, read Jerry Trousdale’s Miraculous Movements. Radius International has published a thoughtful critique.)

“Mosques are empty” in Iran, the film proclaims, as Islam’s second-class citizens—women (and blacks in East Africa, I’ve seen firsthand)—are fleeing Islam. Hardship that turns “millions” to Jesus is better than democracy; “spiritual sleepiness” in the West is worse than persecution. The film touts both the decentralized nature of the underground Iranian church and the fact that the “majority” of its leaders are women.

A few minor peeves: subtitle typos, excessive acoustic guitar performances, and little video from inside Iran. Largely, Westerners share information from meetings they’ve held with Iranian church leaders in Indonesia, where much of the film is shot. But a number of Iranians with face and voice disguised do give powerful accounts of coming to Christ. (The unrated film discusses rape and suicide.)

The film (streaming on YouTube) also explores Iran’s relationship with Israel. Iranian Christians are “falling in love” with the Jewish people as well as the Messiah. But there comes an apocalyptic plot twist: God is “raising up a resistance church in the Middle East” that will prevent another attempted extermination of the Jews and provoke them to repentance.

Perhaps. God ways aren’t Western ways.

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