Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Media Watch:
‘World’s Fastest Indian,’ ‘A Church in Search of Itself’

by Father Tom Caswell, for the Inland Register

(From the April 6, 2006 edition of the Inland Register)

Movie Review

The World’s Fastest Indian is a wonderful new heartfelt movie. It beautifully tells the story of New Zealander Burt Munro (Anthony Hopkins), whose dream at age 67 was to ride his old Indian motor bike built in 1920 for an attempted speed record on the Bonneville Salt Flats of Utah.

The story starts in Invercargil, New Zealand, in 1967, where we meet Munro tinkering with his beloved antique motorcycle, made in Springfield, Mass. Munro is an eccentric who is a creative mechanical whiz, but not too practical in his relationships with his neighbors.

Writer/director Roger Donaldson, who originally made a documentary of the Munro story back in 1971, gives us a real feel for the wonderful town that is the furthest south in all of New Zealand and the closest to Antarctica. The townspeople are portrayed with humor and kindness. The one small question I have is, how could a city so close to Antarctica have lemon trees? The lemon tree next to Burt’s shop and home plays a humorous role in the film.

With the help of his friends and mortgaging his small home, Burt finally gets enough to take passage on a freighter to Los Angeles.

Arriving in the big city he is taken advantage of by a taxi driver and helped by a used car salesman (Paul Rodriquez) to find a cheap car to pull his cycle to Utah, The film becomes a road picture as Munro drives toward Utah having lots of difficulties as he is helped by a Native American and a lonely widow (Diane Ladd).

With the help of a soldier on leave from Vietnam, Monro finally makes it to Bonneville. But there he finds it is too late to officially enter the speed trials and his bike doesn’t have the necessary safety requirements. But again it is through the kindness of strangers that Burt Monro finally gets the chance to let his old rig go for broke across the flats of Utah.

The World’s Fastest Indian is a sweet, old-fashioned movie that at times might bring you to tears. It is the story of taking risks no mater what age you are. And there is a whole section on literal interpretation of the law versus a bending of the law.

Anthony Hopkins is a joy to watch. He owns this part, quirks and all. He is certainly one of the great actors of our time.

The smaller characters of Indian are delightful. Director Donaldson gives a wonderful feel for the people and places of two beautiful countries.

If this independent film doesn’t come to your community, be sure and look for it on DVD in a few months.

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) rates The World’s Fastest Indian PG-13 because of brief sexual themes. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office for Film and Broadcasting rates the film A-lll – for adults.

Book Review

Robert Blair Kaiser’s new book, A Church in Search of Itself: Benedict XVI and the Battle for the Future, is a look at today’s Catholic Church and the papal election in April of 2005 from a liberal Catholic point of view.

Kaiser was a young reporter at Vatican Council II, who had spent 10 years in the Jesuits. He later went on to be a reporter for The New York Times and Time magazine.

In the last five years or so Kaiser has toured the world, interviewing powerful and ordinary people of the Church. To that story he has merged his account of the election of Benedict XVI.

The book starts out with a liberal critique of the pontificate of John Paul II. Then it moves forward with a series of chapters on cardinal candidates for pope from the major continents of the world. For example, from North America he centers on Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles. From Asia he writes very positively of Cardinal Julius Darmaatmadja of Indonesia. He then intertwines chapters on the priesthood, Liberation Theology, and dialogue with world religions.

Robert Blair Kaiser has a fine style as a writer. His strong point of view reads at time like a polemic. For example, in reference to his African subject, Cardinal Francis Arinze, he writes: “In 1985 Archbishop Francis Arinze was brought to Rome, given a red hat, and put in charge of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (which is responsible for forging closer ties to all of the world’s great religions), rising, in accordance with the Peter Principle, to the level of his incompetence.”

My favorite chapter was the one on Cardinal Darmaatmadja and the church of Asia. Obviously Kaiser was enthusiastic about his enjoyable interview and the hope of the church in Asia. He helps the reader to understand the excitement and the possibility of the Asian Church.

Kaiser gives all the inside scoop on the April 2005 conclave. Personally, I found Paul Elie’s version of events in the January-February 2006 issue of The Atlantic more interesting and balanced.

If you are looking for a book that sees recent Church history with a strong Vatican II approach, A Church in Search of Itself is the book for you.

A Church in Search of Itself by Robert Blair Kaiser (2006) is published in hardcover by Alfred A. Knopf, New York, at $25.95.

Short Takes

In early February, PBS had a thought-provoking and haunting hour documentary of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, titled Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Pacifist, Nazi Resister. The film has an impact and challenge that makes it ideal for church groups and religious education programs. Journey Films now has a DVD version of the film available for $29.95. You may reach them at 1-800-486-1070 or

(Father Caswell is Ecumenical Relations Officer and Archivist for the Diocese of Spokane, as well as a frequent contributor to this publication.)

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