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
Sister Madonna Buder’s book ‘renews the spirit and inspires the dream’; Disney’s ‘Secretariat’ is ‘well worth seeing’

by Father Tom Caswell, for the Inland Register

(From the Dec. 2, 2010 edition of the Inland Register)

Movie Reviews

The new Walt Disney Studios movie Secretariat in an engaging way tells a story that is appealing to a family audience. Some are well familiar with the famed horse that won the Triple Crown in the spring of 1973. But the film tells the story of the famed horse from the view of the wife and mother who is key to making the inspiring events happen.

Diane Lane plays Penny Chenery Tweedy who, at the death of her mother and incapacity of her father, takes over their Virginia Horse Estate. Her family lives in Denver but she has a vision and determination that seek to keep the rolling hills in her family and eventually race a chestnut-colored colt.

From the beginning she runs into one obstacle after another. Her brother (Dylan Baker) and her husband (Dylan Walsh) want her to sell the land immediately. She has a crooked trainer that she fires. She seeks out a flamboyant trainer of French Canadian background (Lucien Laurin) (John Malkovich) and a stubborn jockey, Ronnie Turcotte (real-life rider Otto Thornwarth). There are complications involving a coin toss for Penny to have ownership of Big Red. His name is later changed to Secretariat because of the demands of the Jockey Club. Elizabeth Ham, the family secretary (Margo Martindale) actually comes up with the name after the name Big Red is rejected 10 times.

The film is filled with emotion and emotive background music like a film from the 1940s. For some, a pack of tissues is highly recommended. The combination of a woman breaking into a male dominant world, with a beautiful animal that has some ups and downs on his journey, and all the family issues in the background, make for a very emotive film.

Diane Lane is great in the part of a lifetime. John Malkovich gets to go way over the top in personality and clothes. He is perfect for the role. In a smaller role as the faithful Miss Ham, Margo Martindale is memorable.

Secretariat is both an entertaining film and a thoughtful one. You pull for the great horse and all the people who help him be the horse he comes to be. Even when you know he is going to win a race you are still caught up in the excitement of the recreated event. In the Preakness race the film uses the actual television videos of the race as the Tweedy family watch the race on TV in Denver.

Secretariat is well worth seeing.

The film is rated A-II – for adults and adolescents, by Catholic News Service. The Motion Picture Association of America rates the film PG – parental guidance.


Sometimes a movie can be very difficult to watch and yet give new insight into human history and life. The new film by Israeli Film maker Yael Hirsonski titled A Film Unfinished certainly falls within that purview.

In 1942, about 400,000 people lived in the Warsaw ghetto. There a Nazi film crew produced the silent raw footage that would be used for a planned propaganda film. Years ago, two reels of the film were found and assumed to give a somewhat accurate account of what was happening in the Ghetto. More recently another reel was found that made it clearer that much of the film was staged to show wealthy Jews living very well in the Ghetto even as poor Jews died in the streets. It appeared that no one cared about those dying. The new outtakes make more obvious that many of the events with the so-called rich Jews were staged with people being forced to act in a superior way. The present documentary film interviews people who were there and those associated with the filming to get a clearer view of what the film was intended to do. The actual footage was never made into a propaganda film but was preserved in East Germany after the Soviet takeover.

What struck me as very strange in watching the film was that there is this gigantic funeral procession where people evidently were forced to participate, that used a large coffin, contrary to Jewish custom. There were four or five Roman Catholic priests who seem to be saying prayers over the body as it is buried. This would seem to be the worst thing that could be done to a Jewish person being buried in front of a huge number of Jewish people gathered around the burial site. Evidently the Nazis were trying to say people who died in the Ghetto received large and elaborate funerals. There is a graphic section of bodies being buried. We are told that these scenes are before the imprisoned started to be sent to Death Camps fairly soon after these pictures are taken.

A Film Unfinished is a memorable view into the darkest and cruelest of worlds that must not be forgotten.

The film is rated R – Restricted, because of brief nudity and a mass grave, by the Motion Picture Association of America. Catholic News Service does not yet have a rating.

Recently Received

Back in the late ’70s with the urging of friends I ran my one and only marathon. With some walking, the time was 5 hours and 5 minutes and as I crossed the finish line a volunteer asked if I wanted to see a doctor. So I do know in a small part what a series of accomplishments Sister Madonna Buder, a Sister for Christian Community from St. Anthony Parish in Spokane has completed by running over 325 triathlons, including 40 Ironman distances.

She has done this all since the age of 52 and continues running into her 80s. With the help of Karin Evans, Sister Madonna tells her life story with special emphasis on her accomplished running in the new book The Grace to Race. It is published in hardcover by Simon and Schuster at a list price of $25.

The competition age category of 75-79 was created five years ago at the Hawaiian lronman in Kona for Sister Madonna. Such a race includes a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and a full 26.2-mile marathon. She completed the race in record time.

The Reflections near the end of the book by Sister Madonna are particularly helpful and encouraging to anyone who seeks to follow what might seem to be an impossible dream. She has notes to the compulsive. She suggests developing your faith within your effort. She said she has never been in total panic in her many races which to others seem almost impossible. She urges her readers to take time to be still and concentrate on people, not things.

Sister Madonna gives us a book that renews the spirit and inspires the dream.

(Father Caswell is Inland Register archivist.)

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