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COCO is an American film directed by Adrian Molina inspired on the Mexican holiday “Day of the Dead”, produced by Pixar Animation Studio and released by Walt Disney Pictures. COCO was presented in 2017 in Mexico during the Morella international Film Festival and it was released on the occasion of the holiday “Día de Los Muertos”, November 2, 2017. It is considered the best animation Film in 2017, praised for its animation, voices acting, emotional story, and shows honest respect to Mexican Culture. I am Happy to have the opportunity to see the Film COCO in the context of cultural Dialogue as part of our Course of Pastoral Ministry in Ordinary Time.
To answer the two questions given by our professor: 1) What have I learned? 2) What from my learning can I apply to pastoral ministry? I would like to use “Ver Juzgar y Actuar” method as the approach to write my review.
So, I begin describing COCO’s trama in the way I am able to read it.
I am aware of my own limitations in getting the whole picture of the story (Ver). From what I can grasp, and allowing to speak it to me personally, I share some learnings and discoveries (Juzgar) relating them to other sources from our course. The call to integrate our learnings is the key take away in our course. In this context, I am challenged to identify the appropriate ways “to reach out to the other” and share my learnings (Actuar). Summary of COCO’s Trama COCO is a very lively and dynamic film.
The whole story is about Miguel Rivera, a small, lively and joyful boy who dreams to become a musician like the famous singer Ernesto de la Cruz. But he is confronted with one real problem that his family sees music as a curse and therefore has banished Music since generations. The Rivera family is known for many years, in the village of Santa Cecilia, as the family of Shoemakers. “Music had turned the family apart but shoes held them together” (from the film).
This story was told every year on the holiday which commemorates de “Day of the Dead”. Miguel’s family wanted him to join them in the family business of shoemaking, but he likes music. He accepts that his family is fine with this profession but Miguel could not get the idea of continuing the family tradition of been shoemakers. Nurturing his dream secretly he looks for the moment to prove his talent and passion for music. In his attempt to convince his family Abuelita Elena destroys his guitar. Why? There is a reason behind this radical opposition to Miguel ‘s passion for music. Miguel does not give up and seize his moment to perform on the annual talent show for the “Dia de Los Muertos”.
Stilling the Guitar from his hero Ernesto de la Cruz’s Mausoleum he, suddenly is taken to the Land of the Dead where he continues to search among his ancestors, for his great-great-grandfather, to get his blessing so he could return to the land of the living and become a Musician. There he discovers signs of the connection between his family and passion for music. The boy meets someone named Hector and together they embark on an adventurous journey to meet Ernesto de la Cruz who holds the key to the real truth behind the story of Miguel’s family background. His hero, in fact, is the bad character in the whole story. Miguel only knows the truth when he with Hector are thrown out into the abyss. It is in the very depth of despair when Miguel discovers who his Ancestor is and becomes his real hero because he was the musician who long ago had left his family to follow his dream. Miguel comes home with a guitar and the miracle of transformation happened because he is allowed to perform for the whole family singing “Remember Me”.
In a beautiful manner, he finds the way to get his family’s blessing and becomes a musician. Learnings and Discoveries Who, at least once in life, has not experienced disagreement, conflict related to family traditions, celebrations or costumes? I guess that in some moment many can identify with differences in concepts or the understanding of “Family”. First, the story portrayed in COCO teaches me that knowing the truth of once personal history, the experience of forgiveness and reconciliation in family relationships is a true blessing. It brings peace and great joy to all. I believe that this is the experience of new life brought by Jesus Christ in his Resurrection.
Secondly, I learned about the importance of keeping an open Dialogue between work – the job that helps us to earn for our life – and the personal talents each person carries from within. It is not about what talents one has or not have but what matters more is what one does with the talents he/she received as a gift. Talents are not meant to be kept for ourselves but to be shared. The conflicts and struggles in Miguel’s family is also the struggle of many families in today’s social context. The lack of openness an dialogue reinforced by the need to be professional and effective in order to remain in their job, brings tension to parents who long to help their children to develop their personal talents; to listen to their kinds assuring an environment of respect for their unique talents even when “nobody in the family” has developed certain talent or skill ( as the story portrays). Mt 25, 30- 24 parables of the talents. Another learning is about the importance of the context; the cultural, religious context of the people, of the community to whom I am assigned to minister. It is easy and enjoyable to work and to be with people who are familiar to us, but it is a challenge to reach out to everything/ everyone who seems “different”.
Concretely I discovered how deeply the religious beliefs, symbols, and rituals are closely interconnected with the culture of the people. I realize how easily I remain on the superficial level in terms of appreciation, recognition, and interaction with what is diverse from my own. In his book “Theology Brewed in African Pot”, Orobator SJ, when he speaks about the process of inculturation, he points out “dialogue as a critical condition of authentic inculturation” ( p.132). I see the importance of taking the time to get to know the other, to learn from them which implies respect, reverence and develop a listening heart. Watching this film opens my heart and my ears to listen and to recognize the sacredness present in cultural, religious expression of people. I discover more clearly the importance of looking deeper in order to understand the profound message delivered behind expressions, gestures, symbols, and rituals. I am challenged to strengthen our capacity to have an open heart for the “other” to reach out and to approach the other with full respect.
Truly, this film widens my capacity to approach other cultures and their symbols, rituals, and beliefs with respect, admiration, and reverence, recognizing the holy ground that is revealed to me in the concrete experiences of meeting people. Implications for Pastoral Ministry A child brings together the whole family in a meaningful moment and has the courage to challenge some beliefs considered unquestionable. Humble but confidently this boy is able to unveil the truth about his ancestors. Reaching out to the other in ministry I am challenged to be intentional in being an instrument of forgiveness and reconciliation as a way of being a sign of God’s compassionate Love for all. It made me think of the way in my culture (family) express and ritualize forgiveness and reconciliation. It is through a typical drink called Mate. As a concrete way, I need to be informed of the various ways the community or the people use to express and ritualize Forgiveness and reconciliation.
One scripture passage that comes to mind is the Resurrection by the Gospel of John (Jo 20:19-23), where the Holy Spirit, peace, forgiveness and joy are the very gifts of the Risen Lord. A second significant implication for my ministry is to promote an environment of trust and openness and sincere dialogue where adult/parents can express their concerns, difficulties, and hopes regard their children. And thirdly, to take initiative in spending time with people (gratuitamente), instead of going to them with already set up an action plan. This means to challenge me to get in touch, to reach out, to provoke meaningful encounters. In this sense I am very much reminded of the missionary experience shared by Orobator SJ, in his book: “Theology Brewed in African Pot” (p. 18-19) when he insists that “learning to read other’s text is crucial to an authentic process of inculturation” (p.133).
As closing words, I am convinced “COCO” is a film about Family, about family traditions; about keeping the memory of our ancestors alive. It can be said that COCO is a story about music, about family and about the passionate search to make our dreams come true. It is a film to be watched by children, teens, and adults as well; because all of us – in some moments in our life journey may be faced with differences in understanding of family traditions and religious beliefs.
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