Walking towards the Light from the cross of a King

A blog by Josh Humbert

Faith and Film: Slumdog “Foo Fighter” Millionaire


In 2008, there was a film being completed that was teetering on the brink of irrelevance.  Danny Boyle had directed this little film called Slumdog Millionaire on the relatively modest budge of $15 million dollars.  Studio executives were doubting it’s success and almost made it a “straight to DVD” release (aka, the kiss of death) before finally deciding to give it a chance in a theatrical release.

 The little film that was almost shipped to obscurity in the land of “straight to dvd” went on to gross over $377 million dollars world wide (a nice little return on that 15 mill, right?) and would also win 8 Academy Awards (including Best Picture and Best Director).  The film became an echo of it’s actual narrative as this “underdog” went on to become a smashing success both in terms of dollars and critical reception.

If you haven’t seen it (spoiler alert), Slumdog documents the incredible rise of Jamal out of the harsh streets of India to the brink of an enormous payday on a game show.  Jamal shocks everyone with his ability to answer the questions on the game show.  How could a boy from the streets know these things?  Through flashbacks, Jamal relays details of his complex struggles to rise from the streets and how he came to know those answers.  

However, what really drives Jamal is his desire to reunite with Latika, the only girl he has ever loved and wanted.  Jamal and Latika were forced to take different paths out of the slums and her path is just as harrowing and heartbreaking.  With a love for her that can only be characterized as “steadfast,” Jamal presses on and does all he possibly can to find her and win her.  At every turn and every moment, she is on his mind and always in his heart.

In the end, Latika is finally freed from all the pain, oppression, and adversity that holds her back and she goes to Jamal.  The final scene of the film captures the moment Jamal has waited for seemingly his whole life: when he and Latika will be with each other. 

Boyle depicts the moment brilliantly as a director by having some of the painful moments of their continual separation played back as if on “rewind.”  As Jamal softly kisses Latika’s scars, we see those hard times in rewind….as if they are now being undone.  That pain is gone now; that separation is no more.  He has fought, and scrapped, and clawed in every possible way to get her free.  Now…finally…she is free to love him and be with him.

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In 2005, the Foo Fighters released the song “Best of You” off their double-album called “In Your Honor.”  The song is blunt and strong in every possible way.  The lyrics are not subtle and neither is the music.  It’s unapologetic rock with an uncensored heart cry.

I’ve got another confession to make

I’m your fool

Everyone’s got their chains to break

Holdin’ you

Were you born to resist or be abused?

Is someone getting the best, the best, the best, the best of you?

Is someone getting the best, the best, the best, the best of you?

Has someone taken your faith?
It’s real, the pain you feel

The life, the love

You die to heal

The hope that starts

The broken hearts

You trust, You must

Confess

Is someone getting the best, the best, the best, the best of you?

Is someone getting the best, the best, the best, the best of you?”

The grinding repetition only builds up the frenetic urgency in the song.  Is the song about a broken relationship?  A forgotten friend?  Some personal struggle like depression?  That is unclear.  But to whoever (or whatever) Dave Grohl, the lead singer of Foo Fighters, is addressing in this song, there can be no doubting the strength of his feelings.  He is all in.  He is consumed.

The song could very well be the anthem of Jamal’s thoughts for Latika.  He sees her oppressed.  He sees her taken against her will.  He sees others take full advantage of her.  Is someone getting the best of her?  He knows it to be true.  He lives with that knowledge every day.  It is what drives him.

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Reading through the minor prophets in the Old Testament can be encouraging, convicting, shocking, and at points, even jarring.  At places, it feels like there is no filter  on God (is there ever?) and He is boldly calling out for His people.

He calls for repentance to people who have given their worship and affections to idols.

He calls for justice to be done and social inequalities to be addressed.

He calls for His people to remember Him and reverence HIm, as He is the One who has delivered them repeatedly.

In a way, and in some passages, it seems that God is not asking the question but saying in a definitive way: “Someone IS getting the best, the best, the best, the best of you!”  He points out how devastating and destructive it is for His people to seek joy in the things of this world.  In vivid language, He details how foolish it is to forsake Him and how badly it will end for these people.

But almost in the same breath, He says things like:
“Yet even now,” declared the Lord, 

“Return to Me with all your heart, 

And with fasting, weeping, and mourning;

And rend your heart and not your garments.”

Now return to the Lord your God,

For He is gracious and compassionate,

Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness. (Joel 2)

In a larger and much deeper way than even Jamal, God yearns for people to leave worthless idols and false treasures.  He does not take joy in seeing sin wreak havoc on people and get the best of them.  Groh’s lyrics echo God’s own call: “Has someone taken your faith? It’s real, the pain you feel.  You trust, you must confess!”

It doesn’t have to be this way.  People don’t have to live in the devastation of sin on a path to certain ruin.  There’s a chance to “return with all your heart.”  Always.

Is someone getting the best of you?  There’s a way to turn it all around.

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That phrase is a curious one: “Is someone getting the best of you?”  It’s curious because it can be interpreted several ways, thus changing the meaning of the song.

For example, you could interpret like this: Is someone taking advantage of you and getting what’s most precious from youIs someone getting from you what they shouldn’t be getting from you?

This interpretation would be like Latika who was seemingly trapped in oppression and violence.  The people in power over her were getting the best from her.  Or, in another sense, it could be like the Israelite’s, who gave all their worship to worthless idols and false gods instead of giving their worship to God, who is the only One worthy of it.

Or you could interpret it like this: Is someone receiving something truly great from you?  Perhaps a gift or maybe your absolute best?  Is someone enjoying the fruits of your maximum effort on their behalf?

This interpretation would be exemplified in the Gospel.  

Christians are those who have received the absolute best gift from God and that is salvation and new life through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son.  God demonstrates His own love toward us in that while we were still rejecting Him and giving our best to other things/people/possessions/etc…..He GAVE His only Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

God gave His BEST to a world full of the worst, like me.  He didn’t send His JV-team or His backup plan…..God sent His absolute Best in the person and work of His Son, Jesus Christ.

For all my sin and straying….I deserve only wrath and condemnation.  I should be stuck in the filth and mud of the slums forever.  But instead, because of Jesus Christ, I see His grace that will pardon and cleanse all my deepest stains.  I see His truth that corrects me and puts me on the right path.  I see His glory that draws me to worship Him alone and rejoice in my great God.

I see His love that forgives all my failures and struggles and brings ultimate good out of them.  He doesn’t simply “rewind” things, He redeems them.  And this makes me richer than any “millionaire.”

His name is Jesus and He took all the worst upon Himself so that He can give His BEST, i.e. Himself, to you.  

God made Jesus who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”  2 Corinthians 5:21

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There is a final scene that plays out during the credits of Slumdog Millionaire.  Boyle wanted to pay homage to Bollywood cinema and so he has Jamal, Latika, and many others perform a dance as the final credits roll.

Here’s what’s interesting…..

Originally, that scene happened RIGHT after the beautiful reuniting of Jamal and Latika that I described earlier.  However, when the studio executives test-screened the movie like this, with the dance scene BEFORE the final credits….audiences strongly reacted against it!  They hated it being part of the actual movie!

Their buy-in to the film and it’s characters was so strong they didn’t want to be “snapped back” to reality by seeing them do a choreographed dance routine.  They didn’t want to admit so quickly that what they had just experienced was just actors and actresses and….not real.  People wanted to believe in the “realness” of the film; to see a dance scene before the film ends would be to admit it was all “just a movie.”

(Think of your own experience with fictional stories.  Ever felt so strongly about a fictional character that you didn’t want the storyline to come to an end?  Or admit that it was “just book” and didn’t really happen?….That’s what was going on with the audience here, I think.)

So the studio executives wisely listened to their test-audience and allowed the film to end and the credits to start rolling before the dance scene begins.

But isn’t that how your heart reacts even now?  Be gut-level real with yourself.  You WANT to be loved that strongly by someone.  You WANT that kind of redemption for your past.  Everyone wants this.  Sure, you can deny it and put up a “strong” front and talk about being “self-made” or “independent” or things like that…..but deep in your soul, there is a real desire for something like this story to be true in your own life.  In the moments when you actually get still and quiet, this longing creeps up on you, doesn’t it?  Maybe it’s when you face struggles or on the nights when you can’t fall asleep and you ponder deeper things; this desire for the truest of love is there inside you. 

You don’t want to see the dance scene either, in a manner of speaking.  You don’t want to be snapped back to the harsh realities of life and the awful things that people do or maybe the awful things you know you’ve done.

You long for that rich, redeeming love that this film only hints at.  You may have been able to bury that longing way down in your heart under a lot of other things, but it is still there.

It is a longing that nothing on this earth can fill.

It is a longing for the redemption that only comes through Jesus Christ.

Money cannot love you with such a deep love.  It can’t love you at all, actually.  The same goes for cool toys and possessions.  Your career can’t redeem you like that.  Even your wife, husband, boyfriend, or girlfriend……yes, they can love you as much as humans can love each other….but nothing and no mere human can love you like this.

It only comes from Christ.  

He too was born into poverty, but of His own choice (“that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that YOU through His poverty might become rich” 2 Corinthians 8:9).  

He too has a burning desire for His bride; but He didn’t go on some gameshow to get His love….He went to an old wooden cross (“He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a Cross” Philippians 2:8).

He stands ready to redeem those who treasure Him above all else (“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.’” Galatians 3:13).

And in Him are more riches than any “millionaire” could ever imagine (“in Him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”  Colossians 2:3)

Get the BEST of God…..meet His gift, His Son, Jesus Christ.  He changes everything.  He alone is the Redemption you long for and need.

Thanks for reading.  Comments and messages welcomed.

One comment on “Faith and Film: Slumdog “Foo Fighter” Millionaire

  1. Pingback: Wrestling With Revenge, Redemption, and Robots | Walking towards the Light from the cross of a King

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