For Valentine’s Day, three films that explore (and rethink) forms of devotion

For Valentine’s Day, three films that explore (and rethink) forms of devotion

As Valentine’s Day approaches, I’m thinking about expanding our notions of love. How can we move beyond (and within) romantic companionship, which is so often portrayed as the height of human connection? What do we owe each other? These films question and explore different forms of devotion.

“Sing Me the Songs That Say I Love You”

Still from "Sing Me the Songs That Say I Love You," featuring Rufus and Martha Wainwright.
Still from “Sing Me the Songs That Say I Love You,” featuring Rufus and Martha Wainwright.

This memorial concert was produced to honor Canadian singer-songwriter Kate McGarrigle upon her passing in 2010. She’s the mother of singers Rufus and Martha Wainwright, and they lead a larger group of family and friends — including Emmylou Harris, Norah Jones, Jimmy Fallon and Justin Vivian Bond — in highlighting some of Kate’s work. The emotional performance is intercut with interviews, and we see how music can be a heartfelt expression of familial love. In watching it, I’m reminded of the deep ties between music, memory and emotion. There’s nothing more human than singing through grief, and this concert is a strikingly beautiful example of that.

[Premieres on broadcast and streams starting 7 p.m. on Feb. 6.]

“Yes We Love This Country”

Still from "Yes We Love This Country."
Still from “Yes We Love This Country.”

In this documentary a Norweigian artist travels to Pyongyang, North Korea, for Norway’s National Day, and puts on a concert for a North Korean audience. At certain points the Norwegian musical group spoofs propaganda from both countries. As a tactic, propaganda can be so devotional and over-the-top that it invertS to criticize the unquestioning love of regime that it’s designed to promote. In the film, we’re left to wonder if the North Korean citizens really love their country that much or if their adoration comes from gratitude, fear, isolation … or something else. We also contend with the question: is the adoration all that different from Norway’s National Day? As xenophobic violence continues to rise throughout the world, it’s crucial to consider how we might express patriotic love and pride while assuring that all people are safe and respected.

[Premieres on broadcast and streams starting 9:10 p.m. on Feb. 14]

“Scheherazade, Tell Me A Story”

Still from "Scheherazade, Tell Me A Story."
Still from “Scheherazade, Tell Me A Story.”

This Egyptian feature film was a runaway success when it premiered in 2009, and it asks questions about women’s roles in conservative Egyptian culture. In the film, talk show host Hebba sidelines political stories in order to help her husband get a governmental promotion. But when she aims for “fluff” and interviews three women in a modern take on “One Thousand and One Nights,” she finds she cannot separate the personal and the political. The three vignettes are ostensibly about these women’s (failing) romantic partnerships, but I find them to be more expressive of how the women love themselves. We see them search for what they want and fight for it, despite patriarchal expectations. If that’s not love then I don’t know what it is.

[Premieres on broadcast and streams starting 10 p.m. on Feb. 14]

Top Image: Still from "Scheherazade, Tell Me A Story."