Wonderful fantasy

The Harry Potter book and films are clearly fantasy, and wonderful fantasy at that. We should be more worried about the images of reality as portrayed on the evening TV news service. These are unfiltered, often disturbing, often violent and not placed in any context for young viewers. Young children in particular need protection from the evening TV news, not from Harry, Hermoine and even Lord Voldermort.

Speaking as the father of a 12 year old, I know from personal experience the joy and fun that Harry Potter has brought to so many kids. The J. K. Rowling stories are uplifting.

But perhaps more importantly, the books have encouraged thousands of children to read and that opens the gates to the world of books in an age dominated by TV.

- Matthew Abraham, Director Catholic Communications, Archdiocese of Adelaide

Less than potty!

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Richard Harris, Maggie Smith. Directed by Chris Columbus. 153 mins. Rated PG.

Warner Brothers ploughed $130 million into this production and it's a visual feast. The many familiar UK locations, art direction and set designs are all a triumph. Stuart Craig has won Oscars for his production designs on Gandhi, The English Patient and Dangerous Liaisons. He should be preparing his acceptance speech for next year's Oscars now. The lighting is appropriately atmospheric and the costume department had a field day coming up with some of their creations. As befits a tale about magic, there are terrific special effects and, true to the book, a violent battle takes place on an animated life-size chessboard.

There has been some discussion about how Rowling's books promote witchcraft. This criticism misses the wood for the trees. Rowling and Kloves enter the rich world of a child's imagination and teach some wonderful lessons about sportsmanship, generosity, friendship, loyalty and the importance of study. It condemns violence, cheating and lying. If fictional stories of wizards and magic turned their childhood readers and hearers into adult occult worshippers, then most if us would have ended up in such groups. Harry is a good wizard fighting the powers of evil. This story is a vivid parable about the forces of light and dark.

- Fr Richard Leonard SJ, Director Australian Catholic Film Office (excerpt from forthcoming revieww in Catholic Press and
Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference website).

Harry's not so bad, say church leaders

By Laura Kendall and Sean Fewster

Harry Potter is more likely to lead children to God than to satanic cults, some church leaders believe.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone opened in Australian cinemas yesterday but the film adaptation of JK Rowling's novel has already ignited worldwide concern it will lure children to the Devil.

Baptist Union of Australia president the Rev. Tim Costello said he was "not at all worried" about the Harry Potter phenomenon.

"My gut tells me that it can only lead to greater theological thinking for young people which I think is fantastic," he said.

"Children are quite able to distinguish between that which is destructive and evil ... and which is imaginative and playful."

Lutheran Church's SA president, the Rev. Mike Semmler, said the stories promoted creativity.

"Kids need to have their imaginations stretched and that can only lead to good results by allowing them to develop," he said.

"We all go through times when we need to know about magic and all that fairytale stuff and it's quite useful in encouraging a child's creativity."

Catholic Church communications director Matt Abraham said the church believed the books and film to be positive.

"The books and movie have a positive, upbeat ending with a strong message about sacrificial love," he said.

"The books are wonderful ... for children on a number of levels, not negative, even Voldemort (the main villain) is no more of a bother than Darth Vader."

Blackfriars' Priory School student John Turner was inspired by the battle between good and evil depicted in the film.

John, 12, dressed as Voldemort, Harry's nemesis, to attend the first screening of the film at North Adelaide yesterday.

He was one of 230 costumed students who walked from their Prospect Road campus to the Wallis Piccadilly cinema in O'Connell Street attracting cheers from motorists.

Blackfriars' teacher-librarian Gillian Cox, who organised the excursion, said the story was a "great boys' adventure".

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone is showing at 15 cinemas across the state, with more than 110 daily screenings scheduled. Greater Union Westfield Marion screened the film 21 times yesterday to more than 9000 people.

- The Advertiser, Adelaide Friday, November 30, 2001 (page 23)