Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Jesus Camp (Movie Review)

Reviewers of this 2006 documentary have termed it "unbiased" and "even-handed."

And as backwards and disconcerting as its subject may be — thereby not really needing editorializing — it was nevertheless quite clear to me that the makers of Jesus Camp wished not to show something "as it is" (as I feel documentaries should) but rather to prove a point (a film editorial or "filmitorial," as I've decided to call them).

Essentially, this film follows a handful of children before, during and after their stay at a right-wing Evangelical bible school where children speak in tongues and prepare to enlist in God's army (the minister at this camp makes it quite clear that she wishes to emulate the examples set by children in the Middle East, rallying for their cause and waving guns in God's name).

The end result being a rather disturbing film that catalogs the brainwashing of children by America's extreme right (admittedly nowhere near as extreme as the FLDS news from Texas). But these are good — albeit misguided — kids, the risk being that portraying Christianity in its extreme could result in a philosophical backlash against the religion as a whole.

But that may very well be why the filmmakers inserted commentary from a non-fundamentalist, everyday Christian radio show host who blasts the fundamentalists all the while making it clear that he, too, is a Christian. But these commentaries (interspersed throughout the film) served as blatant editorializing in my book, essentially solidifying the directors' mood towards their subject. Certainly, though, still nowhere near as in-your-face, "I'm right and you're wrong" documentary (if you can call it that) that we get with Michael Moore.

In part because the editorializing is mild by comparison — and in part because the subject is so dern interesting (not to mention, disturbing) — I'd say this film is well worth a viewing.

FINAL GRADE: B/B+

6 comments:

M@ said...

I found it disgusting how the Pentacostolists brainwash their children to the point that they're weeping during these religious experiences (group hallucinations) in which they start speaking jibberish ("tongues")....

Lalalalalalalalalalaaaa!

Dummies.

disgruntled world citizen said...

we Lutherans have camps, but I promise, we don't brainwash anyone. I think I read somewhere that after this doc was released the outcry and shock was so great that the camp is now closed. I could be wrong, though.

michele said...

I love the idea of a new label "filmitorial" for these kinds of movies. Brilliant!

Pamela said...

thank goodness I've never seen any Christian camps like that.

I've learned that the pen and camera (etc) don't always tell it like it is.
Personal knowlege (experience) in a situation and then seeing how it appeared in the news. Much different. So I'm very cautious about what I believe anymore.

Anonymous said...

I had to turn it off about 20 minutes in. If a little girl gave me a pamphlet about God while I was just doing my thing at a bowling alley, I would probably have launched.

The sad part? My last girlfriend was like that until she got into college.
~BPP

patrick said...

finally got so see Jesus Camp; i appreciate the fact that the movie’s makers let the people interviewed do all the talking; then again i couldn’t help wondering, "wait, what’s the problem? these kids seem to have a decently high quality of life..." in any case, the film’s makers obviously cut and pasted together a film that supports their agenda; i mean, please, is Pastor Becky Fischer supposed to represent Christian parenting in general? And could they found anyone more infamous than Ted Haggard to interview?