catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 7, Num 5 :: 2008.03.07 — 2008.03.21


Grant’s recommendations 3.7.08

FILM: Friends of God: A Road Trip with Alexandra Pelosi

A New York filmmaker drives through America’s South in 2006 to discover who these folks who call themselves “Evangelicals” really are.  The premise is a bit superficial—sometimes it feels like a travel documentary of the oddities of “religious America”—but the director maintains a welcoming stance that encourages her subjects to be candid about what they believe.  Pelosi visits a few mega-churches; talks with Ted Haggard about the fact (according to Haggard) that Evangelicals have better sex lives than most people; drops in on a children’s workshop that uses faulty logic to teach creationism; spends a day at The Holy Experience, an amusement park complete with a headset-wearing Jesus and blind beggars your kids can give coins to; and hangs out with a family of ten who believe they are restoring America to God’s values by procreating.  One of the most poignantly moving moments of the film comes when Pelosi attends Jerry Falwell’s church with Falwell’s former ghostwriter who happens to be gay.  The image of this gay man standing in the pews sobbing while Falwell’s congregation sings “God Bless America” reveals the deep tensions and conflicting messages behind the Evangelical campaign to restore family values to America.  The film has low production values.  The close-ups of people’s faces are a bit off-putting, but I’m guessing Pelosi wouldn’t have been able to get such openness out of people if she had focused on camera angles or had a crew of people with her.  I would love to see a documentary that actually pursues the real reasons why fundamentalist evangelicals and the so-called secular world don’t understand each other.  I felt like the filmmaker’s desire to show tolerance prevented her from having a real dialogue with some of her interviewees, but her snapshot of American Evangelicalism in the South still has value for what it is.


FILM: Deep Water

This 2006 documentary about the first non-stop solo boat race around the world in 1968 uncovers the hidden and not-so-hidden desires of several men who dare to make the trip.  This story of grand ambitions and daring schemes recalls the drama of Homer’s epic poems and Melville’s classic tale, but the setting is thoroughly modern.  The film points out that the race was conceived in a time when nations were racing to get to the moon and back.  The challenge for those who contribute to the story of Deep Water is to explain what kinds of motivations drove the men of the race to do what they did.  Unfortunately, I can’t tell you what the men did without ruining the narrative structure of the documentary.  The story is so well told that I wasn’t even quite sure for whom I should be rooting as the hero of the story.  It becomes obvious by the end why I had difficulty choosing a hero.  The film successfully displays the delusional quality of heroism while still achieving a tone of honor for those who rose to the seemingly insurmountable task of crossing the earth without stopping, on a boat, all by themselves.  I highly recommend this documentary as an unforgettable life lesson concerning the gloriously tragic lot of man.

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