Sunday, July 08, 2007

The Week in Review

This week was another heavy blitz on ACMI's Focus on Isabelle Huppert, which finishes on Tuesday. Unfortunately I missed two Chabrol films, Une affaire des femmes (A Story of Women, 1988) and Madame Bovary (1991). I'm hoping to catch all three remaining films in the retrospective, which are listed in the Calendar of Film Events in the sidebar:
  • Mon 7.00pm: La vie promise (The Promised Life, Olivier Dahan, 2001)
  • Mon 8.45pm: Comédie de l'innocence (Comedy of Innocence, Raúl Ruiz, 2000)
  • Tue 7.00pm: La cérémonie (The Ceremony, Claude Chabrol, 1995)
Jesus Camp
There are two extraordinary things about this chilling documentary. 1). The degree of access obtained by the directors into the bowels of the fundamentalist Pentacostal child-recruiting mechanism. 2). The film is probably of equal interest to both social conservatives and liberals alike, as it doesn't assume any obvious position.

Most of the screen time is given to depicting the methods and activities of a Christian children's camp, which attracts children from across America. Three or four children in particular are followed as they engage in various evangelical activities. I found their fervour quite troubling.

A Christian radio announcer was a voice of moderation and was filmed live while on air discussing the fundamentalists and their techniques. A particularly poignant moment was when he spoke via phone on air to the children's pastor who is widely recognised as America's most successful (she's proud that she can preach to children for an hour at a time and hold their attention, something other pastors are in awe of). While she wields great power an influence in the presence of children, her arguments pretty much folded under scrutiny, in which she pretty much said democracy was a failure and needs to be replaced (presumably by her brand of fanatic fundamentalism).

The methods employed by the fundamentalists basically deny children the opportunity to question or to think for themselves. Peer pressure is used to model behaviour and Harry Potter is frowned upon (in Christ's time, he would have been put to death, they say). A funny moment came when this seriously obese preacher criticised the fat non-Christians who all eat McDonalds.

While it is easy to be fearful of the statistics presented (25% of Americans identify as fundamentalist Christians, including George W. Bush), and while these people do indeed wield political power, I felt the threat to liberalism was over-stated. All these fervent children were all under 13. Children at this age are keen to please their parents, but my observation is that many of these children are likely to rebel by the age of 16. No children of this age or older were seen in the film. Thought-provoking, relevant and worth seeing, but not particularly outstanding.

Links: Official website\ IMDB \ Creation Museum

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