RESISTANCE CINEMA Presents: “JESUS CAMP” Magnolia Pictures, 2006, Produced and Directed by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady. Debuted at The Tribeca Film Festival 2006. Nominated for an Academy Award for best documentary 2007.
WHEN: Sunday April 1, 2007, 1:15pm
WHERE: Community Church of NYC 40 east 35th st. @Park ave.
ADMISSION: Free; Donations appreciated
The rise of the “Religious Right” as a political force in America has been the topic of much debate as it has merged with the neo-conservative economic ideology that dominates thinking in the Bush administration. The film JESUS CAMP does not try to engage the entire complicated topic but instead focuses in on one rather disconcerting microcosm of it.
It is about a Pentecostal summer camp for children who spend their summers learning and practicing their "prophetic gifts" and being taught that they can "take back America for Christ." a fascinating if sometimes alarming documentary. Shortly after its release, the movie gained a new notoriety when Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, who appears near the end of the film, resigned his post amid a male prostitute's allegations of drug use and sexual misconduct.
For most of the film, we follow a charismatic teacher, Becky Fischer, as she trains young soldiers in "God's Army" at her “Kids On Fire Summer Camp” in North Dakota. Some of the kids emerge as likable and bright, and eager to continue their work as pint-sized preachers; elsewhere, the visions of children speaking in tongues and falling to the floor in ecstasy are more troubling. Even more arresting is the vision of a generation of children home-schooled to believe that the Bible is science, or Fischer's certainty that America's flawed system of democracy will someday be replaced by a theocracy. In one scene, a cardboard cut-out of George W. Bush is presented to the children, who react by laying their hands on the figure as though in a religious procession. Filmmakers Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady maintain neutrality about all this, maybe too much so. They throw in some interviews with radio host Mike Papantonio to provide a liberal-Christian viewpoint. What is interesting is that the film was approved by Fischer and the camp itself.