I love documentaries. I think it’s the non-fiction narrative that gets me. But given the choice between a feature film and a documentary, I’ll take a documentary every time.
Now that we have NetFlix streaming through our Wii, (and Hulu has lots of great ones completely for free) I’m getting the opportunity to catch-up on some great documentaries I’ve wanted to see but missed.
Lord, Save us From Your Followers I don’t know who Dan Merchant is, but I really appreciate his outlook on the church. The film is dripping with the “inside the Nashville Christian scene” smell… But if you can look past that and the Michael Moore copying, the message of the movie is really interesting.
Essentially, Merchant points out that over the last few years Christians have made themselves outcasts in the greater society. Merchant points out some areas where we look especially nutty and reminds us, “Um, this isn’t the Christianity of the Bible. Where’s the love?” I was especially touched by the scene where Dan sets up a confessional at Gay Pride weekend in Portland. How’s that for cultural engagement?
If you can get past the cheese and the stupid outfit he wore the whole time– its a decent film. I’m looking for more from Merchant and assuming that future films will be better. I’d suggest dropping the book deals as it just makes the film seem like a commercial for the book.
Man on Wire I wasn’t alive when this event actually happened, but I was completely captivated by the documentary about the stunt. On August 7th, 1974, Philippe Petit spent 45 minutes dazzling onlookers below as he walked a 3/4″ wire he had rigged between the north & south towers of the World Trade Center. Later, when questioned about the stunt by the media he told them, “When I see three oranges, I juggle; when I see two towers, I walk.”
Besides winning the 2008 Academy Award for Best Documentary there were a few things I appreciated about the film. First, while the centerpiece of the movie was the Twin Towers there was never a mention of the September 11th attack which brought them down. Second, the movie was beautiful. The filmmaker uses light and darkness in a way that makes the entire movie enchanting. Third, this movie is about chasing ones dreams– even if they are absolutely insane and may get you killed. Fourth, the film shows the power of artistically and magically breaking cultural mores. The delight on the arresting officers face tells the whole story.
Jesus Camp This movie has been out since 2007, so plenty of people have seen it. As I was watching it, I fell for the sucker pins. The producers of the film wanted to show how crazy Evangelicals can be and how churches are manipulating children to be political activists for the religious right. I was appalled and a bit angry that any parent would allow Becky Fischer to talk to their children like that. (And the one kid with the mullet, man he rocked that mullet HARD!)
Of course, the movie went to find extremes. It labeled the main characters as Evangelicals– yet they were far from middle-of-the-road evangelicals. These are our Evangelical cousins who are just a little bit short of handling snakes. Where homeschooling is normative and cultural engagement is seen as grabbing the devil by the tail.
Stepping back, I think the film has a lot to teach those of us who work with children and teenagers in the church. Anyone who teaches teens knows that it is really easy to manipulate a response and what we saw was some pretty nasty manipulation. (I mean, really? Talking to 9 year olds about abortion and giving them tiny fetus’ to hold onto. Really?)
Anyone who teaches knows that we can scare kids to get them to do whatever we want. But if we want to change a students life we know that they have to encourage them to make rational decisions which they can own for themselves. We know that when we allow students to encounter truth, giving them space to think about it, and respecting their personhood– they will make lifelong decisions. The film reminded me of the phrase, “Fear is a short term motivator.”
All three are great documentaries for creating discussion. They’d be really cool to watch with your leadership team or adult small group.