Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Day Sixty-Five: Jesus Camp ( 2006) - Rank 5/5


When I watched this for the first time, I was waiting for my shift to end out after staying up for almost 38 hours without sleep (due to various work commitments). In a great effort to stay awake, I flipped this on and not only was I instantly drawn in, but any sense of fatigue was quickly replaced with discomfort. I suppose that for those who've seen the film, they would agree that to label this as one of the more terrifying films made in recent years (certainly the most unsettling documentary I've ever seen). The focus of the film is an objective documentation of children at an Evangelical Christian camp in North Dakota.

The camp is headed by an individual named Becky Fisher, who is shockingly straightforward about her motives, stating that she and other Pentecostal worshippers are well aware of the impressionistic nature of children. They see children as their truest assets and if they mold them into the adults they want and do so with enough over time, then when those children become adults, they will be the majority and vote the way their religion deems fit (the now-disgraced Ted Haggard reiterates her points later on). Far more eerie than this mindset of what children should be are the kids themselves.

There is something highly creepy about watching six-year olds babbling in tongues, arms outstretched towards the heavens and tears streaming down their eyes. Just as unsettling are those about to hit their teens - children already prepped to become ministers and teach others about the "right way to worship the Lord." Fascinatingly enough, filmmakers Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady never present this documentary with an intended message. They simply pointed a camera at an element of our culture that many might not be aware of (I knew that culture existed, but never to that degree). The viewer is then left to justify whether its simply freedom of religion or sheer madness. Either way, the footage within could certainly be a badge of pride for the Pentecostal or evidence of brainwashing for others (whichever extreme you prefer). As an individual from outside that world looking in, I suppose that I'll sound sadly adolescent by summing up my impressions into one, fricative phrase: "That is some fucked up shit!"

Watch the Trailer

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