cellardoor1116 (cellardoor1116) wrote,

Jesus Camp

I have yet to see the actual film, but I stumbled upon the debate swirling around this film just today. And when I found a Pentecostal blogger blogging about the subject, I had to join in.

You see, it's one thing to be angry that someone from outside your belief system inaccurately (to your mind) represents your beliefs and behaviours but posits them as truth. I get positively incensed when I see Conservatives painting Liberals as these crazy, irrational and greedy people who don't know what's right and wrong (see, for example, the children's book
"Help Mom! There are liberals under my bed!"). So that, I can understand.

Grady and Ewing are not Pentecostals. But they dare to try to understand them through their children, attending Pentecostal camp. I have not actually seen the film, so I am not going to take a stand as to whether or not it is or is not biased. However, I will take a stand in reading an article about the film, in interview with Ewing and Grady that has been frequently teased, distorted and conveniently edited to meet the needs of the Pentecostal retaliation.

Like I say, I don't know if the film IS biased or not. I would even be willing to guess that it is because it's hard NOT to create a biased documentary. However, if your big complaint is that they decontextualised members of the Pentecostal faith and used extreme examples to illustrate their point... don't then do the same in return.

The following was my response to said blog:

Dear Rich,

I found many of your comments very insightful and interesting. However I would like to note that you yourself are subscribing to the very behaviour you criticise: In one of the articles you reference about “Jesus Camp” and its makers, Grady and Ewing, they do not condemn or even too deeply distort the camp or the faith behind it even according to the camp leader herself. However in your blog, you have edited around their comments in order to depict them as filmmakers who created something extreme out of nothing at all.

Regarding your comments about the lack of conflict within the raw footage and how they then throw in many disparate elements in order to create a better story, if you read the entire article, it actually says is the following:

“I agree with Poland that Papantonio’s role feels a bit forced and unnecessary and could perhaps be edited down before the film is widely distributed. When I asked Grady why he was included, she revealed Papantonio actually “was a late add to the movie; we had been editing for six or seven months before we incorporated him.” She explains that without his scenes, “There was absolutely no conflict. There was no conflict of conscience on any of the children’s part, there was no conflict of conscience on any of the adult’s part. Part of their lifestyle is they don’t have a lot of doubt. They very much believe that their lifestyle and what they’re doing is the one and the only way to live, and they hope that people will join them. So there was something about it that just felt like it wasn’t dynamic enough.” Papantonio’s involvement does allow for at least one interesting moment late in the film, when Fischer calls into Papantonio’s radio program and the two briefly interact in a moment representative of the larger national debate that is sure to ensue when the film becomes available to a larger audience.” (Scott Feinburg, May 2006, emphasis mine)

The comment about a lack of conflict is not regarding conflict within the story arc, nor is it regarding a lack of conflict because of the angelic and peaceful nature of these people; this lack of conflict which Grady astutely points out is one of belief. Because Evangelicals tend not to question The Word and subsequent beliefs, but instead regard it as absolute truth, filming solely amongst members of that insular community allows no conflict of belief that characterises the greater national debate facing our country right now.

Also, Fischer is (apparently) very pleased with the way the film came out. She feels she was given an accurate and balanced portrayal of herself and her mission. Or so says the article.

But if it serves your point better to edit that out and instead insinuate these filmmakers “toss in a conflicted profile of the “Kids on Fire” camp director, Becky Fischer; include a few oddball characters for color and commentary”, so be it. Your editing skills seem to fight fire with fire.
Tags: academy awards, documentary film, faith, films, jesus camp, pentecostal, religion

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