Call your documentary “Jesus Camp,” but focus very little on the inner workings of an actual Evangelical Christian summer camp. Really just make your movie about how you think Evangelical Christians are f*cked up and how scared you are that they actually have the right to vote in America and lobby and campaign. Oh, but don’t film actual Evangelical Christians doing any of this. Film Pentecostal Christians speaking in tongues and twitching and then lead your audience to believe you’re filming Evangelical Christians…
She goes on with this analysis:
… Jesus Camp was useless. I learned a little about how these kids live. Very little. The whole project was a couple of aghast, shocked — shocked! — East coast girls with cameras who had already made up their minds about what they set out to do: show the liberals out there some “Christian Right” porn.
No risks were taken. No change occurred. No transformations took place. The film itself was barely watchable because the filmmakers made no effort to delve more deeply into any of their subjects’ lives and therefore made it impossible for me to care that much about anyone in the film.
She makes some valid points.
Though when I watched it, I never got the impression that this camp was representative of all Evangelical camps. I’m sure there are people reading this who can shed more light on what Christian Bible Camps are actually like…
I think just the fact that the camp depicted in the movie exists in the first place is noteworthy. How could anyone send their children to that place?
It’s the same reason Fred Phelps‘ Westboro Baptist Church frightens me. It’s not that his church is representative of other Christian churches — obviously it’s not. But it’s there. And that alone draws me to documentaries about Phelps’ clan. There doesn’t have to be a revelation or learning experience. The exposure alone lets you know that religious beliefs can be taken to a horrible extreme (outside the realm of actual terrorism).
Jesus Camp exposes one world of Christian extremists. It focuses on one person, Becky Fischer, the lady that runs the camp. Could the filmmakers have interviewed kids’ parents more than they did? Could they have focused on the kids’ lives outside of camp? Absolutely. But you can’t do everything and the camp was a good central location for the confluence of ideas that shape the characters’ lives.
Was it unfair? Hardly. It was accurate. Fischer even said as much in interviews.
Still, I haven’t heard much criticism of the movie from people sympathetic to the non-religious side and Mary provides an alternative perspective on the film that you don’t see very often.