Jesus Camp (2006) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
10Sep/101

Jesus Camp (2006)

Danny no longer writes for Can't Stop the Movies, and can be reached at his fantastic site Pre-Code.com

Danny DISLIKELiberal horror porn. Those are really the only complimentary words I could think of when trying to describe Jesus Camp, a documentary about exploiting the innocence of children to preach a message.

Of course, there are evangelical parents and ministers who are doing the same in this film, but the more loathsome culprits are the  makers of this documentary, which is a shallow piece of manipulation that spends most its running time preaching condescending judgment in a histrionic fervor.

The film desperately tries to show you the maniacal ideas that foaming-at-the-mouth evangelicals espouse to cute darling children. Like the evangelicals, the filmmakers know that by using children to sell their message will engender an audience into sympathy. Children are disarming; giving them grown-up ideas to espouse will always play in a polarizing light, but using those messages in a political sense, especially in a sense the children don't intend, is dishonest.

The filmmaker's don't make an appearance in front of the camera, and I imagine that's because any commentary would quickly turn to condescending laughter. Instead we're treated to a proxy, a radio DJ who rambles on about being scared of the sudden prominence of evangelicals in America. He's barely given a name, let alone a background: that he's focused on as the voice of reason (and the only person not treated to ominous musical accompaniment whenever they're on screen) is rather disappointing.

As for the rest of the people captured, I've seen a documentary about origami that treats its subjects with more dignity than this film attempts.

Mostly we follow two kids, a boy and a girl who both have been recruited by a local youth pastor to spread the word of God. They do such terrifying things like crying for aborted fetuses and talking to people about God's love for them. Both also admit their willingness to die for God's glory, but considering the number of people who die performing sex acts involving nooses every year, this isn't that surprising.

Jesus Camp exploits that these are children, and ignores the individuality of them and their ability to think and reason. We are never given moments where they must defend their faith, and we know nothing of their coming adolescence. The film is far more content with publicly ridiculing and shaming these kids than any sort of reasoned look at their thought process. These children will grow into adults. Some may stay evangelical, some may not. Treating this like an epidemic, using a film to frame them as an enemy, will only further the prosecution complex that their religion is gleefully assigning them.

Especially sick is the film's apparent ridiculing of harmless things; a church director promoting that giving children reason as a good thing, the film's distrust of public schools, and kids innocently singing songs about god are all treated with a sinister tone. The ominous music played attests to the fimmaker's utter fear of leaving any ambiguity. We also get long shots of open spaces, hills and prairies. I'm not sure the point of those, beside to appeal to city-dwellers terrified of the countryside.

Jesus Camp offers no solutions, and, like I said at the beginning, all it really wants it to play as a cheap horror film-- all it really had left to do was for Jesus to pop out of a closet with a big knife and shout "BOO!"

Jesus Camp (2006)

This film is currently available on DVD and Netflix Instant.

Directed by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady

Posted by Danny

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  1. Just saw this doc on netflix.
    Must be that here in Amsterdam they have a re-re-re-edit version (you know like the bible itself) online, cause what I saw was indeed a horror movie like you state.
    But its Christian horror. In my country one would be arrested for this kind of child abuse…
    How I feel sorry for these innocent children, I cant even find the words…
    Anyone who believes that stuffing their minds with this hypocritic, ignorant, untrue, dangerous information will actually not harm them, is an utter idiot. And should be ridiculed without any restrain…


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