Directed by: Heidi Ewing and Rochel Grady
Premise: A documentary about evangelicals in Colorado, focusing on a camp intended to indoctrinate children to be “soldiers for Jesus.”
What Works: Jesus Camp embeds itself within the evangelical movement and is able to penetrate the subculture while also telling some interesting personal stories by creating character sketches of the children and their families. The result is a very interesting portrait of this group and the ideology behind it. Jesus Camp is similar to the documentaries of Errol Morris (The Fog of War, Vernon, Florida) in that the filmmakers turn on the camera and let the subjects reveal themselves. At the same time, the picture achieves something very close to an objective documentary. Audience’s reactions to the film may range between inspiration and absolute horror, depending on what religious and ideological camps they belong to. This adds to Jesus Camp’s credibility because the journalism of the film has such authority and integrity.
What Doesn’t: Jesus Camp has some notable technical flaws. The sound quality is poor in some parts, as the audio inexplicably goes out. This is due to the on-the-spot documentary style of the film, but the defects detract from the film.
DVD extras: Commentary track, deleted scenes.
Bottom Line: While Jesus Camp is not a major breakthrough in the documentary genre, it is enlightening and frightening. The film raises important issues for evangelicals, non-evangelical Christians, secularists, and all those interested in how religion shapes the culture.
Episode: #127 (January 28, 2007)