Directed by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, Jesus Camp (2006) is a documentary that focuses on a fundamentalist, evangelical Pentecostal Christian church that holds a camp every summer to discuss issues of faith with children and adolescents. The documentary observes the activities and sermons at the camp, and how these activities are then transferred into the everyday lives of the kids who attend.
- I watched this documentary tonight so this is almost like an immediate purging of my feelings rather than a well-thought-out review.
- If this film wasn’t a documentary, it could easily be a horror film.
- It was disturbing to see all these kids shaking and crying in the name of religious activity. I think perhaps that people who are familiar with speaking in tongues and other such behaviours might be more comfortable with this, but for me, it was truly scary.
- We’re introduced to a couple of kids who go to the camp and I thought it was really cute how the 9 year old girl wanted to open a Christian nail salon. She did speak as though she’d been fed a lot of information, but at the same time it was interesting to note that she still had personal interests outside of her faith; something that isn’t represented with many of the other characters.
- Same goes for the 10 year old girl who loved Christian heavy metal music and dancing in the name of God (rather than dancing “for the flesh”). She had some sick breakdancing moves.
- Even scarier than the speaking in tongues and the shaking and crying was watching these people attempt to talk with any kind of authority about the merits of science versus the glory of Creationism. Again – it’s like a horror movie.
- However, the scary moments were occasionally balanced by humour. For example, when the leader of the camp is quoted as saying, “I love the American lifestyle!” just as the camera pans over an entire street full of fast food restaurants. There’s another funny moment as she asks God to bless her Powerpoint presentations to make sure they work properly, and then we watch as she chooses the right font for a Powerpoint presentation about sin. She eventually chooses the font that looks as if it has blood dripping off it.
- Another hilarious moment was where the camp leader denied that she had any political intentions with the activities at the camp, just after she had made all the kids smash cups that represented the separation of church and state in schools, and the apparent control that the government has over religious expression.
- The evangelical Christian voice is balanced by a more progressive Christian radio host, who was occasionally featured discussing the state of Christianity in America and the ways that fundamentalists are affecting American politics. The presence of this radio host gave my nerves a rest. Even though it was a good resting moment, this was the radio host’s only role and he stuck out like a sore thumb. He didn’t contribute to the overall camp story, he just popped up with an alternative viewpoint from time to time. Reflecting on this, he seems like a strange addition. Maybe there weren’t any other people willing to provide a voice to balance the story.
- It’s tough to say whether this film was attempting to make a particular comment about the camp. It’s interesting that it just shows us the camp, the children, and the things they do, without really making any comment on it.
- The film allows the characters to speak for themselves rather than having a concrete conflict to resolve. In this way it doesn’t have to point out any contradictions or flaws because they naturally appear (if you choose to see them).
- I think it depends which viewpoint you’re coming from, in terms of how you’d interpret this film. If you’re an evangelical or fundamentalist Christian, you might think the activities are all normal and justifiable. But if you don’t follow those particular beliefs, or if you don’t have any religious beliefs at all – this is the scariest film you’ll see in a long time.
- There’s great music as well. There was an amazing rap about Jesus as the kids got to the camp which was pretty wack, but I loved it in an ironic way. (Edit: I found the rap! Be prepared for some questionable dance moves though.) There’s some very effective percussion music whilst the kids are listening to a sermon, that builds and builds as the inevitable conclusion of speaking in tongues and religious hysteria occurs. The final credits of the film are set to ‘Spirit in the Sky’ by Norman Greenbaum, which was absolutely perfect.
- I am confident in saying that Jesus Camp was one of the most anxious and uncomfortable experiences of my film-watching life. There were moments when my jaw just dropped, and an unidentifiable sense of pain was stuck in my chest. Maybe it was a cardiac arrest. Some moments had me swearing at the screen. Any film that consists of making kids cry and look absolutely psychologically traumatised is horrible for me to watch, personally. But at the same time I’m glad I’ve watched it because it’s a very effective documentary.
- Oh, and this video is probably the best thing to come out of this film.
Watch this film at Amazon!