Thursday, April 6, 2006

Screen Door Jesus

Directed by Kirk Davis
Written by Kirk Davis, Christopher Cook
Starring Terry Parks and a bunch of others you've never heard of.
IMDB Entry

Certainly the most obscure film on this list.

The fate of most indy films is always a matter of luck. I saw Screen Door Jesus at the Empire State Film Festival in Schenectady in 2003 and I felt it was the best film of the year.  Yet it didn't win the festival (despite my vote), even if it won awards elsewhere, and it didn't get to Sundance and vanished from sight.  When I made a comment on it at the film's website, I got a personal e-mail from the producer asking for more details.

It's a shame, really.  Screen Door Jesus is a series of interlocked stories about religious faith in the small Texas town of Bethlehem. The title refers to an image of Jesus found on the screen door of one of the people, and the problems it causes (the director was clever in not showing the picture, leaving the question of whether it actually existed up to the viewer).  Race also is part of the mix, first brought out in the opening where a Black Pentecostal church congregation is shown celebrating in song (with one white woman as part of it) then a White Baptist congregation is shown celebrating more sedately (with one black family in the crowd).

My favorite sequence is when one woman decides that her grandchildren need to know about Jesus. 

Grandmother:  "Jesus died, but then rose from the grave."
Kid:  "Like in a horror movie?"

Grandmother:  "If you didn't have a soul, you'd be just a robot."
Grandson:  "A robot?  Cool!"

And the immortal line:  "If Jesus has super powers, he could make a robot with a soul."

There are jokes, but ultimately, the film is a movie about belief, and respectful of it, and our opinions of the characters change as we learn more about them.  The grandmother I'm quoting is a bit ridiculous, but turns out to be much more a figure you feel sorry for by the end. 

If you go to the Screen Door Jesus website, you can find a few clips.

I see that they're still plugging away with it, trying to reach the religious audiences that made Passion of the Christ a hit. I'm skeptical that the attitudes will play well, but if it makes the film a success, more power to it.

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