Monday, October 20, 2014

WITH GOD ON OUR SIDE (2010) Shows Relevancy of Evangelical Film

Porter Speakman's 81 minute documentary is perhaps one of the finest primers on the entire Israel-Palestine conflict, and it comes out of a genre I never expected.  Christian film has always been a unique direct-to-video genre that began when the first VCRs became available.  From children's programming teaching basic parables and Bible verses to more mature fare, such as the adaptations of LEFT BEHIND, it's a genre that has never been, to my knowledge at least, analyzed from a film studies perspective.
Framed as the story of an evangelical pastor's son taking a trip to understand the nature of the conflict, the total narrative up until the mid-2000's, when this was produced, is explained with dynamic graphics, archive footage, and interviews with Ilan Pappe, Norman Finkelstein, Pastor John Hagee, the director of B'Tselem, and everyday men and women in Palestine, including several Christian Palestinians and their families.
The film has essentially three acts as a narrative documentary, an introductory segment of primary questions the film hopes to resolve, an exposition using timeline graphics and imagery from archives that lasts approximately 45 minutes, and then a 20 minute resolution of Evangelical pastors and theologians explaining the basic praxis of a pro-Palestinian theology from a Western perspective.
This radical stance in opposition to the mega-church philosophy Hagee exemplifies, a crass impersonation of Jerry Fallwell, has some intelligence and authenticity that not all documentaries from a secular perspective reach.  It's obvious this is made by a dedicated group of artists and interviewees that want to be certain they get to deliver their message, a certain vibrancy that lacked in BACKDOOR CHANNELS: THE PRICE OF PEACE (2012).
I have previously watched other Christian films made in America as a child in Sunday School.  This film has a maturity and relevance that can be utilized to unite secular and Christian Leftists in opposition to oppression.  The discussion of whether such a synthesis is possible is another topic for another time.

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