Sunday, November 6, 2011

Audience of One

Directed by Michael Jacobs

I think it would be wise to preface this review with the statement that I've never understood religion.  Having grown up without having one thrust at me, I never began to believe, and what's more, I've never been able to fully understand the people who do.  Sure, I like to tell myself that I respect all religions as beautiful things, but when you look at how many of the world's problems have been caused or exacerbated by blind faith, it's a lot easier to work under the assumption that religious people are kind of crazy.

Recently, while watching the tenth issue of Wholphin, I came across a thirty minute condensation (like a Readers' Digest version) of Michael Jacobs's documentary Audience Of One.  It blew me away, and I immediately ordered the full-length film.

This documentary follows Richard Gazowsky, a Pentecostal pastor who tends to a ministry in San Francisco.  Gazowsky received a message from God directing him to revive the film industry by making the greatest movie ever - a Biblical epic called Gravity: The Shadow of Joseph.  The film is most frequently described as a cross between 'Star Wars and The Ten Commandments', and was to have a budget in excess of $200 million dollars.  Gazowsky and his flock sink their life savings into this film, and begin to make elaborate costumes, sets, and props before flying to Italy for five days of filming.

Not unexpectedly, considering that most of the actors and crew who were not church members were found on Craigslist, things don't go well. Soon, the crew is back in California, chasing investors, ducking creditors, and spending a lot of time praying.  Much of this movie is hilarious, but is at the same time pretty sad.  Gazowsky has a cult-leader's influence over the people in the church, including his two (gorgeous) daughters and son.

Watching this, it's hard to believe that Gazowsky is not having his fun at everyone's expense, but when you see the emotion on his face during prayers where people speak in tongues and flop around on the floor, you come to realize that he really believes this stuff.  In that way, this film can be seen as a testament to the power of faith, but it's also a lot of fun watching it as a chronicle of some deeply weird people doing some crazy stuff, and that makes it more entertaining than any reality TV.

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