GOD ON MY SIDE
Australian ABC TV talkshow host Andrew Denton attends the 63rd National Religious Broadcaster's Convention in Dallas, Texas, in February 2006, where more than 6000 Christian communicators gather. He interviews several delegates about their faith and examines the cutting edge of evangelical technology, the business of God, the America of the religious right, and what the 'inescapable truths of the Bible' mean as an adjunct to US politics.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
With footage of Muslims burning effigies, Andrew Denton begins by setting out the film's agenda: if we are witnessing a clash of civilisations, and we often see public portrayals of fundamentalist Muslim activity, how do they see our own Judeo-Christian evangelists. The irony of the doco is that in digging into America's religious right, we are given a portrait of people who certainly are extremists, but as one interviewee points out, the end result of their fundamentalism isn't killing people who don't share their faith. Muslim fundamentalists can make no such claim, he says. I say irony because the complexity of the subject is somewhat hidden beneath a slightly ambiguous tone which alternates between objective enquiry and quiet ridicule.
But the main point of the opening is that it puts the film into its political context - a timely one at that. It's a giant subject, at the very heart of human existence.
The convention of National Religious Broadcasters offers film crews an opportunity that a cameraman colleague of mine would describe as 'shooting rats in a barrel'; Denton shoots them with a variety of weapons, ranging from lassos to shotguns, from cajoling little pistols to the blunderbuss, sometimes point blank.
The worldly and the well travelled all know how strange the American religious broadcasting community may seem to those outside it. In this concentrated form, they seem even more strange, more divorced from reality. Their undying faith in Jesus, their shiny goodwill and their hymns are seen here in isolation from their everyday lives, simply as a construct within the confines of a gathering of likeminded people. This gives the film a slightly odd sense of disconnection with reality, but after all, the Convention is the subject.
The film touches on all the hot topics of inter-faith and faithful-v-atheist conflicts, so as an insight into a specific and influential group in American society, God On My Side does the best it can in 79 minutes. Denton fans and Australia's religious right will be glued ... how's that for a broad audience!
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GOD ON MY SIDE (PG)
CAST: Documentary presented by Andrew Denton
NARRATION: Andrew Denton
PRODUCER: Jon Casimir, Anita Jacoby
DIRECTOR: Anita Jacoby
SCRIPT: Andrew Denton, Jon Casimir
CINEMATOGRAPHER: David Lee (camera Eric Grammel)
EDITOR: Tim Wilson, Robert Werner
MUSIC: Not credited
PRODUCTION DESIGN: n/a
RUNNING TIME: 79 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hopscotch
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 2, 2006