7 October 2006 | smakawhat
Enter the world of Jesus Camp, a brilliant documentary that chronicles the life of several people who attend or set up a "Jesus Camp" in (ironicaly) Devils Lake North Dakota.
Filmmakers Heidi Ewing, and Rachel Grady decide to focus mostly on the children that attend, with some focus on minister Becky Fisher who is one of the main architects of the camp.
Right away the filmmakers show a growing underlying change in the evangelical movement, to politicize their beliefs. Voice overs start talking about the newest supreme court nomination of Alito. However, once the focus starts on the kids who attend the camp the film gets its bearing.
What becomes obvious is that paranoia and fear is driven into the kids. There is Ashley a young girl, and Levi an older boy who seems to be on the quest to become a minister and preacher himself. It's obvious he likes the attention that is given him. But the kids are still kids, Levi and his friend go out into the woods and do what all kids do, explore find a scary spider, Levi even mentions, I like to throw rocks.
But then they are back in lessons again, scarred out of their boots in a sermon as they are being told to stay away from Harry Potter, abortion, and that they are essentially dirty from all the sins they carry. Most of them can't hold back the tears. Levi mentions he said he was saved when he was 5 years old (I can only think of the horrible things that he must have been guilty of to be converted (too much sugar cereal maybe?) ) The filmmakers do the smart thing and let the pictures and words speak for themselves. There is no voice over narration, no probing questions from the film-makers to the subjects themselves. There is no debate. The words from the kids just come out, and they are frightening. A sense of brainwashing can only be observed as the kids talk about how they have to fight in gods army, and that everyone else has to be 'purged'. Never mind that at one point kids are worshiping at a card board cut out of George Bush.
Some scenes literally look like they could have came from the movie "Triumph of the Will".
But the brilliance is shown in the innocence that these children loose and don't seem to enjoy in. What young kid needs to know about abortion? or be cleansed of all the horrors of the world? Why can't the kids just make up their own minds with everything but in front of them? When do kids ever get to just.... play? They are hints in the film at that, kids will be kids, little late night camp ghost stories, some break dancing.. it's all in good fun, and perfectly fine.
But it seems like Jesus camp just wants to crush their spirits.
Kudos to the film-makers for showing it real.