"Jesus People" Proves Even Christians Can Be Funny
- Monday, April 27, 2009
Release Date: **This film is currently making the spring and summer film festival rounds—more release details available at jesuspeoplefilm.com.
Rating: Not Rated
Genre: Comedy, Satire
Run Time: 90 min.
Actors: Wendi McLendon-Covey, Jennifer Elise Cox, Mindy Sterling, Tim Bagley, Laura Silverman, Octavia Spencer, Carrie Aizley, Catherine Reitman, Nikki Boyer, Joel McCrary, Robert Bagnell, Lindsey Stidham, Edi Patterson, Rich Pierrelouis, Damon Pfaff
For the Christian music community, Gospel Music Week is always the crème de la crème of the calendar year in a city known for its music—Nashville, Tennessee. But instead of the usual country acts in the spotlight, this week’s all about gospel music in its myriad of forms—pop, rock, hip-hop, heavy metal, southern gospel, you name it.
In addition to interviews between artists and national media outlets, showcases at all the local venues and symposiums designed to help everyone involved do their respective jobs a little better, the week culminates with the GMA Music Awards, the faith-based set’s equivalent of the GRAMMY Awards.
And really, aside from the feeling that a few more people decided to opt out of GM Week (for financial reasons, perhaps?), this year’s festivities really weren’t all that different. Interviews went as scheduled. It still wasn’t easy deciding which showcases to attend—and which to skip. Basically, by the end of the week, you’re ready to collapse from the constant flurry of activity. You know, GM Week as usual.
But a rather buzzworthy opportunity to stir the proverbial pot arrived two nights before the GMA Music Awards with the screening of Jesus People at the Belcourt in Hillsboro Village. A mockumentary in the style of Spinal Tap meets TV’s The Office meets Christopher Guest’s For Your Consideration or Best in Show, the flick effectively spoofed the very industry having its annual moment of glory.
Not that the audience, a full house comprised of industry insiders, artists (yes, Christian music artists), college students and regular ol’ film fans seemed to mind, though. From beginning to end, the screenplay, penned by Dan Ewald (who has written about Christian music for many respected publications over the years), Rajeev Sigmoney and director Jason Naumann, elicited a steady stream of laughs at the idiosyncrasies of mixing faith and art “for the glory of God.” But unlike, say, 2004’s Saved, those providing the tongue-in-cheek commentary actually have a little fun with the Christian subculture without actually mocking God in the process. Imagine that.
Being in on the joke definitely helped Ewald, Signmoney and Naumann write about the absurdities of Christian music with credible (and pithy) authority, while offering some occasionally convicting fodder for post-movie discussion in the process. More than anything, however, it effectively showcases a little-known fact about Christians: We can be genuinely funny from time to time.
And for anyone who’s been in church for very long, there’s nothing funnier than when a pastor (with no musical experience to speak of) decides to start a Christian band because he’s afraid for his son’s spiritual condition.
Hoping to provide a viable alternative for his teenage kid’s decidedly secular musical preferences, Pastor Jerry Frank (Joel McCrary) is so incredibly earnest one can’t help but want to cheer him on. But in one misguided move after the next, (imagine those really, really bad American Idol auditions from the contestants convinced they’re the next Celine Dion, and you’ve got the right idea), there’s part of you that also wishes you could give him a crash course in reality.
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