No not those kind of Docs. These kind of Docs.
I checked out two more documentaries in my annual “new year” quest for truth, knowledge & reality. Now, I have to admit that with these two I am wading into some fairly controversial water here. But, both are riveting. Both are fascinating. Both will push buttons that some are not ready or willing to have pushed.
Religulous is a documentary/comedy written by & starring Bill Maher. It “examines & satirizes organized religion & religous belief.” Basically Bill Maher travels around the world to “interview” people about religion. In particular their religion. And trust me, he takes pot-shots at everyone. He even manages to deconstruct Scientology at London’s famous Speakers’ Corner (no, not the CityTV one), & pretty much expose it for the massive lunacy that it is (trust me, watch the scene….you will scratch your head & subsequently be even more frightened by Tom Cruise & his Scientology cronies).
What can I say about it? If you don’t find Bill Maher funny, you probably won’t like his “take” on religion. I actually find him to be quite hilarious. And so, to me, is Religulous. We all laughed out loud. Particularly when Bill goes to speak to Mark Pryor, a U.S. senator from Arkansas, who believes in creationism (and yes folks, he’s a Democrat). The whole interview is hysterical, with Pryor seemingly making up words at will. But, Maher must have thought he truly struck gold when Pryor was talking about creationism & said “You don’t have to pass an IQ test to be in the Senate.” We honestly about fell on the floor. And Maher’s deadpan reaction? Classic.
The movie ends on what I can only describe as, for lack of a better term, a buzzkill. With Maher’s traditional oration/summation of the particular subject at hand. Although, much of what he had to say may hold true it is scored/visualized with an “end-of-the-world” backdrop that leaves you with, well, said buzzkill. You realize that Maher has been lulling you into a false sense of security with all of the laughs, only to drop the bomb (literally & figuratively) of the true reason for Maher making this movie. A sermon of his own.
Constantine’s Sword is a historical-documentary based on the book of the same name, by former priest James Carroll. Carroll takes the viewer on a “journey to confront his past and uncover the roots of religiously inspired violence and war. At its core, Constantine’s Sword is a compelling personal narrative — a
kind of detective story — as one man uncovers the dark areas of his own
past, searching for a better future.” Bascially we follow Carroll as he tries to reconcile his relationship with his religion with the atrocities performed in the name of his religion.
I will admit to you that I know very little about any of the major organized religions. I went to public school in Ontario in the 70s & 80s, which meant I still said the Lord’s Prayer & did projects on “The Christmas Story” (and nothing else) at Christmas-time. That was pretty much my exposure to any religion. I have been interested in seeking out information, mostly to understand other people’s views, but alas life often gets in the way. A copy of Karen Armstrong’s A History of God has been sitting on my nightside table for years. Unread. Harry Potter happened. Pregnancy books happened. Parenting books happened. Pretty much any other reading material has happened.
Anyway, I digress. So, as I watched this movie I was just floored with the information flowing over me. It was shocking. There is a moment where Carroll is talking about the Vietnam War & the fact that the (American) Catholic Church never had any stated opinion on it. He says that if “we were dropping contraceptives on Vietnam, instead of napalm, there would have been an uproar by the Catholic Church.” Man, that hit me like a ton of bricks. Because it is pretty much true. And sad. But at the core of the movie is a person who was willing to let us all in on his journey, pain & self-doubt. Where Bill Maher is comedic & sarcastic, James Carroll is reverent & plain spoken. I hope I don’t sound too sanctimonious, but this movie still haunts me.
It is funny because, I sometimes feel that saying I’m the “Movie Mom” is a bit of a sham. I don’t have access to any more movies than you all do. But I feel like I can bring some attention to movies that otherwise may not get any. Kind of like that friend who always has a recommendation for a movie you may have missed. I know that there are so many documentaries out there, & just like mainstream films, they are there to tell a story. We are always going to be drawn to stories that affirm our own beliefs or opinions, rather than challenge them. Whether these two movies affirm or challenge your beliefs, they both have merit. And they will both have you talking afterward.
Both Religulous & Constantine’s Sword are available now on DVD.