Further coverage of SUFF – SYDNEY UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL HAS NOW COMMENCED. The Sydney Underground Film Festival is dedicated to nurturing an alternative film culture through the promotion of independent and experimental films. The festival seeks to support filmmakers (especially those who operate outside established film industry infrastructures) by providing a platform for exhibition, exposure and critical discussion. It will be running from September 17th to 20th at The Factory Theatre in Marrickville and is showcasing some EPIC independent content. You can check out the festival schedule and buy tickets from HERE and you can stalk them on Facebook HERE.
JESUS TOWN, USA plays Saturday 19th at SUFF and there are still a couple of tickets left – you can buy them HERE.
Enjoy Kernel Fiona’s review…….all the best…….JK.
BY FIONA FYFE
The Holy City of Wichitas in South West Oklahoma has hosted the story of Jesus for the past 88 years. These people don’t muck around. They have erected a replica of Jerusalem, complete with the Crucifixion Cross, on a Buffalo Reserve. If you want a part in the pageant all you need do is show up between 2-4pm on any Sunday in the lead up to Easter and you can audition. The documentary starts with the search for a new Jesus after Vince – a faithful regular, has decided to retire from the role. The quest begins.
Director, Allen says he has been involved in the play for 46 years. He says he will know when he spots the right person for Jesus. He says it will be someone who has a calling, who recognises the role as an honour. Enter Zack Little – a young newspaper deliverer who travels to the audition with his girlfriend Kathy, via her job at What Burger. Zack, is not so little – weighing in at probably around 130kg – but he has the flowing hair and seemingly the right amount of zealotry to be the new and improved Jesus of Nazareth. Allen prays about it and decides that the Omnipotent One has sent Zack to him.
The other townsfolk are an interesting mix of “redneck” meets “bible-basher.” Dave, who plays Lucifer moonlights as the lighting director. Zack’s girlfriend Kathy plays one of the Roman guards. The caretaker of the local Moses Museum is an 80 year old pageant veteran who has taken in his 20 year old grandson, Kayson. Kayson will be playing Moses in between listening to hard core rap. My personal favourite was the owner of the bar, Dudley. A whiskery old guy who tells it how it is. He doesn’t have much time for Christianity or the mega pageant that takes over the town once a year.
Not so Little Zack cuts a comical figure in his robe and Jesus sandals. If Jerusalem had a Biggest Loser competition, Zack would be an appropriate contestant. In rehearsals, nailed to the Cross, he reflects on what an auspicious and important role he has. He is starstruck. Away from rehearsals and after his paper run, Zack is happy to spend his time playing Sonic the Hedgehog and looking after his gerbils. His house is a complete pig sty and he says that the state of the kitchen reflects the chaos in his mind. It seems Zack is harbouring a terrible secret.
In an emotional scene, Zack confesses to his girlfriend that he is a Buddhist. He said this came about after a chance encounter at a takeaway with an Asian man and it all “just felt right”. The biggest problem he is now faced with is how to break this news to the director and his parents? Will he be letting people down if he isn’t the real McCoy? Will he be tarred and feathered and run out of town for eschewing Christianity? Will the angry masses call for his crucifixion.
His parents are visibly disappointed. When he confesses all to Allen the Director, he is told that the devil is trying to win out over the Light. A lot of praying ensues and Zack is caught in a crisis of conscience. What to do? The night before the pageant, Allen takes it upon himself to announce that one of the cast is struggling with their faith. The flock listens in hushed silence. It is all too much for Zack who immediately outs himself as a wanton Buddhist. Perhaps this is an act of true bravery given that most of the town’s population are Jesus Freaks. (I was waiting for the pitch forks to appear). You can’t help but admire the boy’s courage especially as his father has been prone to bursting into tears since he heard the news. The reaction and ultimate outcome is both surprising and unexpected.
Mintz and Pinder have created an intriguing window into a town devoted to its faith. Impressively, the production is actually the longest running Passion play in America. It has put Wichitas on the map for better or worse. In previous years the audience has swelled past the 80,000 mark – all sitting in rapture on Audience Hill. Add to this an amusing soundtrack and you have what makes for a very interesting documentary. And anyway, as Jesus said, “let he who is without sin cast the first stone”. Watch and see whether Zack gets to feel the love.
Kernel Fiona was a criminal defence lawyer in a former life and now critiques books and writes short stories. She can’t resist spending large tracts of time in libraries, book shops and at writer’s festivals. Hopelessly in love with the written word, she told JK when applying for a writing position that “I would rather read then breathe” – I knew I had my next reviewer right then.