Thursday, June 04, 2009

Christian Music...Gross!

by Leslie Foster

What do a mysterious terminal illness, a pastor's kid headed for hell, and contemporary Christian music have to do with each other? Absolutely everything when it comes to the film Jesus People. Directed by Jason Naumann and written and produced by Dan Ewald and Rajeev Sigamoney, (full disclosure: I'm currently developing a film with Sigamoney) the film explores the lengths to which a father will go to save his son.

Sigamoney, who attends the Hollywood SDA Church (known to its members as The Purple Church), recruited dozens of church members to serve as extras in several scenes; and even to serve on the crew, including Christina Attiken, Susan Nwankpa, and Nathan French--who served as production coordinator, assistant property master, and production assistant respectively.

Shooting the film over a patchwork of weeks in order to accommodate the cast and crew's busy schedules, Naumann, Sigamoney, and Ewald crafted a provocative and funny story in which a good man, in his own misguided way, will stop at nothing to save his child. Believing his son is succumbing to worldly influences and having recently been diagnosed with a strange illness that his doctor warns is irreversible, Pastor Jerry decides to create a Christian pop group to win back his son before it's too late. Wading into the weird, alternative universe that is CCM, Pastor Jerry recruits a washed-up Christian singer and three unknowns to his band "Cross My Heart."

Those who enjoy the work of Christopher Guest or have been fans of the recent crop of mockumenary-styled television shows such as "Arrested Development" or "The Office" will immediately feel at home in the universe Sigamoney and Ewald have created, with its painfully awkward and self-concious moments. The film doesn't shy away from poking at Christian stereotypes and attitudes, but manages to pull it off with surprisingly little cynicism and, dare i say, lovingly.

There are most definitely uncomfortable moments and something squirm-worthy for everyone watching. Most people will leave offended by at least one thing in the film. In both the screenings I have attended, there have been moments of dead silence punctuated by a few nervous giggles several times throughout the movie. Does this detract from the film? It will for some, but it will keep them talking about Jesus People for days to come and I suspect the filmmakers had that outcome in mind.

Despite or perhaps because of its moments of uncomfortable truth, the mockumentary is the perfect format to explore the insular world of contemporary Christian music and in fact, the very insulated lives many of us who are Christians live. Jesus People manages to wrap dealing with death, fear of selling-out, hypocrisy, romance, and much more into a tight, very entertaining film. It is a rare commodity in its ability to mock the oddities of Christian life while respecting the characters at which it pokes fun. It is filled with laughs and more than a few gentle moments that will take viewers by surprise.


  1. As of this posting, there are no commercial copies yet available - I know the filmmakers are in talks about distribution - but you can watch the trailer and find out the latest news here:

  2. Poking fun is Christian??? This whole magazine is not really sda! Why not do the ethical thing and leave the church and start your own!!

  3. I believe drama is an excellent way to reach out to the church and community. When I heard about the "Red Books" I thought it would be offensive. Then I saw it. I loved it and found it honest and most creative.
    For the conservative amongst us, I think you would do much better evangelism if it was done in a play or musical rather than the talking heads we see on video.

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