Friday, December 28, 2007
Films about religious camps: from Camp Out to Jesus Camp, to the kibbutz
In 2006 there were two contrasting small films about “Christian” camps that appeared at roughly the same time. They make a striking comparison.
“Jesus Camp,” although shot as 4:3 digital video by A&E Indie (directed by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, 87 min), got regular commercial theatrical distribution by Magnolia Pictures. I saw it at Landmark E Street Theater in downtown Washington DC. The film traces the lives of evangelical teens in the Kansas City area as they prepare for and then go to an evangelical summer camp near Devil’s Lake, ND (in winter, often the coldest place in the country!) Becky Fisher plays herself, and is most determined to communicate her Christian fervor (that’s how it comes across) with no apologies. This is a matter of Faith, of putting Jesus first, of being God’s warriors, and taking belief and religious authority over reason.
“Camp Out,” directed by Kirk Marcolina and Larry Grimaldi (78 min), is also about a summer camp – this one in Minnesota (Bay Lake Camp) for gay teenagers. That sounds like it would be a world apart from the first film discussed here. Actually, most of the film chronicles the personal friendships developed among the participants. The film is very gentle and stays well within PG to PG-13 territory. There are talent shows and craft works; one of the campers wants to go to divinity school (which organizations like UFMCC can facilitate), and one of the counselors tells his harrowing experience getting ordained in a Lutheran church after coming out. (Like most denominations, Lutherans, common in Minnesota and northern states, vary widely from liberal to conservative congregations). This film was shown free in 2006 at the Lincoln Theater in Washington DC as part of Reel Affirmations 16, but I missed the screening. Since Comcast does not have Logo here, it was a while before I saw it, but I found it on Logoonline.com in its entirety in ten chapters. (The link is here. Netflix shows the DVD as in save status.
MGM has a commercial film called “Camp” (2003, dir. Tom Graff) is a musical (music by Stephen Trask) about college age kids in a summer arts camp.
The Jewish community has a couple of small films about the equivalent of a religious camp, the kibbutz, although in a sense that’s different because a kibbutz is a more or less permanent residential settlement (with considerable political significance to problems in the Middle East). One of them is called simply "Kibbutz" (2006, directed by Racheli Schwartz, 53 min) and deals with the practical economic problems of the community. Another is called "The Children’s House", dir. Tamir Feingold (53 min) documents how children were separated from their parents in kibbutz life. I saw these films in 2006 at a Jewish Film Festival at the Jewish Community Center in Washington DC.