Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing

A chat with the Jesus Camp co-directors.

"We didn't know we were making a film about politics," says Jesus Camp co-director Rachel Grady, in town recently doing postproduction work at Seattle's AlphaCine labs. The documentary began as a way to understand the evangelical community through its children. A Web site led to Pastor Becky Fischer, who became a central figure in the movie (see review below). Then, while they were filming in the Midwest, Heidi Ewing remembers, Jesus Camp became "a much broader story than one about kids from Missouri who go to summer camp in South Dakota. One of the center points of the kids' lives . . . was abortion. And with the Supreme Court being changed, there was a lot to talk about. It was clear to us this was more of a political film. And we did accelerate the production schedule so that the film would come out before the fall elections. Every day on the front page, there's something that relates to our movie. We did also want to capitalize on that interest." Their movie might not sway many blue-state voters in Manhattan and Seattle, they concede, but they also considered it important that it be screened in red states, too. Ewing explains that their subjects have already seen the picture, and didn't feel offended by it. "They got to know us, [trusted that they] were in good hands, would be treated fairly. We are very anxious and excited to bring the film to more conservative and religious areas of the country. I think that's where the interesting dialogue can really get going." Back on the coasts, Grady sees a somewhat misplaced condescension toward the flyover faith community. "I suffered from a little bit of that arrogance myself," she says. "I had not spent a lot of time in Missouri with fundamentalists before. It had the opposite effect of what I thought it would. The Northeast of America is supposed to be this sophisticated, educated place, and [residents] don't know what's going on in the other part of the country. They're out of the loop." Of this ignorance, Ewing continues: "It was an incredible learning experience. I fear for liberal urban dwellers across the country who feel it's out there, who feel like that thing, that movement, those people can't touch them, are irrelevant in their lives. A lot of the people in our film, the parents, are middle class, live in cul-de-sacs; they're not living in Appalachia. They're not bumpkins; they're college educated. These are American citizens who vote, who read. The perception that the Christian evangelicals in our country are these ignorant nonplayers is so dangerous. Because as everybody sits there ridiculing and ignoring [them], there are 100 million people who have a plan and have an identity and are unified. And clearly have an interest in reshaping our society. And it's working." bmiller@seattleweekly.com

 
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