Sinners and You
out of ****
careful ladies and gentlemen. America as we know it is under attack
from the most unlikely villain. They look just like you and I,
but their deadly, secret agenda is nothing short of hell-sent:
Their only motivation is to integrate themselves into our pure,
God-fearing society, earn our trust, and slowly use their influence
to pervert and manipulate us. Who are these dastardly evildoers?
No, not Communists. No, not even terrorist spies. These spawns
of Satan are called Sinners, and only through our instruction
will you be able to learn how to defend yourselves from their
all-encompassing, sinister grip!
there are certain ways you can tell a “sinner” from
the average person, and there are also several methods that you
can take to protect yourself from their despicable influence.
These methods are… On second thought, maybe I should simply
let Sinners and You do the talking, because it certainly
has a whole lot to say. It is a short from Beamish Boy Productions
that plays like an old, black-and-white instructional reel, complete
with grainy, scratched film and a audio-quality that makes it
sound like the cast members are speaking into a tin can. Its intention
is to expose the absurdity in many Christian churches that are
bent on dressing everyone in suites and ties and having them carry
around King James Versions of the Bible that should be no smaller
than the average head. As someone who has spent a great deal of
time in the Bible-belt, I can assure you that this film’s
“protagonist” is only a very slight exaggeration of
the real thing.
film creates a metaphor that channels instructional films during
the 1950s Red Scare, with an "expert" showing a young
boy how to properly identify not Communists, but sinners. This
is not a gimmick, but an intelligent approach demonstrating the
absurdity and paranoia of many right-wing conservative Christians,
who even today can be heard insisting that Mr. Rogers went to
hell because he was a (gasp) Presbyterian.
Of course, not everyone in the Moral Majority is this absurd.
In fact, some of the most open, accepting people that I have ever
had the pleasure of knowing were ultra-conservative, Southern
Baptists whose bumper stickers read, “Christians aren’t
perfect. Only forgiven.” But Sinners and You is
not attacking these good, honest folks of the Lake Wobegon-tradition.
What it tries to do is point its fingers at the religious groups
of the pre-exposed Swaggart position who, by God, will protect
themselves from the sinful people of the world (such as persons
who have facial hair, or people who listen to rock music, or people
who go to theater houses, or any “Christian” that
reads any translation of the Bible but King James), and are, by
God, so thankful that they haven’t sinned in twelve years.
film is produced and edited by Stephen Boatright, whose short
moved me to suggest that if Christ was to come back today with
his parables and sermons, he could have been a short film director.
Sinners and You carries on this tradition: Boatright
is certainly a Christian interested in exposing the hypocrites
in the church, and their often absurd neo-conservative views of
the way "good Christians" should walk, talk, and act.
Of course, most of us recognize this absurdity anyway, and Sinners
and You could have fallen into an easy trap of being an obvious
sermon to the choir. Instead, it proves to be a carefully calculated
work that is certain to smash on some toes in the long run. Likening
the case against sinners to the case against 1950s Communists
is an inspired idea, especially when we understand that such witch-hunts
eventually only exposed the hypocrisy of the F.B.I. and certain
senators. This short film, then, is quite a prophecy.
sad twist—one of which Boatright and director Chris Bookless
seem keenly aware—is that in the meantime, many of this
breed of dogmatic persons could view this film and say, “Wow.
This sure is helpful!” Because of that, I wish that the
film had contained a stronger punch-line. The premise is inspired,
and the execution is flawless, but I had hoped that the closing
scenes would have included some sort of closure in which one of
the characters is left with a bad taste in his mouth over what
he has been taught. But this is my approach, not the filmmakers’.
As a mock instructional film, I suppose that Sinners and You
needed to be completely unflinching to prove its point, and
the final shots of “sinners” sitting peacefully in
a park while a wild-eyed instructor warns his pupil (dressed in
his new suit and carrying his new, King James Bible) to heed his
warnings is probably effective enough.
the greatest benefit of Sinners and You is Boatright
and Bookless’ position as contemporary Christian filmmakers.
Instead of producing the typical, cornball material that is usually
offered on the Christian film market (see The Omega Code
or, heaven help us, The
Judas Project), they have made a very personal project
in which they admit that, yes, many Christians are bizarre, hypocritical,
and close-minded, but that we shouldn’t judge them all on
this level. Most Christians, as films like Sinners and You,
at Last, The
Passion of the Christ, and The
Last Temptation of Christ have proven, are actually witty,
insightful, and have plenty of intelligent things to say about
their faith and how it applies to our world. For this insight,
and for their opposition against their more fundamentalist brethren,
we should be grateful.
you have a good ear, you will note that some of the music in Sinners
and You is lifted from George A. Romero’s Night
of the Living Dead. If you are only remotely familiar
with my reviews, you will recognize that film as one that I adamantly
defend time and time again as a gripping social commentary about
a society that has had literally become zombified in its own ritualistic
and “us versus them”-based mentality. Exactly. Jesus,
who also taught in parables, might have gotten along perfectly
fine with George Romero. Or, at the very least, Romero would get
along fine with Boatright. The latter should take that as a compliment.
Andy Croston: Dr. Goode
Sebastian Skellenger: Timmy
A Beamish Boy Production.
Directed by Chris Bookless. Written by Jstin Tarlton. Produced,
edited, and shot by Stephen Boatright. No M.P.A.A. rating (fine
for kids). Running time: 8 minutes. Original United States theatrical
release date: October 1, 2004 (Firefly Film Festival in Chattanooga,
Questions? Comments? E-mail me: email@example.com