Film Info: A film by Roberto Cipriani and Toni Occhiello.  48 minutes. Italian and English.  1989/1992.

Distribution: University Roma Tre, this is the link

Film Summary: This movie presents a popular religiosity event in Southern italy: the processions of so called “Red Christ” during Holy Week. Red color is both a religious and a political symbol.

“Jilbab: A Documentary on the Indonesian Woman’s Headscarf”

Film Info: “Jilbab: A Documentary on the Indonesian Woman’s Headscarf”.  Directed by Jenn Lindsay, 2011.  Various lengths, from a focused 20 minute version to a more complex, 50 minute version.

Distributor: Jenn Lindsay (www.jennlindsay.comDownloadable preview posted on Vimeo:

Film Summary: In Jogjakarta, Indonesia, the Muslim women’s headscarf is distinctively colorful, fashionable, fun and expressive. What are the dreams and commitments behind the choice to veil or not to veil?  JILBAB, a documentary named after the Indonesian word for the Muslim hijab, is about veiling trends for women in the city of “Jogja.” It features students from Universitas Gadjah Madah, designers of local women’s fashion boutiques,and Muslim women from outside of Indonesia speaking about the significance of veiling (or not veiling), veiling ideology and fashion, and the history of veiling in Islam. This film explores uniquely Javanese Islam, its unmistakable religious aesthetics, and what the jilbab suggests in an Indonesian context as opposed to Middle Eastern, North American or European Muslim contexts.

“Laatoo: Dance and Spirituality in Pakistan”

Film Info:  Laatoo: Dance and Spirituality in Pakistan” /« Laatoo : Danse et spiritualité au Pakistan »  English and Urdu with French subtitles. Directed by Alix Philippon and Faizaan Peerzada.  2003.  

Distributed by: Alix Philippon (Sciences Po, Aix-en-Provence, France).  There are various versions, ranging from 45 minutes to an hour and a quarter.  Contact the director for information.

Film Summary:  LAATOO is a documentary about the role of dance in Pakistan : from the classical Kathak,Bharanatyam and Odyssi to the sufi tradition of the dervish right up to the dances performed by prostitutes. The film uses scenes and interviews with great dancers such as Naheed Siddiqui, Sheema Kirmani, Tehreema Mitha, Indu Mitha and Fasi-ur-Rehman to help us locate Pakistani dance in its religious, philosophical, social, and political contexts.

LAATOO est un documentaire qui fait l’état des lieux de la danse au Pakistan : de la danse classique comme le khatak, le bharatanatyam et l’odissi, à la tradition soufie des derviches jusqu’aux danses pratiquées par les prostituées. C’est à travers les témoignages des grands danseurs classiques tels que Naheed Siddiqui, Sheema Kirmani, Tehreema Mitha, Indu Mitha et Fasi-ur-Rehman, que nous découvrons la danse et sa problématique dans son contexte religieux, philosophique, social et politique.

“Enlarging the Kingdom: African Pentecostals in Italy”

Film Info:  “Enlarging the Kingdom: African Pentecostals in Italy”  Directed by Annalisa Butticci and Andrew Esiebo  35 minutes, 2012

Distributor: Annalisa Butticci,

Film Summary (from the website): 

Enlarging the Kingdom explores the encounter, interactions, and conflicts between Catholicism and African Pentecostalism. By putting in conversation Nigerian and Ghanaian Pastors and Catholic Priests the documentary looks at their diverse understanding of evil forces, authorized and unauthorized forms of relating to the Divine, the making of idols and icons, religious leadership and authority, women access to the pulpit and religious politics of the Italian Nation State. Enlarging the Kingdom offers a unique insight into the challenges of African Pentecostals in Italy and the role of Pentecostal Churches for African immigrant communities.

Yo Soy Hechicero // I am a Sorcerer

Film Info: A film by Ron Stanford and Ivan Drufovka.  48 minutes.  Spanish with English subtitles.  1997/2004.

Distribution: Ron Stanford at

Film Summary: Juan Eduardo Nuñez is a Santaria practitioner living in suburban New Jersey.   It focuses on his work, his beliefs, and the rituals he performs for people who come to him for healing.  Here is the film website’s description:

What can an outsider ever hope to understand about “Santería,” the widespread but little known constellation of Afro-Caribbean religions and cults which are mysterious by their very nature? In an attempt to unlock the mysteries of this mixture of Christianity, Yoruba religion, and spiritism (and others as well) the producers are drawn to Juan Eduardo Núñez, a Cuban refugee who came to the US in the 1980 Mariel boatlift.

     The viewer meets Eduardo in his inner sanctum, a South Jersey backyard garden shed in a subdivision near Atlantic City: Eduardo enters numerous trances; a gunshot victim seeks treatment; Eduardo, possessed by a spirit named Miguel, tells us that he was captured as a slave in 1490; a young woman seeks romantic advice; Eduardo’s wife, a Pentecostal, tells us that her husband is an instrument of Satan.

     Yo Soy Hechicero views the subject on its own terms. It captures the intensity and confusion of the producers’ own experience as welcomed outsiders at a variety of spirit possessions, animal sacrifices, love advice, healing, ancient songs and chants, and mythic storytelling, as well as everyday events that surround the ritual. It is an unusually intimate look at a community full of tumult, not just economic and physical, but spiritual as well.

     While almost entirely in Spanish, the video is accessible to an English-speaking audience. Large, easy-to-read subtitles make often esoteric Cuban dialects comprehensible, yet the viewer is able to hear the original language throughout. It is presented entirely without “expert” narration.

Having seen the film several times, this summary captures it well. — JS

Film website at


Film title: “Knocking” — by Joel P. Engardio and Tom Shepard — 2005 or 2006 — 53 minutes (plus extras on the DVD)
Distributor: New Day Films — 888.367.9154 —
Summary: (from the distributor’s blurb)

KNOCKING opens the door on Jehovah’s Witnesses. While protecting their own rights, they have won a record number of court cases expanding freedoms for all Americans. In Nazi Germany, they chose the concentration camps over fighting for Hitler. They refuse blood transfusions on religious grounds but support the science of bloodless medicine. They are moral conservatives who stay out of politics and the Culture War. KNOCKING follows two families who stand firm for their often controversial and misunderstood faith. Their stories reveal how one unlikely religion helped to shape history beyond the doorstep.

Keywords: sects, pacifists, American religion, religion and law

“Born Again: Life in a Fundamentalist Church”

Film Title: “Born Again: Life in a Fundamentalist Church” — by James Ault and Michael Camerini — 1987 — 2 versions: 87 minutes and 58 minutes

Distributor: James Ault Productions —


An engrossing and detailed look at a small Fundamentalist congregation in Massachusetts in the mid- 1980s. It follows several families, detailing their views of their religion and of the world. It provides an insider’s view without varnishing away negative details. First rate!

I find the shorter version more useful for the classroom, as it leaves time for a quick debriefing in an 80-minute class period. The discussion during the next class period works best if I give students study questions and ask them to relate the film to their reading.

Leave plenty of time for talk! Most students need it.  (JS)

Keywords: Fundamentalism, worldview, conversion, family life, sects

“Parish Portraits”

Film Title: “Parish Portaits” — by James Ault — 1999 — 51 minutes
Distributor: James Ault Productions —
Summary: (from the distributor’s website)

Portraits of four diverse Episcopal churches for the Zacchaeus Project and Trinity Institute’s national teleconference “Roots and Wings,” September 27-9, 1999. Includes short scenes on different themes–Episcopal identity, youth, women clergy, etc.–and a longer version of challenges faced by an Anglo-Latino congregation in Oxnard, California.

Keywords: American religion; Episopalians; parish life

“Beyond the Gates of Splendor”

Film Title: “Beyond the Gates of Splendor” — by Jim Hannon and Kevin McAfee — 2005 — 40 minute and 90 minute versions

he Waodani Indians of Ecuador were killing six of every 10 of their tribesmen when American missionaries entered their isolated community in January 1956. Anthropologists say the tribe, identified then as the Aucas, had one of the most violent cultures ever documented and was headed toward extinction.
Missionary pilot Nate Saint had located the tribe in circling the Amazon Basin jungle. Wishing to establish contact, Saint hoped a slow, circular flying pattern would allow him to stabilize a long rope and basket dropped from the airplane down to the tribe. A difficult maneuver, it worked, and over 11 weeks in late 1955, Saint and fellow missionaries Jim Elliot, Peter Fleming, Ed McCully and Roger Youderian lowered gifts to the Waodani. When the Waodani returned the favor by sending a bird up in the basket, the missionaries sensed opportunity.
On Jan. 7, 1956, the five men left their young wives at base camp and landed their plane on a sandbar near the Waodani, making face-to-face contact for the first time. The next day, the tribesmen speared them dead.
The killings made worldwide news at the time. Life magazine devoted a spread to the story on Jan. 30, 1956, and a 1957 book, “The Gates of Splendor,” brought the story to millions of readers from the Christian perspective of Elisabeth Elliot, who was widowed by the killings.
Almost 50 years later, the tale — with updated material chronicling the tribe’s radical change — has been retold in a 40-minute documentary, “Beyond the Gates of Splendor,” available free of charge to churches, schools and para-church organizations.
A full-length, 90-minute version of the documentary debuted on the big screen in a handful of cities this year and will be available in retail stores on DVD in September, said Randy Swanson, a spokesman for Every Tribe Entertainment (, the company that produced it.
The documentary precedes a full-length theatrical movie, “End of the Spear,” which is in final production and will debut in theaters in early 2006 near the 50th anniversary of the killings, Swanson said.
The documentary focuses on the missionaries and their families, the Waodani tribesmen and the unlikely story of courage and redemption when two of the missionaries’ widows and one of the missionaries’ sisters and — years later –— the son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren of Nate Saint settle among the tribe.

“Fall From Grace”

Film Title: “Fall From Grace” — by K. Ryan Jones — 2007 — 71 minutes

Summary: (from the producers)

“God hates fags,” “You’re going to Hell,” “Thank God for 9/11,” “Thank God for dead soldiers.” Even in the darkness, the picket signs glow, not simply because of their neon hues, but because of the incandescent hate with which they are branded.

This shocking rhetoric flows from the Reverend Fred Phelps and his followers at the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas – smack in the center of America’s heartland. Whether it’s on their toxic website or at one of the 22,000 demonstrations they’ve staged over the last fifteen years, the Church is focused on one key message: America is doomed because, for too long, it has tolerated homosexuality and allowed it to thrive. Church members picket daily in the city of Topeka and often travel abroad. Most recently, Pastor Phelps and his followers have targeted military funerals for soldiers killed in the war in Iraq as a venue to preach God’s wrath against a nation that has apparently been “taken over by the fags.”

Directed by first-time filmmaker K. Ryan Jones – currently a senior at the University of Kansas – Fall From Grace is the first in-depth documentary feature film to focus on Pastor Phelps and his hate group, and features unprecedented access, interviews with Pastor Phelps and other members of the Westboro Baptist Church. Fall From Grace also includes interviews with the myriad of dissenters: Topeka leaders and officials, ministers, theologians, and two of Pastor Phelps’s adult children who have chosen to leave the church and their family.

Westboro Baptist Church is led by Pastor Fred Phelps, a lawyer who was disbarred in the mid-90s for witness intimidation, who started the church fifty years ago. It is a small group, comprised mostly of members of the Phelps family, but their hatred is prolific. They demonstrate anywhere they feel that their message is applicable, like the funeral of Matthew Shepard, a Wyoming student who was killed for being gay and most recently, at the funerals of military servicemen and women killed in Iraq.

Fall From Grace takes the viewer inside this surreal world with rare interviews and footage of several pickets and church services. The film focuses on a group that represents a variety of contemporary American issues, including intolerance of homosexuality, the right to freedom of speech, separation of church and state, and the War in Iraq.