Welcome to Clinton County

Film Info: “Welcome to Clinton County” (1979) – Part of the”Profiles of Rural Religion” series produced by P.J. O’Connell for the Rural Documentary Project and Penn State Broadcasting – 58 minutes

Distributor:   Pennsylvania State University Media Sales DVD – $25

Summary: An introduction to the religious makeup of Clinton County, PA. From the ethnic Catholics of Renovo, through the fundamentalist Baptists of North Bend and the struggling Jews of Lock Haven, to the consolidated Lutherans of Nittany and Sugar Valleys, this is a survey of religious conditions and outlooks in this rural county. The film also serves to set the scene for the remaining films in the “Profiles of Rural Religion” series.

Go and I’ll be with You

Film Info: “Go and I’ll be with You” (1979) – Part of the”Profiles of Rural Religion” series produced by P.J. O’Connell for the Rural Documentary Project and Penn State Broadcasting – 58 minutes

Distributor:   Pennsylvania State University Media Sales DVD – $25

Summary: At 33, Paul Wonders was a successful dairy farmer, with a wife, six children, and a farm that had been in his family for four generations. He “got saved” at an evangelistic meeting in 1948, sold the farm, became an itinerant tent preacher and later an ordained minister. Today, he is pastor of the Gospel Tabernacle Assembly of God in Hammersley Fork, an unincorporated crossroads community in the most sparsely populated corner of Clinton County, PA. The Wonders have built a new church building; they hold four exuberant services a week for their congregation of less than 100. They and their church are flourishing. This is an exploration of a minister and his wife–co-ministers–and the joyous brand of evangelism they conduct in their lives and in their church

Profiles on Rural Religion: Last Words

Film Info: “Last Words” (1979) – Part of the”Profiles of Rural Religion” series produced by P.J. O’Connell for the Rural Documentary Project and Penn State Broadcasting – 58 minutes

Distributor:   Pennsylvania State University Media Sales DVD – $25

Summary: To conclude the “Profiles of Rural Religion” series, the series consultants, sociologists Don Crider and Joe Faulkner, come to the TV studio for some analysis and some dialogue with the subjects of the six documentaries. But the dialogue develops most strongly between the subjects themselves, as questions of diversity and religious choice become prominent. And the program provides a final, frontal encounter between Suzie Andresen and Glenn Stover (see “Separate Realities”). Their quite different religious views, untempered and forcefully put, illustrate the range and intensity of religious expression in Rural America.

Sugar Valley Sampler

Film Info: “Sugar Valley Sampler” (1979) – Part of the”Profiles of Rural Religion” series roduced by P.J. O’Connell for the Rural Documentary Project and Penn State Broadcasting – 58 minutes

Distributor:   Pennsylvania State University Media Sales DVD – $25

Summary: Sugar Valley is a “bowl,” with only two breaks in the mountain rim. For 200 years, it was largely self-sufficient, economically, socially, and religiously. Since World War II, however, the Valley has slowly changed. There are two Lutheran churches where once there were nine, a group based out of the United Church of Christ is fighting a school merger with a district outside the Valley, and at the annual community picnic there are now electric-guitared rock groups. But the content of the lyrics–the gospel message–has remained much the same. This is a film of preservation and of change, of meeting the needs of the times and of holding on to what is dear. Sugar Valley is changing, but gradually, sometimes grudgingly and, when possible, on its own terms.


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 — www.newday.com/films/knocking.html
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

“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
Distributor: www.beyondthegatesthemovie.com

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 (www.everytribe.com), 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
Distributor: www.fallfromgracemovie.net

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 www.godhatesfags.com 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.

God’s Angry Man

Film Title: God’s Angry Man — by Werner Herzog (1980) — 44 minutes

Distributor: ???????

Summary: A documentary about Dr. Gene Scott, televangelist, who used ranting anger to raise money on his nightly Festival of Faith. Tom Sutpen, in a review posted at Bright Lights Film Journal, writes:

A good deal of Herzog’s film is taken up with scenes of Scott live on the air, angrily rifling through pledges from viewers that were just called in — none of which are ever less than three figures — eventually flying into a hardcore Old Testament fury at the foul stinginess of the apostate public when he sees they haven’t coughed up that extra thousand he told them he needed. … In other hands, scenes like these would be used to advance the ever-fashionable cliché of television evangelists as mammon-obsessed charlatans…, but Herzog’s portrait of Dr. Gene Scott isn’t concerned with exposing hypocrisy … . God’s Angry Man is neither an exposé nor a malediction, and Scott is never branded a crackpot…. And for all his volcanic on-air bluster, he reveals a great deal of genuine vulnerability when he’s interviewed by Herzog.

Read the whole review here.


Onward Christian Soldiers

Film Info:  “Onward Christian Soldiers” (1989) – 52 minutes

Distributor:  Formerly Icarus Films.  Currently ??????????

Summary: Portrays inroads made into traditionally Catholic Latin American communities by evangelical Protestant preaching through the mass media.

Film notice taken (with permission) from the “Teaching Resources” list in Meredith McGuire’s Religion: The Social Context, third edition. Her 5th edition (available from Waveland Press: see www.religionthesocialcontext.com) does not contain the resource list. I have only traced some of these films to current distributors. Please post updated information about them, if you have it. – JS