Movie Review by Alice Castle
Starring: Bishop Noel Jones
Director: Sophie Fiennes
While churches in the UK are converted into yuppie flats and office space, stateside – religion never seems to have gone out of fashion. Reverend Noel Jones and the community of the Greater Bethany Church are the subjects of Sophie Fiennes’ (yes she’s a relative of Joseph and Ralph) documentary, filmed over the period of a year in South Central LA. Rev Jones is the kind of inspirational orator who unites his congregation by delivering sermons about life, relationships and stories they can relate too. As his voice reaches a breathy crescendo fabulous gospel choirs echo his words over and over again in contagious rapture.
His church has been instrumental in reviving an otherwise poor community to become richer spiritually. Hoover Street is the kind of place young children are left at home in dirty baths to wash themselves, gangs fight for turf night after night and homeless people sit in burger joints waiting for someone to kick them out. ‘Why?’ one woman asks ‘have black people got a curse on them’? These are people the American dream might have passed by – though the country’s knack at marketing and advertising hasn’t gone unnoticed in the community. For a few dollars you can buy tapes of Rev Jones’s speeches and videos of his sermons. ‘Cancel my appointment with the anti-christ’ being a particularly popular choice with the home shopper.
As a documentary the music and interviews are intercut with the sermons in a lyrical style rather than ‘fly on the wall’. And Rev Jones power as an influential speaker to a whole generation of what he calls ‘great looking angry people’ is an interesting taster of what religion can do for you nowadays.