Screening today at the Isabel Bader theatre at 9:15pm is this documentary that plays more like a feature film in its construction than a documentary, it has that wonderful mockumentary Christopher Guest feel to it.
The setting is a small town in Oklahoma, not so very far from the Holy City of the Wichitas, a middle-American recreation of Jerusalem in the time of Christ, where the local townsfolk, for the last 88 years have been re-enacting the Christian Passion Play on an annual basis. When the current Christ decides to hang up his robe and retire, it’s time to re-cast… Auditions are held, folks turn out in large numbers to be involved, and young Zach, a likeable twenty-something gets cast in the part.
Everything seems perfect, but in a town that is DEVOUTLY Christian, what happens when Zach’s little secret is revealed…. He’s a Buddhist! Although, I think it needs to be said that in his interactions with people, he seems to be more in tune with the messages of Christ, than some of those claiming to be his followers. He tries to keep it quiet, deflecting questions about his faith from other cast members, but some folks who know, and believe he is going straight to hell for his beliefs, and have promised and been asked to keep it secret, just can’t keep it to themselves.
Zach knows his lines, has made friends, makes for a happy set, and the director loves his performance, so should it matter that a Buddhist is playing the role of Christ? It’s definitely interesting when the town finds out, as well as their reaction, as well as those of Zach’s family! And as opening night draws closer, it seems everyone wants to weigh in with their opinion on the subject and the state of Zach’s immortal soul.
Some of that ends up being a rather a sad commentary on Christianity in general and the town specifically … Zach is still the same guy he was before he made the revelation that he holds a different belief than everyone else, but now he’s seen as someone else.
Will the show still go on?
Jesus Town USA ends up being a lot of fun, filled with delightful moments, filled with themes of belief, and neighborliness. Come and follow Zach in his own passion play… This one screens twice more during the course of the festival, Saturday April 25 at 1:00pm at the Hart House theatre and Sunday May 3 at 9:00pm back at the Isabel Bader theatre, this one proved to be highly enjoyable.