Sunday, March 4, 2007

Movie Time

Naysayer or not, you can’t deny that the visual manifestations of recognizable faces carry with them great cultural import. Why else would the media never tire of such stories? Why would these stories be reported in such venues as the New York Times and Fortean Times? And why would two movies, one of them an indie the other borne out of Hollywood, devote great expenditures of time, labor and money to the topic? The answer is simple: one way or another, these events are emblematic of our contemporary cultural context. The fact that such stories get attention in all conceivable media outlets evidences this claim. Belief and its mysteries fascinate humans, whether that belief is rooted in religion or some secular or commercial –ism.

More than one person has told me that Madonna of the Toast would convert into a great documentary. I agree, but I’m waiting on someone to make me the offer I can’t refuse (though any and all offers will be entertained). In the meantime, there are two fictional flicks that examine what happens when the face of Jesus appears unexpectedly, on a screen door in one of the movies and on a tortilla in the other.

Screen Door Jesus tracks how a small town in Texas responds to a woman spotting Christ on her screen door. Of course, the image sparks all sorts of action related to issues of race and religion. I found out about this movie a few months ago as a result of blog research. It’s a few years old, screened at some festivals and is due out on DVD in the not too distant future.

Tortilla Heaven is based on the true story of a small New Mexico town where a tortilla gets cooked-up, charred with the likeness of Jesus. The website boasts the script as a “modern-day fable.” You can imagine the plot: person discovers face of Jesus, word of face spreads, people come, tortilla is exploited, person ultimately undergoes catharsis.

I haven’t seen either of these movies all the way through, so I’m in no position to write reviews. Regardless of creative or artistic merits, however, both of these films craft their commentary from these phenomena. I can appreciate that. These events matter, and not just to the people who discover them or congregate to take a gander at the latest iconic shape. As I’ve written before, these events generate action, on a grand scale, across a comprehensive demographic swath, because it all boils down to the human factor. We like to look at these objects, read about them, respond to them and interpret them.

Why? Because no amount of science, doctrine or theory can explain everything that happens in this world, though we can gauge the value of events by how people react and respond.

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