Tribeca's Provocative Docs: From "Jesus Camp" to "The Bridge"

by Anthony Kaufman
May 1, 2006 2:10 AM
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After the first few days of Tribeca screenings, cynical industryites' worst fears have been justified: most of the hot-buzz fiction movies have turned out to be, at their worst, sloppy misfires, and at their best, mildly diverting. In contrast to the underwhelming new American indie narratives, however, documentaries have emerged as the real winners at Tribeca 2006.

There is already talk that Stanley Nelson's "Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple" is strong enough to bag an Oscar nomination. And a pair of documentaries that screened on Thursday night continue to provoke and disturb. Jesus Camp and The Bridge provided a double dose of disturbing horror stories. I'm not sure what's scarier, in fact, the sight of impressionable small children being brainwashed into evangelical madness and anti-abortion activism, or random people jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge caught in the act of suicide.

While Jesus Camp provides an alarming wake-up call to the nation that evangelicals will stop at nothing to turn us into the "United States of Christian America," and they have the rapidly rising numbers to do it, The Bridge interrogates human sorrow, and the very tricky role of the documentary filmmaker to capture it. Was it unethical for director Eric Steel to observe people in the act of killing themselves? This Los Angeles Times article investigates this delicate situation. And while I think the answer may be that it is, that very question raised by the film makes it all the more engrossing.

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