A crisis of faith surrounds America’s longest running passion play in Jesus Town USA. The Holy City of the Wichitas is a recreation of Jerusalem built around a small Oklahoma town, which has staged a heavily elaborate Easter pageant for 88 years. When the actor playing Jesus Christ retires, Zack Little is brought on as the replacement. However, the problem is that Zack has secretly converted to Buddhism. As the pageant approaches, Zack begins to wonder whether he should make this conversion public and whether or not his beliefs will be accepted.
Jesus Town USA is a somewhat unique hybrid documentary about this small town passion play. Using real individuals and events, the film is shot as if it were a narrative film. This results in a blurring of lines over what exactly is truth in the film and what is merely staged for the cameras. Each individual in the film undoubtedly follows various character types, rather it be the loveable shlub Zack, the heavily conservative religious views of caretaker Frank, or the somewhat open-mindedness of director Alan. In addition, the score of the film evokes the feel of spaghetti westerns.
Despite being a heavily staged documentary, Jesus Town USA has some quite relatable themes. Even though he no longer really believes in Christianity, Zack still considers Jesus’ story to be an inspirational one and he believes that he can do justice to the role, despite now being a Buddhist. Since society in general is much more secular, Jesus Town USA tries to explore what exactly in means to have faith and gives the message that we should accept people no matter what they believe in. Altogether, this film is a quite interesting viewing experience.
★ ★ ★ 1/2 | FAIR
- Fri, Apr 24, 9:15 PM – Isabel Bader Theatre
- Sat, Apr 25, 1:00 PM – Hart House Theatre
- Sun, May 3, 9:00 PM – Isabel Bader Theatre