One of the fun spiritually-slanted movies we saw (and reviewed) at the SXSW 2011 Film Festival was called New Jerusalem. Here is an interview with filmmaker Rick Alverson.

At the Q&A time after Friday night’s screening of “New Jerusalem” you made a statement, but then stated, basically, that you didn’t have enough time to elaborate (being as it was the last question). I had asked you about casting for the church service scene — how that was done and if it was role-playing or filmed as a documentary style look at a real service. You mentioned that it was a real service at a place you hand-picked because it defied some of the pre-conceived notions and stereotypes of what it might be like. (Some place called ROC). What’s intriguing is that you said you left that experience with more questions about liberal America than conservative Christianity. Please elaborate on that. I’d love to know what questions you had/have and why.

The observation that liberal America relies soley on disparate cultural events and forms to supply/provide a platform for community. There is no single construct that is the equivalent of the church, no umbrella, no glue for the social experience. We are unmoored because of it. The village is a relic and the pub, besides relatively absent from the states in it’s traditional incarnation, has always been primarily a man’s escape. My belief is that the majority of non-denominational Christians In the states, particularly in poor neighborhoods, are responding primarily to the social infrastructure, the emotional pillow provided by the church. It is a failure of progressive, liberal society to provide an equivalent to the church which keeps the church a vital, necessary element in 21st century society. In my opinion, if there were secular services and emotional repondants that offered care of the individual – educational and philosophical stewardship under a single inclusive banner, a modern community meetingplace that is not the cold lobby of city hall, the church would become increasingly irrelevant. Having said that, and reminding you that I am, unequivocally, an atheist, I believe the power of cinema is substantially diminished if it becomes a vehicle, a pulpit, for the noisy, opinionated voice if it’s “author”- that’s why I made every effort to remove my adamant opposition to thiesm in the film. If cinema, or art for that matter, has any intention if being a relevant social meter, it should utilize the indifference of it’s capture in concert with the impulse of the animal behind it.

What sort of release will this movie have? (where and when)

We’re talking with distributors at present, likely late 2011.

Wondering what sort of direction the actors were given and how much was improvisation was done (perhaps share an example, which scene, etc)…

The conversations were primarily  spontaneous but buttressed by limitations placed on them, explanations of conveyance etc. The environments in which they take place and the circumstances are my concern, these things often dictate the substance of our interactions, only for us to arrogantly believe we author them.

You could have picked numerous storylines to go after this theme, but … What events or ideas inspired using a relationship between a zealous evangelical Christian and a quiet Irishman to explore a symbiotic relationship between the two?

I wanted to set up the conditions of a symbiotic relationship, particularly between two grown men, and evaluate it. Religion is a powerful thing, dangerous and intoxicating or absolute and inspiring, depending upon your persuasion. I am primarily interested in the human being as an animal, a distinction which we have sadly stripped ourselves of in large part due, historically, to the tenants of religion rejecting the tenants of the body and, eventually, the land it roams. I want to do all I can to return to that unfortunately libeled of that view of us and all the context and truth it can afford.

Copyright © 2011 HM Magazine. All rights reserved.


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