Old MCN Blogs
David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

Slamdance 1: Lost and Found and Kevin Bacon

A haunting, rigorous exploration of youth in exile — for good reason — from their families, from the communities that raised them, and saddest of all, from faith
Born in Brazil to members of the Children of God evangelical Christian cult, director/writer/interviewer) Noah Thompson — one of eleven siblings – left at the age of 21. Several of his younger siblings have since followed. The story begins with begins with contrasting memories: disturbing, then horrifying news footage (c. 1990s) of the cult leader’s exposure as a pedophile, and Thompson’s own rigidly cheerful snapshots and home movies–despite the being raised in a regimented commune where fathers and mothers–young, attractive, fresh faced hippies– went fishing, flirtily, for more followers, and nannies watched over the kids. When Thompson reminds his mother of the “flirty fishing,” and that that he and other children had sex with some of those young-ish nannies, the voice on the other end of the line gets a little nervous. “I hope you’re not going to make me look like a slut,” she says.
Pity that mother for being drawn into an uncomfortable conversation with a camera and audiotape running. Maybe it was my imagination, but there seemed to be a great many people with her on the line, hoping to dissaude the filmmaker not from making the movie. Or maybe it was the audience’s communal sorrow at Thompson’s next remark: he was only trying to make some sense of his isolated/early-sexualized/accelerated childhood by speaking to other ex-Children of God who’d been raised as he was. What follows isn’t a hit piece but a filmmaker’s coming of age. As he locates his spiritual siblings – scattered now from Manhattan to Texas to Costa Rica to Brazil – he becomes a compelling figure before the camera, a compassionate listener with reluctant subjects who, paradoxically, seem to have been waiting all their lives to speak.
What they say is heartbreaking. “Look at how cute we were,” remarks one young woman, who with her brother, suffered unspeakable treatment by the cult’s leaders. “No wonder we got abused.”
The cult once bended toward the rapey, criminal enterprise delusions of its leader–but the followers — now calling themselves The Family International are now merely an isolationist religious cult.
HBO will be airing Children of God: Lost and Found “at a later date,” according to the film’s publicist.

This is one of those films that leaves you – in a word – stunned. Even if you know a few kids who grew up in really isolated religious groups. What to do afterward: weep or find a bar with a television showing the final minutes of the AFC Championships. Why not both? And this being my first time in Park City, I started down the hill on Main Street and ended up standing there on a Sunday night snowstorm, hearing the news that the New England Patriots had just been scored upon and would not be going to the Super Bowl, and this guy, skinny, good looking in an elfin, angular way, stops next to me and says, “Do the numbers on this street go up or down?”
Still reeling from the documentary, and being only a couple of days in town, I hadn’t figured out that while the Main Street hill goes up, the street numbers go down. So I continue despairing (Patriots, cults, altitude), and shrug at this somehow familar looking man and say–like a total upspeaking cinematard: “I don’t know. I’m hopeless. Down?”
I walk down the hill. The guy walks up the hill. And that’s when I realize it: That man was Kevin Bacon.
One hour later I see him on CNN talking about SixDegrees.org a social networking site that raises money while matches people with others who care about the same charities.

Be Sociable, Share!

2 Responses to “Slamdance 1: Lost and Found and Kevin Bacon”

  1. Guest Worker says:

    Apparently you weren’t at the screening where current members of the cult confronted Noah during the Q&A. If you’d witnessed the Family-style theater of denial at the other screening, you would have seen first-hand the vicious effects of mind control–aka, emotional & psychological abuse–and perhaps have been less inclined to characterize this group as “merely an isolationist religious cult.”
    Well, you may have missed an on-site demonstration of current Family dysfunction and malevolent intent, but you did well in your review of Noah’s film. It IS a heart-breaking story, and it matters a lot to the survivors that their stories are being told.

  2. I wasn’t at the Jan. 23 screening, the one disrupted by those intending to undermine Thompson’s attempt to reckon with his own history.
    As for what went on the second screening, Theatre of denial seems a perfect phrase to describe it. I went to the Sunday, Jan. 21 showing, which was followed by a Q&A with the director and Davida, whose life was so blighted by her unnatural parents and the cult’s abuse. My remark about the Family being now being merely an isolationist religious group — that’s based on both the ending of the documentary, and Thompson and Davida’s post screening remarks, and a lack current cases and complaints pending against members or former (that I could find)
    This doesn’t diminish *at all* the harm done in the past.
    A couple of other things about the Jan. 21 Q&A It was kind of a relief to see that Davida, whom we meet in the doc at such a terrible point in her life, was there taking questions, looking and sounding great. She’s really impressive.

Quote Unquotesee all »

It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon