Email list servs and blogs aren't the only things buzzing about the new documentary 'Jesus Camp,' (trailer) which opens in major cities this weekend, including here in D.C. The news media has also discovered the film, and its impact has been to generate a string of news reports that focus on a very specific framing of the Evangelical movement. In this case, 'Jesus Camp' serves a function that I have talked about with other documentaries: It elevates attention to a specific social or political issue in the news, but at the same time, interjects a selective framing of the topic.
News media attention to the rise of the Evangelical movement is not new, what's different about the coverage linked to the release of 'Jesus Camp' is that this week journalists are focusing heavily on claims that the movement is being used as an indoctrination tool to socialize kids into an authoritarian worldview, a view that is intolerant of other religions, and that worships the Republican party. (For examples, see this ABC News clip, and this Good Morning America interview.)
The film's focus on a "camp" for kids that promotes a strict fundamentalist dogma immediately draws comparisons to radical Islam, and that interpretation, even if unspoken, shines through in news coverage. As an agenda-setter and frame-setter, 'Jesus Camp' provides a news peg for journalists to explore this troubling side of Christian evangelicalism, while still maintaining the appearance of objectivity. In other words, if charged with bias, journalists can say: "We didn't create this story, we are simply reporting on the content and claims of this new film.'
Meanwhile in France the release of a film called Indigènes sparked a furious row over France's racist treatment of colonial troops and a political battle over pensions worth millions of euros that surviving veterans are still owed:
Film moves Chirac to back down over war pensions
The French government will announce this week that, after more than 40 years, it will resume payment of full military pensions to colonial soldiers who fought during the Second World War.
The partial change of heart - there will be no back payments - follows a campaign by the actors and makers of a film which is being shown in French cinemas this week.
France boosts pensions for colonial vets
What began as a small independent movie that battled for years to raise its budget - the sympathetic king of Morocco even stepped in to provide his army logistics corps free of charge - has taken on epic proportions on France's political scene. Indigènes won Cannes's best actor award for its male leads including Samy Naceri, Jamel Debbouze and Roschdy Zem, and gained the blessing of Jacques Chirac. But the cast and crew are still circulating a petition for the government to issue African soldiers with back payments of army pensions frozen in the 1960s after the colonies gained their independence.