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by Mark Elijah Rosenberg
March 13th, 2007

I’m not going to tell you too much about Michael Jacobs’ doc An Audience of One, because I’d rather focus on the stunning Q & A that followed the screening at SXSW today. But quickly: this charming, wild, astonishing film follows Richard Gazowsky, a Pentecostal minister from San Francisco, who has raised $600,000 from his congregation to make a sci-fi future distopian feature-length film version of the Biblical story of Joseph. Suffice it to say, that in making this film all hell breaks loose. (God forgive me for that pun.) After the film played, one audience member asked the minister, with all those people in the audience laughing at you, and with so many people in the film, including your mother and your daughter, questioning your judgment, what was it like watching the film? Gazowsky replied, “It felt like watching myself go to the bathroom.” [Paraphrasing]: “I was sitting back there, turning red, getting embarrassed. It was hard. But I believe in what I’m doing, and if I succeed, then I know it will be worth it.”

Another audience member said that making films is a skill that takes years of training. You wouldn’t watch a surgeon, and then go try brain surgery. Why did you do this, or at least, why not start with something more simple? Again, the preacher was unflappable, and said that he loves film, but that he saw that the surgeon, Hollywood, was killing the patient. And that he felt like he needed to learn surgery and save cinema. They used to make a TV show, a low budget preacher show “that people like you would never watch, because it was mediocre. And I was tired of mediocrity.” So he wanted to do something big. And he knew that he couldn’t climb the ladder in Hollywood. Independent cinema is much like Christian cinema – outsiders who can’t get in and need to make films any way they can.

Those are noble and insightful comments, and the respectful way that Jacobs (the doc filmmaker) treats his subject makes for a fascinating and enjoyable film. Still, I couldn’t help think that Gazowsky was a great con man, a disillusioned liar, and a crook. I loved the film, and I’d be interested to hear what others think of him.

Check out this trailer.

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Rooftop Films is a New York based non-profit whose mission is to engage diverse communities by showing independent movies in outdoor locations, producing new films, coordinating youth media education, and renting equipment at low cost to artists.

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