The Insane Route
AUDIENCE OF ONE Q&A at SXSW premiere
By Spencer Parsons,
2:30PM, Mon. Mar. 12, 2007
“Oh man,” says Pastor Richard Gazowsky as he approaches the mic following a packed and noisy screening of the competition documentary about him, Audience of One. “Look guys, you know I’m crazy, or else you’re not very intelligent,” he tells us in what must be one of the best Q&A’s I have ever witnessed at this or any other festival.
For most, Gazowsky’s presence is a post-screening surprise; for me and a few others who had been tipped off to his presence by Austin-based editor Kyle Henry, it has been a source of some intense worry throughout the screening. One can’t help but wonder what he and his family and congregation would think of their representation, while laughing and cringing to the ethically harrowing story of Gazowsky’s impossible dream to shoot a Christian blockbuster, “Star Wars meets The Ten Commandments,” as Pastor Richard describes it.
Neither the nuances nor the broad strokes of Director Michael Jacobs’s emotionally complex documentary are remotely flattering, but it’s no “let’s-make-fun-of-the-rubes” hit job either. Still, I can barely describe the relief I feel at the force of Gazowsky’s winning and assertive self-consciousness when faced with an audience that has spent the last hour and a half thrilling to and laughing at his filmmaking missteps and misfortunes. And however much this would-be auteur and his crew chalk up their difficulties to the work of Satan, if some of the too-familiar events in the movie don’t inspire at least a little self-reflection about the desires and delusions of the process, other filmmakers in the audience might consider what an unsparing video of their own productions would look like.
“It’s like watching yourself go to the toilet,” he tells us. “I don’t like to see myself cry. I feel like a total idiot in front of you guys. But what if we end up getting funded, dude? Then I’m not so stupid. Maybe.”
Gazowsky praises the finished picture and its director for honesty, however painful it may be to watch. Certainly that pain derives from tougher stuff than uncomfortable laughter; the film is also sad and frankly disturbing. Not least of its difficult questions is to what degree the title refers to God, or to Pastor Richard, an issue of thornier psychological and religious import than its ambiguous wordplay might let on. There’s a lot more to it than I should go into here and so quickly, so I’ll be following up by chasing down Michael Jacobs to put more about this remarkable film into print.
“I happen to enjoy movies a lot. I really love them, and we’re going to make these films. A lot of you here are under pressure to make films that you think everyone’s going to enjoy. But I wanted to just make an movie for an audience of one. And so I thought I’d just go the insane route. And that’s a lot more fun.”