The Gospel of Eureka

The Gospel of Eureka

2019, NR, 74 min. Directed by Donal Mosher, Michael Palmieri.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., March 8, 2019

By turns wry, quirky, joyful, and above all human, this easygoing but never less than fascinating documentary focuses on the surprisingly tolerant township of Eureka, Ark. A deeply evangelical Christian community that’s home to both the Christ of the Ozarks – the largest statue of Jesus in America which looms over Eureka’s equally massive annual The Great Passion Play – and a large, loud, and proud LGBTQ community. What’s surprising, especially when viewed from our current MAGA-fied culture war, is how well the two groups appear to get along, with the guiding principles at play less “He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone” and more “Thou Shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” In these hysterical times, The Gospel of Eureka is a gentle, almost folksy reminder that not all is lost.

Directors Mosher and Palmieri conduct fly-on-the-wall interviews with various residents, among them a gay preacher and his straight son who are nothing if not paragons of peaceable familial ties, sexual preferences notwithstanding. There’s also a deeply moving portrait of a middle-aged gay couple, married for 31 years, one of whom runs Eureka Live Underground, an LGBTQ watering hole that doubles as the burg’s drag show epicenter. ”Just because you’re a Christian doesn’t have anything to do with who you’re fucking, it has to do with who you’re loving,” he sagely notes, adding, “We’re like a hillbilly Studio 54.”

While the film feels a bit like early Errol Morris circa Gates of Heaven, the directors also take pains to note the darker side of Eureka’s history: a long-ago bastion of the KKK, lynchings, a trans woman shot in the head and dragged behind a car, and the fact that the man behind that famous giganto-Christ, Gerald L.K. Smith, was a raving anti-Semite and white nationalist.

Still, the overall tone of The Gospel of Eureka is one of acceptance. The filmmakers amusingly cross-cut between The Great Passion Play and drag queens belting out religious numbers over at Eureka Live Underground, and a minor tangent involving infamous homophobe and citrus fanatic Anita Bryant is downright heartwarming. Recommended.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Films
Zhang Yimou's period martial arts drama probes the moral grays of life in a royal court

Richard Whittaker, May 17, 2019

The Biggest Little Farm
Country life documentary may be an extended infomercial, but that can't dent its charm

Kimberley Jones, May 17, 2019

More by Marc Savlov
John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum
Welcome back, Mister Wick: Everyone's favorite merciless killer gets more human and more intriguing

May 17, 2019

Carmine Street Guitars
Spend time with the quiet artisans who make the instruments that rock & roll is built upon

May 10, 2019


The Gospel of Eureka, Donal Mosher, Michael Palmieri

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle