SXSW Film Reviews

SXSW Film Reviews

Fall From Grace

D: K. Ryan Jones

University of Kansas undergraduate Jones has made a compelling document investigating the hate-fueled rhetoric of Fred Phelps, the controversial, charismatic cult leader masquerading as a Baptist minister in Topeka, Kan. Even Fox News hates Phelps, who taxes the limits of the First Amendment with his message that "God Hates Fags" (and truly, to Phelps, said "fags" are emblematic of everything that's wrong with this country). Over the course of the film, he is revealed to be a small-minded, emotionally stunted rageaholic, one who brutally abused his children, beating them bloody with barber straps and axe handles. Now that his children are grown, Phelps directs his cruel impulses at America's fallen soldiers, picketing military funerals and tormenting young widows. Ultimately, Jones' documentary is a call for reconciliation, a plea to extend to Phelps the kind of love set forth by Christianity's ethos. One imagines that if we fail to do this, the titular fall from grace will be our own. – Melanie Haupt

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