Director: Larry Charles
Writer: Bill Maher
I have been dying to see this documentary film since my other half showed me the trailer for it over a year ago. I wasn't always a big fan of Bill Maher ... Then again, I hadn't really seen much of his work. My first glimpse of him came just after Steve Irwin's death when Maher was photographed attending a Halloween party dressed in Irwin's standard green uniform, with a stingray sticking out of his chest. I thought it was too soon for jokes and in very poor taste and, as Maher stood posing with his trademark smug expression, I took an immediate dislike to him.
Later I caught a few clips of his show (Real Time with Bill Maher) and my opinion seemed to completely change. His nonchalant but hilarious way of expressing his opinions on politics and religion were something I admired in him. I'm very interested in religion (my other half is responsible for that too) so when I saw that Maher was making a documentary on the subject, I knew this is one I had to see.
Maher sets out on a journey around the world to interview people from all kinds of backgrounds, creeds and religions to find out why these intelligent, seemingly rational men and women feel the need to include religion in every aspect of their lives. He is not on a journey to ridicule those who agree to interview with him; He simply poses 'doubt.' He wants the answers to all the contradictions found in every religious text to be confronted and answered as best they can by those faithful followers. He never claims to have all the answers to one thing; he just wants to understand more about those who are devout to things that dispute one another.
I've seen a lot of religious documentaries over the last couple of years and there isn't much in this one that's new to me but I enjoyed it nevertheless. It's Maher's fierce nonchalance that brings humour into such serious convictions given by the interviewees while providing us with information about how dangerous organised religion is in today's society and, worst of all, when mixed with politics.
We go from Christianity, to Catholicism, Judaism, Islam, Mormonism, and even Scientology. His interviewees include priests, devout followers, ex-members of churches, scientists, senators, 'Jesus' from the Holy Land theme park in Florida, and even a self-proclaimed second coming of Christ. (Watch Senator Mark Pryor in one of the best foot in mouth moments captured on camera as he takes a very 'meh' attitude towards issues of huge importance and proudly proclaims, "You don't have to pass an IQ test to be in the Senate." - Well done, dude. Ladies and gentlemen, your elected official.)
Maher just asks us to open and expand our minds; to take into account that for one man that believes in one God, there's a second man that believes in another. That if your religion teaches you one thing, you should not automatically dismiss anything else that conflicts with it. (Especially Science - I can't emphasise enough how important Science is and how unevil Scientists are.)
If you're interested in learning a bit about the many religions (and religious sites) around the world, I'd recommend picking up a copy of this. Especially as Bill Maher doesn't take you through it in a 'Shoving it down your throat' kind of way. He keeps the tone lighthearted and isn't afraid to tell people how ridiculous they're sounding if they get a little out of hand. Clips of interviews are intercut with references to popular culture to keep the audience interested, and scenes are never filled too heavily with preaching. On top of that we even get to learn a bit of background about Maher himself (His father was Catholic, his mother Jewish) which helps us relate more to the fact that this is a man who has experienced religion in his life and made his own comfortable decision about where he now stands.
Top rating for this film as it didn't disappoint and I'd watch it again and again for an important message and a good laugh.
Wednesday, 22 July 2009