Jesus Camp

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Jesus Camp
UNHAPPY CAMPER An evangelical youth cries for salvation.

The kids aren’t quite all right in this documentary about an evangelical organization dedicated to turning today’s preteens into tomorrow’s Pat Robertsons. In fact, they all seem stuck in a blue-state-nightmare version of summer camp, where counselors give hellfire sermons that could roast marshmallows, and the evening’s entertainment includes praying over a cardboard cutout of the commander in chief. Three of the wards are profiled: Rachael, a hyperactive talker prone to preaching to strangers at bowling alleys; Levi, who dreams of megachurch stardom; and Tory, whose hobbies include dancing (“For the Lord...not for the flesh”) and protesting pro-abortion-rights laws.

To their credit, Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady (The Boys of Baraka) resist the temptation to impose their own editorial slant, preferring to simply film the revival meetings and talking-head testimonies sans outraged-lefty commentary. This doesn’t mean that their subjects won’t hang themselves with their own words, as when a creepy preacher tells Levi to “use your cute kid thing” as an angle, or when the head pastor complimentarily compares the camp to suicide-bomber training programs. It’s too bad that the filmmakers sin in other areas, such as their reliance on a distracting, droning score to create unnecessary drama. Still, as a portrait of manipulative, militant Christian conservatism run amok, the doc is pretty damning. (Opens Fri; Click here for venues.) — David Fear

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