Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary
Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary

ellwood & friends

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Mar 20, 2004

Terry Mattingly discusses a film hastily rescued from the studio dumpster in order to cash in on The Passion:

Produced by the Catholic media pioneers at Paulist Productions, "Judas" began nearly a decade ago as one of the final projects of the late Father Ellwood "Bud" Kieser, founder of the Humanitas Prize. The goal was to create a mini-series called "Jesus and Company," which would tell the same story a number of times, only seen through the eyes of characters such as Peter, Mary Magdalene, Judas and others.

Emerging democracy buffs will remember Father Kieser's unintentionally hilarious Romero (1989), a propaganda film in the Soviet girl-meets-tractor tradition which, with all the subtlety of a Jack Chick comic, dishonors the memory of a murdered Salvadoran archbishop by turning him into a sanctimonious buffoon -- the Rev. Mr. Chadband with a Mexican accent.

The Jack Chick comparison is not made lightly. In their mental operations Kieser and Chick might be identical twins -- though ideologically separated at birth. In each the dominant characteristic is piety, and in each piety has taken the form of outraged indignation at the works of the ungodly. In both men this indignation acts as a kind of telephoto lens: it collapses all distance; there is no background or foreground to their world; all faults are sins and all sins are mortal. So, in Romero, the villanous U.S. soldiers not only machine-gun pregnant women, but smoke in poorly ventilated public areas!

Mattingly's mention of Kieser brought all this back to me. And it also called to mind a perceptive remark by film critic James Bowman, writing about another exercise in Leftist piety called The Other Sister:

Its purpose, in other words, is not to shock us (as real art does) with unexpected realities, or to make us see something new in the world, something true and something real, for the first time. Like propaganda and other forms of pseudo-art, it is instead an appeal to complacency, designed to make us feel good about ourselves and comfortable and self-righteous. We come away not with an increased sensitivity to others but with an increased pride in our own sympathies.

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