2015 Hot Docs : ‘Jesus Town USA’


Jesus Town USA

Jesus Town USA is a modest and warm documentary that follows the annual portrayal of ‘The Life of Jesus’ near the quaint town of Lawton, Oklahoma. With a unified effort of 500 people the amount of preparation that goes into this performance is extraordinary.  With months of preparation, countless rehearsals, elaborate costumes and decoration- creating this play is definitely a daunting task. At this Passion Plays peak of popularity it had attracted an audience of more than 200,000.

Today, the attendance is low but the enthusiasm certainly hasn’t suffered. The people you begin to recognize in the film are filled with purpose and a collectedness that can normally be found after a tragedy or natural disaster. There isn’t one man more crucial to this level of unity than Zack; a mild mannered, chubby paperboy who plays Jesus in the Passion Play. Zack has every word of the production memorized and is the most obvious choice for the part, long hair and all.

The people involved can only be described as quirky and endearing. When they speak there are no ulterior motives, fine print or malicious intent – there’s a gentleness that isn’t seen as often as we would like.  So, what’s the catch?  Zack is a Buddhist and this is a problem for his fellow cast mates, friends and family. Personally, I’m tickled by the idea and since watching this documentary a smile hasn’t left my face.

Should a Buddhist portray Jesus?  Whether you have invested yourself in the story of Jesus Christ or not; people like Zack will make you a believer in the kindness and morality we all have the capability to possess. The community that this Passion Play has inspired is heartwarming and Jesus Town USA has done a respectable job in demonstrating it.

Jesus Town USA will be playing at various theatres:

Hart House Theatre on April 25 @ 1:00 p.m.
Isabel Bader Theatre on May 3, @ 9:00 p.m.

Tickets can be purchased here!

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