THE APOCALYPTIC IS THE MOTHER OF ALL
Jesse Stiles Alexander Panos
The Apocalyptic is the Mother of All Christian Theology 63:52, 2023
A psychedelic portrait of the anticolonial Jewish mystic and founding theorist of Christianity—Paul the Apostle.
“Holy reconstructions of the sons of God, Jim Finn! Our favorite political atomizer gets holy in his new documentary crusade and decides to tell the story of Paul, the apostle who, the cheap internet would say, was “the most ardent propagandist of Christianism.” Finn, alongside artists Linda Mary Montano and Usama Alshaibi, goes all scissorhands using 16mm institutional shorts, board game commercials, cassette tapes, trashy animations and, of course, period performances of not-so-doubtful quality—a rosary of archive footage that evolves in the map of pop culture, its praying and its saints. Psychedelic and ferocious, Finn extracts waste from the 20th century and, Doc Brown-style, uses it to make miracles based on science (that of film) that stare into the future.”
— BAFICI 2023 (Buenos Aires Festival of Independent Film)
The founding theorist of Christianity — Paul of Tarsus — met resurrected Jesus outside Damascus and spent the rest of his life expanding an obscure messianic sect of Judaism to the pagan communities of the eastern Mediterranean. Piecing together propaganda films, VHS tapes, audio cassettess, board games and other detritus from church rummae sales, writer/director Jim Finn is the guide through Paul's life, ideology and influence with the help of animation, video synthesizers and reenactments.
References to Paul’s letters regularly appear with numbers and colons in the bios of professional baseball players and Republican staffers. And each year new books and articles are written about Paul as theologian, worker, feminist & queer ally, Jewish mystic, missionary and rhetorician. But still many of the basic ideas of who he was and what he believed still escape us.
This story is told by creating portraits from his life, obsessions and legends based on the ancient Greek words in his letters: Apocalypsis (unmasking, unveiling, revelation), Charismata (divinely conferred gifts), Porneia (illicit sexual activity weirdly translated as fornication), Ethnos (pagan gentiles), Ekklesia (democratic assembly of believers), Koinonia (fellowship), Stenazo (the groaning pain of laboring through childbirth), Pistis (faithfulness or loyalty) and Parousia (presence of God, the arrival of the Kingdom of God on Earth).
Composer Colleen Burke brought together musicians like Jim White (The Dirty Three) and Munaf Rayani (Explosions in the Sky) for this soundtrack based on 1970s Catholic liturgical music and Nordic metal. The gentle Paul themes with flute, acoustic guitar and mellotron contrasts with the Demonic Roman Empire themes of electric guitar, drums and synth.
"Surveying the legacy of the Civil War through the strange remnants that linger in American society, The Annotated Field Guide Of Ulysses S. Grant is an essay film with bite, understatedly but convincingly arguing that the Confederacy’s great shame has yet to be expunged from the national consciousness. Filmmaker Jim Finn details the journey US General Ulysses S. Grant underwent to systematically crush the Confederate army, but this isn’t a documentary about military tactics. Rather, Finn photographs the war’s most famous battlefields as they appear now, as well as explores the odd ways that the country has memorialised the conflict, including through boardgames and bubblegum cards. Told in nine chapters and a damning coda, The Annotated Field Guide may initially seem playful, but the seriousness of purpose becomes evident soon enough...." —Tim Grierson in Screen Daily
Paste Magazine: The 25 Best Documentaries of 2020
"...As the contrast between the images and narration starts to develop, Finn arrives at something. He films ruins, monuments and battlefields in their current state, and it is in these visits to places like Stone Mountain up the tram, and stop-motion board games and bubblegum cards, where Finn finds a perspective beyond a corrective history lesson: the cheap commodification of Southern history, sanitized and glazed with a sort of he-man plasticity, revealing the strange ways our culture can present the past as benign myth when its direct effects are still readily observed..." —Daniel Christian