Sunday, November 10, 2019

We Believe in Dinosaurs (2019) DOC NYC 2019

WE BELIEVE IN DINOSAURS is a head trip. There is nothing out of the ordinary in it other than spending 100 minutes with people who believe the Bible is 100% true with no added allegory (You have to believe it all with your heart lest you doubt some bit that's true) and Noah who built the ark and took dinosaurs on board (they were baby dinosaurs because the adults were just so darn big). It’s a trip to a place were 38% of Americans live mentally and it’s a scary place.

The film is focused on the building of the Ark Experience in Kentucky, a theme park built around a full sized Noah’s ark. It is related to the creationism Museum where the religion of fundamentalism is pitted against the religion of science. The film follows the people behind the park as they put it together gather funding and build it, promising the local towns and villages that in exchange for tax breaks they will be on the gravy train for life. Most chillingly we watch them indoctrinate the young with non-think cut off tactics (they are told to answer “how do you know? Were you there?” to any thorny answer raised by science)The film also follows two dissenters, a local paleontologist who doesn’t buy any of it, and a former true believer (he is founding member of the Creationism Museum with his name on the wall and who was afraid to question lest he become "raving atheist feminist communist") who found that some of what science says, and which is okay about with the creationists, didn’t jibe (say the universe being 6 thousand years old but having light traveling hundreds of thousands of light years to reach earth). We watch as the dissenters wrestle with their conscious, the attractions tax exempt status and the discovery that their hiring practices are so restrictive that even most Christians couldn’t get hired by the park.

What long strange trip it is. Watching people blindly believe things because they are told that was what the Bible says is chilling. They have been raised to believe in their flavor of Christianity so deeply that they have to err on the side of scripture, or at least their leader’s version of it, because if you don’t take every word as absolute truth (even if you know it probably isn’t) you raise the possibility of it all not being true and thus will undermine all of your faith. It’s a chilling way of going through life that is kind of like being in a cult or abusive relationship… but that’s another story. That rational humans believe this sort of nonsense is frightening, especially when it’s plain that their mumbo jumbo is bullocks (they say dinosaur fossils were created by the flood- and then turn around and say they were on the ark-WTF?) or involves twists that are not in any bible (one person says that people survived on mountaintops so Noah’s family didn’t have to commit incest).

Can’t anyone think for themselves? I guess not.

And I like is that the film follows the fate of the towns around the park. I like that we see the hope everyone has when it’s being built, and the disillusionment when they realize that the park is going to make millions but the towns are not (many businesses have gone bankrupt because people are not stopping in, they are just passing through).

As good and as heady as the film is, it still feels weirdly incomplete. Somehow it feels like we are getting half the story. I think part of the problem is that directors Monica Long Ross and Clayton Brown focus so much time on the people in the park and what they are doing we don’t get enough view of the other side. For better or worse the film is largely focused on the giving Ken Ham and his minions free room to say what they want with little effort to get them to answer any sort of questions on the negative side. Perhaps it was part of the deal for access, but there never is any sort of confrontation. The funny thing is the filmmakers still come off on the short end since they are kind of roasted in a video played during the end credits with Ham saying that the film is a hatchet job. Honestly as good as this film is I would love a longer cut which gives the naysayers more room, and give more details.

Regardless of my quibbles this is a hell of a film. Never mind revealing the mindset of some fundamentalist Christians, it also sheds light on the national mindset of following teachings or leaders blindly despite having evidence of our own eyes that what we are told does not match with what we see… (I’ll leave the discussion on the politics for others to get into) . Because of the larger implications and because we are lost in an alien and ultimately irrational mindset We Believe in Dinosaurs is a heavy film that hangs with you for days after seeing it. I felt bludgeoned by it and the implications of people following things that know are wrong simply because their minister (or Fuhrer in the White House) tells them to.

A must see at DOC NYC

WE BELIEVE IN DINOSAURS plays November 13 and 14 at DOC NYC. For more information and tickets go here

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