Directed by Kirk Davis. USA. 2003.

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After a stormy night in the aptly named town of Bethlehem, Texas, the face of Jesus miraculously appears on the screen door of Mother Harpur's (Cynthia Dorn) home. For readers of Fortean Times they will know that such appearances of Jesus are regularly seen in all sorts of things from potatoes to clouds.

This apparition is used as a pivot around which a series of stories revolve. The stories feature a group of men drilling for oil, a lay preacher/bank manager who has to reject a loan for one of his needy parishioners, a honey trap for the local mayor, a woman who becomes ill and is left to heal through the work of God, a security guard who takes a dislike to theologians who do not believe in the literal truth of the Bible, and a romantic relationship between a Christian and a non-believer.

The film strongly evokes the lives of people in a small town where hope and faith can come in a variety of religious and non-religious forms. The vision of Jesus is almost a side-issue. It does attract curious crowds and pilgrims. Believers see the face but sceptics don't. The film shows how people react to the same thing in lots of different ways and shows how this dictates the course of their lives and how they interact with others.

I couldn't help noticing that water - in the form of rain, baptism, a river and water pipelines - frequently appear in the film. The water literally flows through the town whilst the face of Jesus metaphorically floods the town with complex emotions and reactions. 

The film does take some patience to get to know the characters and situations - perhaps this is because we are so used to films with only two or three central characters and simple storylines - but as the stories unfold the film becomes more gripping and builds up to an appropriately apocalyptic ending.

Screen Door Jesus is an assured piece of filmmaking that manages to skilfully juggle it's multi-layered storylines (based on the short stories of Christopher Cook).

Nigel Watson
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Material Copyright © 2001 Nigel Watson