Thursday 5 July 2012

Leviticus: God's Law (2011)

Director: Chris Redish
This film was an official selection at the Phoenix Film Festival in Phoenix in 2012. Here's an index to my reviews of 2012 films.
There's nothing in Leviticus: God's Law that's remotely new or that should surprise anyone, but it's timely nonetheless. So many people don't seem to get it, and lately those people seem to be getting elected to high public office on a regular basis. What is overt pastiche today, albeit well written and with comedic intent, could be cited tomorrow as serious propaganda by people who don't get it. I wrote a humorous article a decade or so back that covered the same ground and stemmed from the same biblical quote that opens this short. I'd read the Book of Leviticus after noticing that so many people who were vehemently against things cited it as their references. In doing so I realised how selective they all were being with their quotations, because there are so many prohibitions in God's law that, frankly, we're all destined for the lake of fire already. I had great fun writing it all up, so I can see how much Chris Redish had writing and directing this film.

Based on an idea by Keanan Casey, Redish merely selects a different verse from the same book and extrapolates it to the level that so many reach with their anti-gay propaganda. Sure, there's a verse (20:13) that explicitly prohibits male gay sex, but there's one that uses the very same language to explicitly prohibit the eating of shellfish (11:12). How ridiculous would the world be if people focused on that verse to the exclusion of all others? Well, bring up YouTube or Vimeo and search for Leviticus: God's Law and you'll find out. It really is a joy to watch, unless you're still stuck on 20:13, of course. Then you're likely to be offended. If only one such person's eyes are opened by seeing this film, it'll have served its purpose. After all, a world focused on 11:12 is no more ridiculous than one focused on 20:13 or any other verse of this or any other book. If a comedy short can have a message, that's the message.

The film itself is consistently handled well but it doesn't aim to be a great technical masterpiece. Everything boils down to two successes: the clever writing and the ability of the actors to deliver their lines as straight as possible, no pun intended. Redish conjures up an Arizona in which Prop 220 has allowed shellfish eaters to marry and casts his net wide from there to trawl in soldiers, politicians, mothers, priests, schools, you name it. It's a success because we recognise each of these characters from our own lives or from TV: the gay priest who defends the shellfish ban as God's law but explains that the verse about gays shouldn't be taken literally as it only refers to ancient ritual, or the woman who founds Mothers Without Scales after her daughter experiments with snow crab. Redish apparently took five years to get around to make this film, but wrote and shot it quickly. Someone should pay for it to play during half time at the Superbowl. I'd chip in.

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