by M. Faust
Prior to the popularity of Hong Kong action films and J-horror, Asian cinema was best known for contemplative dramas that favored an open, direct gaze over camera movement and editing. That tradition is the inspiration behind this independent feature, which has a substantial layer of humor as well. It is based on a true story about a religious cult of Taiwanese men and women who gathered in Texas to await the arrival of God. Their leader, Teacher Chen, has prophesized that this is where God will return to earth, to take away the faithful in a space ship that holds 100,000 people. At least, we’re told that these are the words of the teacher, but he never speaks—we learn of the cult’s beliefs from his aide. Mr. Liu, who could be making it all up himself. He holds a series of increasingly bizarre press conferences to explain what will happen on earth prior to the arrival of God, who will then broadcast to the world from a local public access station.
The film primarily follows one family who has come to Texas from Taiwan to join the cult. The father, Ming-Tien, is the true believer, and has brought his faithful but uncertain wife Xiu and their six-year-old son with them. Despite the comical aspect of much of the story, which involves the peaceable cultists’ efforts to fit into to a community that regards them with suspicion, the film is also an openhearted look at the nature of faith that can’t be logically justified, whether religious or emotional.
Having debuted at last year’s Buffalo International Film Festival, God’s Land will have four local screenings beginning Thursday, August 4. Writer/director Preston Miller will be present at the Friday and Saturday shows, and will hold a filmmaking seminar on Saturday, August 6 at 2pm. The final screening will be on Tuesday, August 9. All shows are at 7:30pm at the Screening Room in Amherst.
Watch the trailer for God's Land
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