The Nature Of Existence

Few trailers for movies, or documentaries, are as perfectly encapsulate as filmmaker Roger “trekkies” Nygard’s upcoming brilliant look at the question of existence and why we are here. Why do we exist? The word “exist” conjures as many questions as answers as Nygard travels across the globe to ask a wide assortment of human beings what it means to them. Spirituality never looked so wonderfully confusing. Let’s hope this docu comes here to the Bible Belt so we can loosen the grip from around the bellies of the unenlightened. I’ll be in the first row so I won’t have to move several times, rather than listen to the same offended idiots, who were in the audience when I reviewed Bill Maher’s Religulous: Funny, Offensive and Thought-Provoking Docu

Trailer Contains Profanity and Sexual Language

Religulous: Funny, Offensive and Thought-Provoking Docu

Bill Maher Interviews \"Jesus\"

Reviewed by Henry B. Rosenbush

Religious skepticism never looked as good as in Religulous, a documentary that veers from serious subtext to satire and back again. Talk show host and comedian Bill Maher travels the world in search of religious legitimacy and in the process finds plenty of flaws in the factuality of believers.

Director Larry Charles previous film, the hit Borat, with Sacha Baron Cohen used a similar framing device of a fish out of water interviewer who feigns idiocy to make a serious social, political and satirical rationale from an unsuspecting public.

Maher, born and raised Catholic he learned at age 13 he was half Jewish has invited us to join him on a quest that begins in Megiddo, Israel where according to biblical prophecy, the world will end when Christ returns. Segueing into The Who’s The Seeker for the opening credit sequence, it is clear from the outset Religulous is not a conventional documentary; it is more of a hybrid, like a docu-comedy where serious issues are blatantly circumvented by Maher’s acerbic approach to interviewing.

Music plays an important role with country and western, religious, rock and Middle Eastern melodies underlying specific points and amusing subtitles are occasionally cued to inspire laughter and signify the oft irrational responses of Maher’s subjects. Charles mixes stock footage from movies, religious television programming and other documentaries to excellent effect.

There are sobering scenes especially with a radical Muslim whose point of view is indefensible and frightening: rapper Propa-Gandhi chastises Salman Rushdie, controversial author of the novel The Satanic Verses (1988) claiming he deserved the fatwa delivered by the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Supreme Leader of Iran and a Shi’a Muslim scholar, calling for Rushdie and his publishers to be killed.

Propa-Gandhi’s music videos displayed a violent, terrorist motif and the rapper refused to agree with Maher that Rushdie deserved the same freedom of speech that P-G enjoyed.

Throughout the film, Maher never allows his subjects to pontificate and in a variation on Bill O’Reilly’s No Spin Zone interrupts whenever his questions are either unanswered or whenever they stray from his original inquiry.

Maher travels to interview scholars at the holiest Jerusalem sites and visits a Raleigh, NC truck stop church – a converted trailer – to discuss Jesus and whether he even existed. In Orlando, FL Maher interviews “Jesus” at the Holy Land theme park that presented a musical revue that was clearly not on the talent level of Jesus Christ Superstar but did offer one female participant who believed she’d return after the Rapture riding on a white horse.

There is another bizarre moment where Maher sits while casually smoking a joint in Amsterdam with a decidedly stoned interviewee who is seated with candles behind his head. The man makes a claim to marijuana smoking as a form of religious freedom. Suddenly, and obviously unrehearsed, Maher pulls the man away from the candles which have singed his hair to which the man babbles something about hating to sit with candles behind his head.


The big three religions get plenty of lengthy debates while Eastern faiths are largely ignored; however Mormon tenets are explored and Scientology is examined with surprisingly hilarious results thanks to accompanying footage of such members as Tom Cruise and John Travolta.

There is a wild-eyed Jew who believes Israel does not deserve to remain in Jerusalem and is seen in newsreel footage embracing Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and denies the ruler ever called for Israel to be destroyed.

In Florida, again, we meet a Latino, named Jesus, who claims angels visited him and proclaimed him as Christ reincarnated. John Westcott of Exchange Ministries, a converted gay man, who tries to convert other gays nearly halts the interview; “I’m not sure I like where this is headed.” The segment ends with a mutual hug where Westcott appears to perhaps still have some leftover tendencies. “That wasn’t bad,” he tells Maher after the embrace.

There are plenty of amusing moments, as after Maher and his team are thrown out of the Vatican, and he stands outside extolling this isn’t a special effect but the real Vatican and while interviewing a black tele-evangelist gets the man to admit he probably has groupies.

On as more serious note, the devout evangelical Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) is unable to answer Maher’s question “Why is faith good?” Most profound moment comes when Maher interviews his sister and mother (who a final credit scroll indicates died in 2007) in the New Jersey church they attended explain his parents left the church due to their use of birth control, which was considered a sin.

Much like Maher’s HBO program, Real Time, the film ends with a sobering and seriously monologue over explosive imagery. Kudos to the research team of Robyn Adams, Chelsea Barnard and Sophie Charles, whose extensive data supports Maher and Editors Jeffrey Werner, Jeff Groth and Christian Kinnard who assembled an awesome array of footage seamlessly into the film.

Anthony Hardwick’s use of a two-camera approach improves on the films cinematography.

A Lionsgate release of a Lionsgate Films/Thousand Words presentation of a Thousand Words/Bill Maher production. Produced by Bill Maher, Palmer West and Jonah Smith; executive producer Charlie Siskel; directed by Larry Charles. Camera (Deluxe color), Anthony Hardwick; editors, Jeffrey Werner, Jeff Groth, Christian Kinnard; sound (Dolby Digital), Scott Harber; supervising sound editor, Geoffrey Rubay; re-recording mixer, Rubay; researchers, Robyn Adams, Chelsea Barnard, Sophie Charles; associate producers, Alexandra Lambrinidis, Lisa Rudin; assistant director, Dale Stern.

With: Bill Maher, Julie Maher, Kathie Maher, Andrew Newberg, John Westcott, Sen. Mark Pryor, Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda, Steve Berg, Ken Ham, Francis Collins, Jeremiah Cummings, Mohammad Hourani, Father Reginald Foster, Mohammed Junas Gatfar, Rabbi Dovid Weiss, Rabbi Schmuel Strauss, Dean Hamer, Rev. Terre van Beverren, Propa-Gandhi, Ray Suarez, Geert Wilders, Fatima Elatik, Father George Coyne, Tal Bachman, Bill Gardiner, Larry Charles.

Reviewed at The Carmike Summit, Birmingham, AL November 3, 2008. MPAA Rating: R: For Adult themes, Profanity, Brief Violence and Brief Drug Use. 1:41. English, Spanish and Arabic dialogue.

Voting Is Important So Don’t Waste It. VOTE TODAY

We understand that in various states after voting there are offers of free beer in Kansas City and free donuts in Florida. At Rosenbush Cafe we will treat all voters to free cups of coffee and freshly baked Apple Pie! We have American Flags and entertain all parties.

Guess we sound like an old fashioned Norman Rockwell portrait here but there is an urgency whenever the top slot is open and we urge you to vote. Don’t waste your opportunity to voice your opinion. Forget about the long lines – you’d do it for Rolling Stones tickets – or “My candidate will (pick one: _____ Win ______ Lose) regardless of my vote. Every vote is important.

Last night I traveled to Birmingham for a viewing of Bill Maher’s off-the-planet docu-comedy, Religuous, and decided the review tonight should reflect not only the major themes of Religions – from mundane to extreme – throughout the world and the people who subscribe to myriad beliefs but address the end of the world, as it is portended in the voices of the inhabitants of the Planet we call Earth. (Wonder what our planet is called from other galaxies? That little star over there!) We view ourselves far more importantly than probably needed when Religion and Politics are blended into the ingredients.

We urge voters to keep their choices silent at least until after the election. I am keeping quiet today as my right to vote for whomever without fear. The United States of America offers much that is wonderful and awful in equal measurements, but before you drop the stone in your broth and begin adding tasty delights to enhance your post-victory dinner, remember we are allowed to vote here. Many other countries elect their leaders much differently and the people have no choice but to remain silent and smile, even when they are unhappy.

VOTE TODAY or Don’t COMPLAIN TOMORROW. The Cafe will be closed from 2-4 p.m. so our employees can exercise their rights to write in, punch or flip a switch for the next President of the United States of America.

Will it be Barack Obama, the first black, or John McCain, the war hero? Will we have 4 more years of the GOP or a fresh start with the DEMs? Will we have a straight-laced male VP or a lady who has been spoofed more on Saturday Night Live recently than a full season of Family Guy, the Simpsons and South Park combined?

Could Ralph Nader and Matt Gonzalez surprise everyone and win. Is MAD Magazine’s Alfred E. Neuman still on the ballot?

Ezra Pound is quoted with saying “Great literature is simply language charged with meaning to the utmost possible degree.” While he did not write those words with Politics and Religion necessarily at the forefront we can take comfort that, “Great elections are simply choices charged with the meaning to utmost possible degree.” The choices are before you and the meaning is clear: Vote for whatever you want most. If children can make a list for Santa Clause adults should have theirs ready:

Change or Same

Us or Them

The Good

The Bad

The Ugly

Religulous: not for the religiously humorless

Opening October 3rd, Comedian and star of HBO’s Real Time Bill Maher takes on religion in director Larry Charles’ Religulous. Certain to perturb many and bring joy to the remainder, Charles uses the same mockumentary comedic style as his film, Borat. Maher does plenty of globe-trotting as he interviews people about God and religion. This spiritual journey looks equally profound and humorous. religuous-funny-offensive-and-thought-provoking-docu