The Reverend

The Reverend
The Reverend
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Following numerous so-called unprecedented events, there is a growing consensus among a number of individuals that we are in great need for positive and well-meaning movies, books, and TV. This is what film The Reverend represents. The documentary follows Vince Anderson who leads his band The Love Choir which performs “dirty gospel” music at Brooklyn’s popular weekly residency. Though it was not his plan after dropping out of seminary school, it is how he ended up expressing faith and interacting with community.

It’s a simple documentary; religion and art both have an equal part to play in Anderson’s life as an adult. He falls in love, runs political campaigns, cares for others, all these are shown by the story of Anderson as a strong musician with large heart and great ideas that he wants to express. In most cases simplicity is always the best thing to have around. It gives room for interpretation by viewers while letting art speak for itself. Not here though; this is the downfall of the documentary – there isn’t much to chew on.Two themes stand out among themes: art versus religion — ever-expanding thoughts on them — yet nothing new from “The Reverend.”

However, strong points in The Reverend come from its discussion about religious communities that often go hand-in-hand with religion.Also being no ordinary preacher; Vince dropped out of seminary school choosing music over traditional ministry.And instead of being appointed to a church he has been made a minister by his community.Explaining how he began singing gospel music drunk people like it when playing bars and why God should take advantage of “your gifts where people gather.” Therefore by attracting committed audiences week after week Anderson was voted into power by his community rather than assigned.

This feeling of democracy together with community continues into the section on aftermaths following 2016 U.S election.The reaction towards disappointment or disgust against Trumpism did not last long inside this film however because Anderson did everything possible to convert the believers of religion themselves from this man.It is an impressive view and it would have been more convincing if that momentum was kept within the film.

In addition, another strong moment that arises out of Anderson’s dedication to his congregation is when he works with young black people in his community. He held a workshop for these youth after the election where they were allowed to come together and produce music. This was a great move by Anderson because he did not love himself being in the limelight but instead enjoyed watching teens connect with each other.This section is gripping both emotionally and intellectually once again stressing the potentialities available if this documentary had been more political.

Whether one is religious or not, it’s hard to find someone whose choice of live music doesn’t move them. The common quality that comes out in singing, dancing and even crying together at a live performance is undeniable. This is true about any type of music so when certain participants in this documentary keep on repeating that Anderson’s weekly event is unrepeatable and moreover one of the last places “where we get to sing together,” it raises an eyebrow or two. Certainly, a weekly residency that has been maintained for 20 years and still going strong is no mean feat or something unique just as that. But claiming that there is nowhere else people can go for live music (even within New York City) makes no sense.

Talking about what the state of politics is in America, Anderson says “Not singing together might be why we are all in this mess”. This is only one among other comments made on similar lines which are very confusing indeed. Why do all these people seem to believe there isn’t another place where groups can sing and dance? Isn’t this what most nightlife revolves around?

Clubs, bars, concerts and karaoke are all musical events almost everyone gets involved with at some point in their lives besides local congregations’ weekly services. It was possible to make Austin’s environment and tradition appear distinct without having to overstate things like this. Unfortunately the result doesn’t quite convince me of the film’s argument.

Rather than wasting time trying to prove the death of live music, The Reverend could have given more attention to its main themes involving art and religion. For instance there was so much in Anderson sharing with us how he dropped out of seminary school after watching Martin Scorsese’s movie The Last Temptation of Christ which refueled his urge towards religion. However, by hardly exploring further on this statement itself, I think cineastes missed out on such intertextuality having been a great moment. What was it in the movie that attracted him while other religious texts failed to? Is there anything that parallels or departs from its narrative in relation with Anderson’s own life? There is so much left unsaid here.

The central character of this film is a person who has surrounded himself with his own religious community by making and performing art. Therefore, it stands to reason that the documentary on this man should pick up where Anderson left off. Nonetheless, while doing so much to convey how distinct a person Anderson is and his weekly jam sessions as well, the film might be said to not understand itself.

Although art can and should be evaluated separately from its creator, it’s interesting to note that The Reverend’s director, Nick Canfield, has been attending these events for a long time himself. This comes across in the misplaced focus of this project. It appears as though Canfield wanted to show how special and unique these experiences are but fails to see what he sees because of proximity bias.

There are moments in The Reverend that feel almost like they will come into focus; for example, Anderson’s political activism. But the spark never quite ignites. It is a project full of life and inspiring in many ways which makes it even more bitter when asking oneself what it was all about as credits roll up. Nonetheless, there is no adequate reason why we should be concerned with any of this.

On the other hand, it seems hard to hold anything against such a kind-hearted thing. All the people on board loved Anderson dearly and he gave them back love which they deserved so much. You can see that Anderson has created a very special community who cares sincerely for each other. Perhaps an expansive theme involving art, religion and community did not pan out as hoped for but perhaps one could let that slide.

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