CONSTANTINE’S SWORD: 2007 (95 MINUTES) D: OREN JACOBY ; W: JAMES CARROLL AND OREN JACOBY; PLAYS AT NWFF 1515 12TH FROM AUGUST 29TH TO SEPTEMBER 4TH: 7:15 and 9:15pm, plus 3:15 and 5:15pm on Saturday and Sunday.
(The title refers to the conversion of Emperor Constantine to Christianity. In a dream he was told that if he marched his armies behind the symbol of the cross he would be victorious. So he converted a great deal of Europe by the tip of his “Christian” sword. As there were very few Christians at the time, this is looked at as being the founding of The True Church.)
Frankly, this film left me feeling confused. I enjoyed it very much, but it’s like there’s SO much information, (enough to make 3 films, in my opinion), too loosely tied together, to make it truly coherent. The themes that stood out (confusingly) to me were: First, the incident that was presented as the impetus for the book and film, Evangelicals and Air Force Officials trying to almost forcibly convert students (and persecute those who didn’t, esp. if they were Jewish) at the local Air Force Academy. (The Evangelical pastor, who was later involved in one of the juiciest scandals in the history of pastoral hypocrisy–& only admitted his “sin” because the reporters were only hours away from breaking the story, is so fun to watch once you understand who he is! You KNOW he’s a hypocrite, NOBODY has teeth that white!). Second, the anti-Semitism inherent in almost all Christianity, specifically in reference to the Catholic Church. And third, the incredible life of the author/co-writer/subject, James Carroll. Being the co-writer I felt he either wrote too much or too little about himself, being a son of one of the most important figures in the history of the Air Force, an ex-priest, family man and author, he truly deserves his own film! His life is fascinating, but I fail to see what his relationship with his father and the Vietnamese war protests he was involved with, have to do with Catholic anti-Semitism, which is the focus of most of the film.
I loved the historical examples, the film travels around the world, talking to families of all different cultures about how their relatives were deeply, and sometimes tragically, affected by the Church’s intolerance of the Jewish faith. All of these experiences are important to learn about, esp. as our lame duck president (pause for joke…………..) brought “faith-based initiatives” with him to the White House. My frustration with the film is then, that’s it. I felt there was no ideas as to action, no correlation between the information we are given and how to apply it to our daily lives. (Though it is nice to see that the Air Force Academy situation did get resolved). See it and tell me where I went wrong–Errol Morris and Albert Maysles loved it, and they know a helluva a lot more than me!