To be objective in a documentary is very hard, especially when you are well-known for one side of an issue you are exploring. But the mark of a good documentarian is to stay as objective as possible and present the facts how at least you see them. Maybe these facts reinforce your ideas and beliefs, but maybe they also challenge them and cause you and therefore your audience to question their ideas and beliefs. A mark of a bad documentary then would be the exact opposite of this principle. The documentarian is very sure of his ideas and thoughts on a particular subject and seeks out only interview subjects and facts that enforce his views. It is boring to watch and makes you want to punch the man (or woman) in the face for wasting your time. Religulous was definitely one of the latter films.
Bill Maher makes it very clear from the outset that he hates religion. He thinks anyone who is religious is stupid and he seeks out stupid people or people who believe a certain thing to a manic degree and makes them even worse. He interviews the person who made the Creation Museum, a Jew for Jesus, a cannabis minister (I have t admit that I found that interview funny because the minister was just an insanely stoned dude who could only say yes or no and laugh…), the man who plays Jesus at an amusement park, Muslim doctors, and an ex-gay Christian. However interview is a very strong word. Mostly he would ask leading questions and interrupt the answers with a shaking of a head, a goofy smile or some snide comment about the ridiculousness of it all. This may prove how funny Bill Maher is (and mostly he is not) but it doesn’t actually make me learn anything about the stereotype each interviewee represented. I think that the ex-gay Christian may have been able to say some interesting things if he was given a chance. (I am not pro those groups, I am just saying that I would like to hear his point of view) But he doesn’t give anyone a chance to speak a completed sentence on their beliefs. Instead he is clowning around saying am I not cool, am I not in the right about everything? It is frustrating.
I am sure from the second paragraph, you might think that I am personally religious. I am in fact not. I am an ex-Catholic who does not believe that there is a god. My personal conclusion involved years of doubt and research that I am still working on. So in theory I would be Bill Maher’s target audience for this piece of crap. I should go ahead and laugh at these dim wits and their stupid conclusions about life, but I end up just feeling sorry for them and getting mad at Bill Maher for making these people go through his abuse. It makes me mad that someone would have given Bill any amount of money to make this and then have my liberal friends recommend it to me as a valid discussion piece. It is nothing more than an exercise of stretching Maher’s ego interspersed with media footage of Jesus Christ and John Smith.
I was pretty disappointed by this film if you could not tell from the previous paragraphs. The rousing call at the end of the film for people who are anti religion to rise up and take the reins had the opposite effect for me. I would rather hide in a deep dark hole than have Bill Maher be my spokesperson. He is an angry old man who doesn’t care about the people around him. Who would want that to represent them? It is just as bad as a pedophile priest or Osama Bin Laden standing full a large body of religious folks. I do not want to be judged badly because Bill Maher and I believe the same thing. It is as simple as that.