Friday, November 29, 2013

Gus Holwerda's THE UNBELIEVERS is a near waste of time. And I'm speaking as an agnostic.

What were they thinking, the Holwerda brothers, Gus (shown below) and Luke, not to mention their subjects, scientists/teachers Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss, by gifting us with this nearly pointless docu-mentary titled, and badly, THE UNBELIEVERS? Dawkins and Krauss are hardly unbelievers. They believe in science and what it can teach us, even if they do not believe in religion or a deity of any kind. I agree with them one hundred per cent. And yet the silly and tiresome film that the Holwerdas have put together about this pair does no one any service, least of all the poor audience that must view it.

Beginning with a very good quote from Woody Allen and then continuing with more input from various celebrities, the film introduces its subjects as men who believe in and proselytize for disbelief, so far as religion is concerned. All snippets, and half of them not particularly edifying, the movie lasts only 75 minutes, with the final ten given over to end credits and a run-down of the credentials for the two men, followed by more talk from those several celebrities we saw at the start of the film.

While some of the things we hear the two men say (Dawkins is pictured above, Krauss below) are indeed smart and to the point, the movie, even at this short length, still manages to waste about a quarter of its time with unnecessary filler. The director, Gus, seems to favor showing people traveling to and fro, so we see airports and scenery and cars and people in motion, as though we cared a lick about this. Even sillier, in a documentary where intelligent talk should be most important, the filmmaker, in some sort of pointless nod to "style," offers a number of moments of mouths seen moving with no accompanying sound.

We attend "debates" but see and hear so little of them, particularly of the contrary view, that we wonder why the filmmakers bothered. We see bits and pieces of protests -- the best of which shows a group of all-male Muslim protesters and batch of further protesters against the Muslim, who chant "Where Are Your Women?" to these shamefully anti-women funda-mentalist idiots. But so what? There's a noticeable lack of organization here, which reduces the movie to a hack job for the already converted.

When we do hear Dawkins or Krauss speaking, some of what they say has merit and is intelligent. But they always seem to be cut short. I suspect it would have done more good to simply film one of their joint appearances in its entirety, including the Q&A that probably followed to give us a clearer sense of what is on offer here. (Or better yet, just pick up one of the books that either man has already written and peruse it at your leisure.)

I firmly believe that Atheism/Agnosticism deserves its chance to shine and convert new followers every bit as much as does any and all religion -- which is based on a faith that is simply unprovable. Most of us would never manage our money in this manner. Why, then, do we give over our lives, our rationality, to this crap? Perhaps, as Dawkins suggests, there are many more atheists and agnostics among us -- including our politicians -- than care to admit this in a world that appears to be heading toward fundamentalism instead of reason.

Yet by preaching, and poorly, to the choir as it were, The Unbelievers ends up an opportunity mostly wasted. The film opens today, Friday, November 29, in Los Angeles at Laemmle's Music Hall 3 in Beverly Hills and will hit New York City on Friday, December 13, at the Quad Cinema.

Note: The film's director, Gus Holwerda will appear 
tonight, 11/29/13 at the Music Hall 3 after 
the 7:50 show for a Q&A with the audience.

When the film hits the Quad Cinema in NYC, the
filmmaker will be present on the opening evening of Dec. 13
for a Q&A following the 7:40 show.

No comments: