Thursday, July 30, 2020

A new kind of "Jonestown," still a cult: Cara Jones' family documentary, BLESSED CHILD

Wouldn't you know? Yes, it's love that fuels the new documentary BLESSED CHILD -- all about a young woman (now middle-aged) who, thanks to her family, became a member of yet another infamous religious cult, this one featuring those "Moonies," led by the South Korean crackpot, "Reverend" Sun Myung Moon and his Unification Church.

When TrustMovies calls what fuels this movie love, he's referring to all kinds of that popular condition, from romantic love (which simply was never there for our heroine in the arranged marriage she accepted via Reverend Moon), family love (her entire family was part of and rather high up in the hierarchy of Moon's major shell game), and especially of course, love of god -- however one might define his/her obeisance to the divine s/he/it. Or simply shit, as I sometimes refer to the deity. (Ooops: My atheism is popping out again.)

What makes Blessed Child more unusual than other documentaries that try to unmask and/or hold up to scrutiny one or another religious cult (as with so many docs that tackle Scientology) is that Ms Jones (shown at left) and her whole family, after decades now, still seem to be trying to come to terms with what they have done, who they actually are, and how to deal with that fraud and false messiah, Reverend Moon. From the looks of things, it ain't easy.

Thanks to quite a wealth of archival footage, the cooperation of family members (that's Cara and her brother Bow, above), and her pretty good organizational skills, Ms Jones gives us her own, her family's and Moon's church's histories, which are rather strongly bound together. Fairly early on, we learn that brother Bow is gay -- a huge no-no in the church. (The Reverend was overheard at one point exclaiming how he would love to line up the homosexuals and just gun them all down!)

Cara's dad (shown above with mom, in the early days of their religious fealty, and with the Reverend, below) is most responsible for the family's entry into the church. He is said to have been extremely bright, cautious and questioning. Yet the explanation he gives of why he was so impressed with Moon's teaching (something about the love of a man and a woman for god being able to change the world) seems so simple minded and non-specific that this does make you roll your eyes concerning dad's much-vaunted intelligence.

From what I could gather, the other brothers, including Bow, have left the church by now -- Cara, too (mom and dad are still struggling with it) -- yet again and again, no one seems completely able to quite shake it all off. That sense of disappointing dad and mom hovers over everything here. This clearly was and is a very tight-knit family, so, yes, it would be hugely difficult to give up that.

Meanwhile, the film offers some interesting history and politics, showing how our right-wing Presidents long supported that Reverend, who was always mouthing his God Bless America schlock. (Seeing that right-wing cartoonist icon Al Capp proselytizing for Moon will set your teeth on edge.) And returning to those crazy "weddings" in which hundred of couples -- here, in South Korea and elsewhere -- simultaneously got hitched remains flabbergasting all over again.

For Cara, romantic love seems most important, and though we don't learn specifics about the South Korea guy (above, with face blocked out) that Moon chose for her, it's clear this did not work out. Fortunately, there's someone perhaps more suitable now, as this strangely ambiguous and unsettling little movie makes clear. Good luck to all the Jones family. From the looks of things, they'll need it.

Distributed by Obscured Pictures and running 77 minutes, Blessed Child opened for streaming earlier this month and is now available via iTunes, Amazon and Google.

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