Jason Arment reviews the documentary film The Gospel of Eureka, a movie that tracks stories about two theaters operating in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.
When I went to see The Gospel of Eureka, I didn’t know much about the film. What I’d gathered from the movie trailer and paragraph-long synopsis, I figured The Gospel of Eureka would involve the intersection of faith and gay culture. If that was all the film engaged, it would be more than enough. Life isn’t ever as simple as two things colliding though, which the film reflects.
Whether or not the Christian faith is becoming more secular or closer to what a God of love intended is beyond the scope of what I feel comfortable addressing with film criticism. Luckily, the movie revolves mostly around theater, and not just in a meta sense, but literally. It documents two theaters operating in the town of Eureka Springs, Arkansas.
The Gospel of Eureka captures a play of Christ’s death and resurrection put on by a Christian fundamentalists’ institution which operates several facilities on a large lot, one of which is an outdoor amphitheater. The other theater is the world of drag, and the film follows a Christian drag show taking place at a gay bar.
I figured The Gospel of Eureka would involve the intersection of faith and gay culture. If that was all the film engaged, it would be more than enough. Life isn’t ever as simple as two things colliding though, which the film reflects.
The film is a documentary that uses very sparse voice-over to prod the audience’s thoughts in the right direction. The narrator tells of grievous violence towards the LGBTQ community in and around the small town, and even foreshadows the tragic passing of one of the former drag queens the film follows.
It’s not a sad film, nor is it one which tries to be inspirational. All the situations are more than believable, and sometimes even present surprising complexity. Because what the movie is most about is how people are taking Christianity and using it to ask the question, “What is God for me?” The answer to this, according to modern thinking, is that God is love in a way that doesn’t know hate. The fundamentalists are losing their influence and, slowly, secularism is what results from a diffusion of fervent litigiousness. Without a jealous and vengeful God, the followers of Christianity seem to have found some chill—good news for those who want the religion to survive.
Although faith is celebrated in The Gospel of Eureka, it’s never far from death’s somber influence. The children who watch Christ’s crucifixion in the play are struck with the same awe that the old married drag queen couple feel when they look at an old photo album and realize how many friends they’ve lost to AIDS and the faith that steels them against an ominous future reflects not just the grandiosity of the stage, but the hope of its surrounding audience.