I haven’t watched a documentary for a little while. The screening of this one is another project of While You Were Sleeping. What Would Jesus Buy looks at consumerism in American Culture by following the cross country crusade of Reverend Billy of the church of Stop Shopping. Reverend Billy and his choir travel the country warning people about the impended ‘shopocalypse’ and exhorting them to give the real gifts of love and time rather than expensive material goods.
The movie uses humour to get its message across, which makes a change from the serious documentaries we are normally exposed to. Like Morgan Spurlock’s other documentary, Super Size Me, What Would Jesus Buy is easy viewing but short on facts. They mention some facts about American consumption and debt but almost in passing. The dirth of information on consumerism does not mean that the message of this documentary is not powerful.
Scenes of consumers almost rioting in order to get what they want have quite an impact and interviews with people show how consumerism has become a part of American culture. One of the people interviewed said ‘what can we do?’, this is why people need to be made aware of the problem of consumerism and what can actually be done about it. We need to take responsibility for our consumption habits. As Reverend Billy says ‘be people, not sheeple’.
I have posted on the problem of consumerism before, just prior to International Buy Nothing Day. I still believe that consumerism is one of the main causes of many of the problems we face in the world today, not just environmental but social too.
While this movie is very America focused, South Africa is on the road to being the same and we need to learn lessons from what has happened in America so that we can prevent it happening here. I would recommend that everyone see this movie. There are two more showings at the Labia, tomorrow and the next day (26th & 27th May 2008). Tickets can be booked through the Labia box office on 021 424 5927.
Another very good website for information on consumerism is www.storyofstuff.com which has a short animation showing why consumerism is so damaging to the environment.