It’s a bit easier to understand why humans have religious wars after viewing a documentary like director Julia Pimsleur’s “Brother Born Again.” The Jewish filmmaker has, along with the rest of her family, struggled with the fact that her brother Marc converted to Christianity and joined “The Farm,” a small, reclusive Christian community near Hoonah, Alaska some ten years ago. Communications have become as strained as they are infrequent in the years since.
In an attempt not only to understand his decision and his newfound way of thinking, but to reopen the basic lines of sibling and family communications, Julia ventures to The Farm with a camera in tow. There, she finds Marc and many other residents of The Farm surprisingly willing to share their adamant and inflexible dogma with her. The resulting exchange of ideas, as fascinating to watch as they are terrifying, at first leads to a growing sense of frustration; Julia realizing that no amount of logic or exhortation is going to persuade Marc to change his beliefs.
This is especially and most heart wrenchingly obvious when the di!
scussion turns to Julia’s bisexuality; an alternative lifestyle that Marc and his extremely fundamentalist peers obviously find highly anathematic. Craving her brother’s acceptance of her for whom she is, Julia eventually resigns herself to accepting what amounts to his conditional love.
It’s this sort of give and take compromise between the family members that eventually emerges as a theme by the end of this fine documentary. Whereas at the outset of the film, the siblings’ mother and their Great Aunt Beatie were convinced that Marc’s conversion to Christianity automatically meant that he’d joined a cult, by the conclusion, both Marc and Julia were treated to the dizzying spectacle of their mother defending his choice to Aunt Beatie.
“Brother Born Again” eventually evolves into a hopeful tale of, if not exactly acceptance of differing values and belief systems, then at least a grudging willingness to avoid being judgmental. Now if only the rest of the world could learn to become so tolerant.