A Conversation about The Mission documentary with Andrew Sweatman of Arthouse Garage

A man with a towel on his shoulders
A still of John Chau from THE MISSION

Andrew Sweatman from Arthouse Garage and I discuss The Mission, a 2023 documentary about John Chau's fateful mission to spread the Gospel to the people of the North Sentinel Islands. The documentary had its debut at the Telluride Film Festival and has been making waves ever since.

On November 17, 2018, John Chau, a missionary worker, was killed while trying to spread the message of Jesus to the people of the Sentinel Islands, an isolated community off of a group of Islands near India. His actions were illegal. The documentary shares the story of his life, the factors that drove him to take such a dangerous action. While it centers John’s story, it also creates a context for a larger story about missionary work in general. The history and how it’s viewed today. The Mission is directed by Andrew McBaine and Jesse Moss, who previously directed Boys State

As a former missionary and ex-vangelical, Andrew was the perfect fellow critic for this discussion. After sharing our unique lenses, we cover the movie's format, the voices that spoke to us most in the movie, and if we think The Mission has a shot at winning any awards. We also discuss why John's action seem to be less lauded than other who have died doing missionary work, such as Jim Elliot or Nate Saint. 

Poster of The Mission

The Mission should be able to be streamed on Disney Plus or Hulu after December 8, 2023. 

About Andrew Sweatman: Andrew Sweatman is the creator of ArthouseGarage.com and host of the Arthouse Garage podcast, which features a rotating selection of filmmakers and critics discussing arthouse, indie, classic and foreign cinema. As the “snob-free film podcast,” Arthouse Garage exists with the goal of making challenging cinema accessible to budding cinephiles and arthouse newbies. Find Andrew online by following @arthousegarage on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Letterboxd or by going to ArthouseGarage.com

About Lindsey Dunn: Lindsey Dunn is a film critic with membership in both NC Film Critics and Southeastern Film Critics. She loves all things Cobra Kai, Netflix Dark, indie horror, and any stories about complicated relationships. You can find her at 1ofmystories.com and most social channels @1ofmystories


[TRANSCRIPT of discussion. This is AI-generated. Please for grammar errors.]



Hello everyone, I'm here for 1 of my stories. This is Lindsey Dunn. And today I'm talking to Andrew Sweatman from Arthouse Garage. Andrew and I are fellow critics with the Southeastern Film Critics Association and he's had me on his show twice now. I'm glad to have him on 1 of my stories today to talk about the mission. Andrew, welcome. Yeah, thanks so much for having me. Thrilled to be here. Yeah, so tell us about your channel. I know some stuff already, but it's called Arthouse Garage. Your tagline is the snob free podcast. Tell me about your show and why that's important to you. 


Yeah, for sure. I think so the snob free thing. Well, I love movies and at a certain point I was just becoming super obsessed with movie podcasts and I was like, I should make my own. And then the snob free thing is I spent a long time, I think being in film conversations with people and feeling like I didn't know enough to like be part of the conversation. Uh, and I know a lot of that was probably my own thing. I had people weren't being mean to me, but you know, this whole idea of, um, a movie snob, um, that always felt exclusive to me. Uh, I have a lot of friends that would openly say they're movie snobs and I'm not like mad about that, but my idea with the podcast was if you don't know much about cinema and you're trying to learn more because we're all learning all the time, no one knows everything. And, uh, just trying to make sure it's very welcoming and we're not going to talk down to you. 

If we reference things, I'll try to explain what those things are, and just try to make it very accessible for people because I the kinds of movies are talking about our art house indie classic movies. And it also was born of like, I like a watched the movie breathless for the first time the john Luc Goddard film, and I was like, I don't quite understand the hype, but I feel like if I understood more context, then I could appreciate what this is. And so the idea too, was like, how could I find that context and share it with other people. So hopefully I do something like that with the show. I have since rewatched Breathless and do appreciate it more and love it actually. But anyway, yeah, that's my podcast. We end up an episode just about every other two every other week, every two weeks. And I have had you on a couple of times for some great episodes that people should check those out. 


You seem to partner with many people. I know you do interviews sometimes also with different film directors just like I do. So do you feel like you have a theme of reigning theme or particular types of movies you tend to lean towards? 


Yeah, I guess it would be things that are, you know, not the hugest blockbuster kind of movie. Sometimes we've talked about a Marvel movie here and there, but generally it's smaller dramas. I will often have things that are about religion and actually like religious trauma and ex-religious things. So today's film that we're talking about is a perfect fit for me.

I've done a series on the show, talking to people who like myself grew up evangelical and are no longer and kind of what films speak to us on that level. I've also done series about, you know, speaking of Godard, like a introduction to the French new wave or introduction to contemporary Asian cinema, and just trying to pick a few titles that would kind of give an overview, an idea of what is this sort of thing. But we've also done a series around different themes for different directors and that sort of thing.

But generally it's mostly newer movies, but then I have a different guest just about every time who are film critics or filmmakers from Arkansas, where I'm from, or surrounding states like North Carolina. And yeah, that's what I've been doing. 


Now haven't you, I went on IMDB, Andrew. Have you also been in some movies? Because I found some IMDB credits given to an Andrew Sweatman. 


That's true. No one's ever asked me about that. A friend of mine from high school is named Michael Ferris. He's actually been on the podcast a couple of times. He is a filmmaker and mostly are, you know, very low budget, made at home kind of things. But some of the earlier ones, at least the ones that I'm in are the low budget ones. He's made a couple bigger things now. But yeah, they're, my acting is not good, first of all, and they're mostly like very silly like friends shooting a movie. But yeah, again, he has gone on to make some really good stuff too. So check out my...

But yes, I do have an IMDB page. Oh yeah, I think I was also on the, I just remembered on the IMDB page there's, there was a show back in the day called the Rotten Tomatoes Show. It was a web series that guests would send in tapes and they used part of my review one time. So that's on IMDB as well. Okay. So multi-dimensional, a person of many talents. I like that. I guess so.


I'm a librarian, so I tend to find things. Can't hide much from me. 


Yeah, you did your research for this episode. That's more than I expected. 


Today we're talking about The Mission. This is put out by National Geographic. It's got their name as well as another company, which now has left me. Directed by Amanda McBain and Jess Moss, who you may know them best from directing Boy's State. The description of the movie as I've written it is, on November 17th, 2018, John Chau, a missionary worker, was killed while trying to spread the message of Jesus to the people of the Sentinel Islands, an isolated community off of a group of islands near India. His actions were illegal. The documentary shares the story of his life and the factors that drove him to take such a dangerous action. While it centers John's story, it also creates a context for a larger story about missionary work in general, the history, and how it's viewed today. So before I get into the movie, I am curious if you ever saw Boy's State? 


I did actually did an episode on it. I did not realize until you just said that that that's the same directors that hears me not not being a librarian, not doing my homework. But yeah, I love Boys' State. I thought it was really fascinating. Really similar to this movie, like a familiar I went to boy state in Arkansas, not that in the film, it's Texas boy state. But I actually the episode that I did on this film, I think is really interesting because it's the guest is a guy who's not from the US originally, but is really into US politics, but his so his perspective on it all was really interesting. So I encourage you to check that out. But

Yeah, I really thought Boys' State was fantastic and hit close to home in a way because I did have some similar experiences in high school. And it also, I think the way they get into the weeds in a good way in that film, I can kind of see that they've done the same thing here, I think. We'll see what you think about that. But yeah, I really appreciated Boy State. What about you? 


Yeah, I put it was on my best of list for that year in my runner ups. I had 10 blue ribbons and 10 red ribbons. That was my first year as a film critic. So I was still trying to decide how I wanted to go about making a best of list for the year. You know, I still don't think I've quite landed on one thing. I think I've done something different every single year. But that year, I picked blue ribbons and red ribbons. And Boy State was definitely in my red ribbons. I thought it was

I thought it was the epitome of a great, a well-made documentary. It taught you about something you didn't know about before most people and then gave you this riveting portrayal of it. Yeah, it was very well-made, interesting and frightening at the same time. They definitely showed you the different aspects of it. I think I called it like a Lord of the Flies, a modern Lord of the Flies.

It was probably an exaggeration. It wasn't that nightmarish. Nobody was being assaulted with sticks or anything, but it was a little creepy. Disturbing, I guess. 


Yeah. I'm always just struck by how, like, the things they got as far as the footage, like the things they got people to say, and they got people to say. The things people openly said on camera is like, it's like saying the quiet part out loud, I guess, a little bit. But just, yeah.

A thrilling watch for that reason. 


Yeah. So I was happy to say like, oh yeah, they're still making stuff. That's good. Yeah. So this movie is all about the variety of opinions about John and what he did. Before we dive in, I did warn you in advance, I was going to ask you to share with the viewers the lens you're bringing to this movie because we all have one. 


Yes. And when you told me you were going to ask, I was like oh I have quite an answer for this question I'm actually so first of all grew up very evangelical as I mentioned already and spent many years kind of you know deconstructing is sort of the buzzword around that peeling back those layers and kind of unlearning a lot of things learning about what is religious trauma and and all of those kinds of things so that's something I'm very interested in and something I've talked a lot about part of that is I actually was a missionary for about a year I was uh

teaching English overseas. I'm going to be a little vague about the details of that. Just for personal reasons, but I found so much much like Boy State. I found a lot that felt very familiar watching this film. And I when I saw the description, I was like, Oh, that's fascinating. I've got to see this movie. I'm so glad that you reached out about me talking about it with you because it is when then once I watched it, I was like, Oh, yes, I have many thoughts. So yeah, that's, I guess where I'm coming from is a

I am a Christian, a progressive Christian, I guess you'd say, but nothing like the, like a lot of the beliefs that we see in this film, I did once hold and no longer do. So yeah, I think hopefully I'm a good person to talk to about this. I definitely have some thoughts. 


I knew this was going to be a great conversation right away because I already knew some of your background, although I did not know the detail about you doing mission work on the field. That's fascinating.

I am also a Christian. I'm actively Christian. I've participated in short-term mission trips. I support currently different missionaries that I believe in what they're doing with money and prayer support. But I will say I view things through a lens of more caution now. And I've known people like John. I've gone to church with people like John. And so like you, for me, it was very familiar. And

there are things like that, you know, very, but they're cringe-worthy now, some of the things to look at. My church actually had a book club this summer and we read a very good book called A Just Mission, which is by Mekdes Haddis. I'm probably butchering her name, but she is from Ethiopia, moved to America and found herself lost as a person who definitely...

wants to see the gospel spread, but she saw how overly dominated by Eurocentric white culture missions was in the US. And so she wrote a book to try to bridge that gap and show people how missions is very much linked with colonization and how is there, are there ways we can decolonize missions? And that's what her book is about. And it really spoke to me and has actually made me.

question my friends that I'm supporting in different ways that they don't mind. But I'll say what happens to these wells you build? Who takes care of them after you build them? Because one of the issues she talked about is a lot of people go over for short-term missions. They build wells. The wells aren't maintained. They dry up. Then they just build more wells. And so people give money thinking, I'm going to bring water to this.

place, but they haven't partnered with any local organizations. And so then they just keep drilling more and more wells. So that's just one example of something she addressed. And it was a very eye opening book for me to read. So that is why I think you're the perfect person to, you know, because we're the same but different. And, you know, I just I appreciate that. In when I've had any conversation with you about faith and film, I know that's an important topic for you.

Even if we have different lenses, we can still talk about it and, and, uh, interrogate each other in a, in a, in a good way. 


Yeah. And just to speak to that briefly too, that book sounds fascinating. It was an interesting, like, I guess I got to a point as far as missions as a whole goes, got to a point where I was like, okay, I feel so uncertain about many of the things that I once believed. How could I ever go overseas again and try to teach that to people? Uh, but I recognize there are lots of different.

avenues for that sort of thing. So I'm not over here saying all mission work is bad or anything like that. Uh, it, it became, it called into question my own involvement when I started to question things and then also, yeah, like, do I want it? Cause I also had been supporting a lot of people financially and that sort of thing, and it definitely made me rethink a lot of that. Um, and I think sometimes my, I probably can, I recognize that I can throw the baby out with the bath water sometimes and say, okay, I need to take a step back and like,

distance myself from all this, but there are still good things there too. So anyway. 


Yeah, there's, I think that is definitely the reaction. It's a very normal reaction. And that's why for a time I stepped away from church and I've entered back into that with caution. But yeah, that's, it's totally normal to do that. Going back to the movie, what are your overall thoughts about the movie? 


Yeah, very broad question. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, no, I, as I mentioned, I'm really connected with it.

And it's similar to what I felt with Boy State was like, I did not realize how much this was going to like touch on my own experiences. And so like instant kind of personal connection with it. But also just thought it was really well made. And I think we're going to talk about like the different perspectives within the film, I think, but generally I appreciated how many different voices and different ideas there are featured in the film. I think the inclusion of the father is really fascinating and who and what his perspective is on everything.

Um, but yeah, I just thought it was really well made and painted a picture that I think is, okay, I'm skipping ahead to the next few questions. So I'll just hold back and say, I really appreciate it. I did not know this story. I think I had heard, you know, maybe when it happened, I heard that something had happened, but didn't know exactly how it was going to play out. So just on the story level, I was very interested. Um, but I thought that it brought a lot of good context to it as well.


I had heard about this event back when it happened. And in fact, I was looking to see, last night I was looking around on Apple podcasts to see what other podcast reviews I could find for the movie. Haven't found a one yet, so ours might be the first. There we go. Yeah, but I did find by putting in the name John Chau, I found the Holy Post podcast did a brief.

discussion of his actions, not about the movie because that was back when it happened. So they touched on that. They had a good discussion, but I think there were a lot of memes and things coming out at the time. So it was sort of a viral news story that came out, but you didn't really have a lot of information. So this gave a lot of larger context for it, more background so that you can make a more informed decision about it and not.

just jump to conclusions or fill in your own narrative because they had, yeah, for instance, there was this question about, did anybody send him? And there was this thought that like, oh, somebody did, there was a sending organization. However, from this movie, we find out he came to that organization and asked him to sponsor it. So it's not like they asked him to do this. He was the one that approached them. So you can, it just gives you more information to be more informed about the event and be able to.

really sit with and contemplate what the true story is going into this. I appreciated how they handled it with a lot of gravitas. They took it seriously. Like we said, we'll talk about it more, but it was very well balanced. It just gave, yeah, I thought it was a great documentary, just maybe not quite as…

for people like us, it really hits home. I do wonder how it's going to be received, how it will be received and is being received by people who aren't as invested in that topic or as personally involved in that topic, how it would be received overall by a larger community. 


Yeah, I'm really curious about that as well. We'll definitely be staying tuned to the reactions to this down the road.


So the style of the movie is what you might call a scrapbook style. Oh, this is pretty typical of many documentaries. We have many kinds of footage combined together. There's found footage, constructed footage. Now, some of that might also be found footage, but it wasn't clear. Sometimes they were in this canoe and there were some that were obviously, Oh, this is a video that John posted of himself in a canoe. But then there were other times I felt like, well, maybe

somebody just got in a canoe and was pretending they were there. So there's maybe some constructive footage. There's clips of existing films of people who in the past visited. There's animation from his journals. His father's memories are also tend to be animated. The things that shaped him, we find about like what books he was reading. There's social media posts, which may or may not be.

invented. I couldn't get onto his Facebook page to see if these were actual Facebook posts or ones that had been made up. So how did that mixture of formats work for you in the documentary? And were there parts that seemed unneeded or distracting? 

ANDREW: I appreciate that question because I have seen documentaries where a similar kind of style can be distracting, but I thought this all was constructed really thoughtfully.

Um, and I, I assumed that those were real social media posts. I don't, I don't know, but just based on the context of everything, it felt as if like, this is something he would have posted, uh, and some of them were significant and interesting in a way that I was like, I don't think they would have just invented that to put it in. But yeah, I thought the animation was effective. It was, it was attractive without being like too showy or like, cause that might have taken away from things as well. Um, yeah, it's fascinating to have his journal.

to have it apparently the father wrote this letter to the production that they have, you know, actors reading, consider dramatic readings, I guess, of those. And that's, and I think they also do a good job at the beginning of like explaining how that context that like, okay, we have this journal, these are actors reading this. But then it uses all those, I thought really effectively, I don't have I have a couple of like, nitpicky things about this film later to talk about but

As far as how it's constructed, I really don't have any complaints. I thought it was really, really well made and kept me very invested the whole time. 

LINDSEY: Yeah, it's interesting the parts. There are some parts they chose to animate because like there was the scene where he's putting his hands on the painting because he wants to enter into it after reading The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. He's like, if I touch the painting, can I go into the world of Narnia?

Yeah, and I thought, well, that's a smart choice because he's doing something with his imagination. So it's easier to animate that as well as the footage they did of they kind of reenacted the death or his murder in an animation. And sometimes that choice to show violence in animation can be a way to show something without it being super as upsetting or violent. I don't know how much

How many graphic novels do you read? But there's the book about how to the art of graphic novels, basically. Understanding Comics is by Scott McCloud. And he talks about how sometimes there can be, you know, showing something in a comic style is a way to remove it a little bit. Like the graphic novel Maus is like German and Nazi concentration camp. And it's...

Yeah, yeah. You know, mice and pigs and dogs. And so it almost makes the reception of it go down just a little bit easier. 


Yeah, it's like a little more palatable while still being powerful. I actually haven't read Maus, but I know it's supposed to be great. 

LINDSEY: So that was interesting to include his father's thoughts. I liked how they included his journals and put them in where appropriate. So you're getting to hear he can't, he's not with us. What we get to.

hear his thoughts as well about what he's doing and get that. The social media posts were interesting. I guess it makes sense they were real, but I guess I thought, well, they could have taken some of these journals to make it seem like, oh, he's a young person. He's probably using social media. So that's why I wasn't sure. But I don't think anything didn't work for me. I liked the format and I felt.


I felt like everything was well chosen. I don't know if I found a lot of fat in it, anything I would have cut or like, well, that was unnecessary. It seemed very well constructed and put together. 


All right. So let's talk about the people, the perspectives that are in here. I've seen people say, well, just one person, I shouldn't say people. I saw one person on Letterbox say, this is a clear rebuke of John's actions.

and others have said it was balanced. What do you think? How do people we hear from work together to tell a larger story? 


I found it to be pretty balanced. I am really curious to hear if any conservative Christians feel otherwise and what they would say. But for me, it was like hearing directly from John and in his journal and his social media and things like that and understanding his worldview.

You know, he's just young on fire for God. And we hear like his pastor friend preaching about him at the end. And, um, we hear from his missions professor at oral Roberts, who obviously has a very particular perspective on it all. Um, I was impressed by how many different guests and like the variety of guests, because we have like people he worked with this young woman who had a crush on him back in the day and tried to like, made a move on it one time and he was like, like that was so interesting to hear. Um, but then for me, the most.

fascinating were like his father's journal or his father's letter, I guess, which feels as if his son, I was writing down on my notes, like, we sucked into the whirlpool of radical evangelicalism and feels like his son was really radicalized to want to go do this and didn't, he said, I didn't realize at the time how much of an effect him going to church and all that was having on him. And then the guy who was a missionary for many years, he was the most fascinating to me.

He was a missionary, I believe in Brazil, um, for like 30 years. And he, uh, I think smartly the film doesn't immediately tell you even people's names, but also like who they are. It kind of reveals that, um, and it's very, very intentionally. And for this person who he's like an older gentleman, we see him seems to be in like a college professor study or something, um, and come to find out. And he's talking about, I was a missionary for many years or talking about his time on the mission field.

And how he feels about, you know, reading John's journal and all of that. Early in the film, I was like, I wonder if this guy's an ex missionary, just based on kind of the way he was saying a few things, and then that, that exactly is the case. He completely lost his faith. You know, went through a divorce over it and everything. Got to a point living there amongst this tribe of people, realizing that this gospel that I'm trying to bring, it not only doesn't make sense, it's like not helpful, it's like, it doesn't compute. Like it doesn't matter how many years I stay here.

this message isn't going to make any sense to them. And then that called into question, it felt very familiar, like calling into question, why did I do this in the first place? Was I influenced? Some of that is my own words, not his in the film, but I did just feel a lot of kinship with that character and and the pain of that of like realizing, I don't think I can be honest with myself and believe this anymore. And so yeah, his perspective on it all was was really, really important to the film, I think.

And so I mean, like the people that I was excited to hear from are the people that believe like me, right? Which is probably the bias anyone's gonna have come into this. But yeah, would be really curious to hear like, because we do get so much of the sort of evangelical perspective from the people in the film, that for one thing, I think the filmmakers couldn't have come and said, Hey, we're gonna make this hit job about John Chau, and they wouldn't have ever been in it, right?

because it doesn't feel like a hit job to me. In a funny way, it kind of honors him, I think. Like there's a sequence toward the end where the father is sort of reflecting on, I think the father's letter says something like, I hope this film, or I hope he's remembered with this eulogy and he reads this poem that's really beautiful. And it pauses to remember this person's life at the same time. He did this very, I would say, misguided thing. And I think that the filmmakers would agree with that, especially knowing that they made Boy State also.

But I do think I found it pretty balanced with all those sort of more conservative perspectives on it. But again, I would be really curious to hear what's I was imagining, you know, what if I watched this with, you know, a friend from back then that still believes that way? Would they be angry at this part or not? And I felt like most of the time, it was pretty palatable for anyone, I think. But again, I have my own viewpoint is all I have.


I really liked that the former missionary, his name is Daniel Everett. It kind of bothered, really, it did bother me that they didn't say the person's name because I was trying to make questions for you and write down information and be informed. And I was, when I was watching the movie, I didn't notice they didn't have names because I was just digesting the information. But then later on I was like, who's this person again? Why are they talking?

Daniel was really interesting, his father, and it must be so painful for him, even like really having this red because here he loves his son, obviously, but he truly feels that he was misguided and that he lost his son earlier than he needed to because nobody stepped in to sort of show him maybe he could do it a different way or do something slightly altered from that plan.

So it just must be so painful for him. So listening, it was very moving listening to his journals. I also really liked hearing from Adam Goodhart, who he was the gentleman with the black shirt and the facial hair, he was kind of bald. He was the person that went to the Sentinel Islands earlier in life. Different guy, obviously you could have the pastor. Yeah, this wasn't a pastor. He's, I can't remember his, he might just be a historian or something,

Yeah, he was really interesting. Yeah, 20 years before John did his trip, he went to the Sentinel Islands and he didn't try to land there. It looks like he just took a boat and was nearby, got scared off by a monsoon. But what bothered me about him is I looked him up later because I was trying to find

make sure that, okay, I have the right person. Yes, his name is Adam Goodheart and they showed a book he wrote. He was reading out of this book and he says, I think these words might have inspired John Chau and I don't know how I feel about that. So then you're like, okay, now we know who he is. What bothered me about him is that when I went on to research him, after John's death, he has gone on to write a book. He actually went back to the Sentinel

I don't have enough information to know if he actually tried to land. But it's almost like he used John's death to go back again and revisit the island and think about, yeah, I was just like, why did you do that? Obviously, he didn't go for missionary work, but that sort of bothered me. I don't have the name of his book, but he wrote a book about his stuff and used John's

story as a tagline for his book for 2018. This happened and 20 years ago I did this. 

ANDREW: I did think of one other person I want to mention too that I was glad they included, which was his like college or high school accountability partner. That was fascinating to hear. Like it was funny too, because that sort of thing has been in the news with our new speaker of the house talking about being accountability partners with his son and like, and like the

the porn blocking web browsers and things like has been all over my Twitter, which is such a funny thing that I never thought would be in the news. And then it was kind of referenced in this movie too, with that sort of thing. Um, but yeah, that was one of the moments of like, Oh, I don't hear about accountability partners very often in movies, but that was, you know, very common thing growing up. 


So yeah, anyway, he had this funny footage too, that I was, I was thinking, Oh, my dad would have been so mad it was his choir concert.

and somebody was filming it and then he was sort of cheesing for the camera and not singing at his own concert. I was like, if that was my dad, he would have whipped my butt. He would have been like, what are you doing? You shouldn't be looking at the camera. You're supposed to be performing. Not literally with my butt, but he would have given me his opinion about it. That's all I'm saying. And then they had Pam Arlund who works for All Nations. And they showed some training simulations they do to...

practice what it's like coming up to trying to interact with people who don't want to talk to you. I thought that was interesting. 


You know, I'll say about my own sort of training before I was a missionary. We didn't do that sort of thing, but we did, uh, in a role play, like giving your testimony to someone and that sort of thing. But what was familiar about that stuff was, I mean, the, the types of things that John really was holding onto was like the sense of adventure. Like he was such an outdoor.

you know, a lover of the outdoors and was even like kind of an influencer at one point for different brands for outdoor things, which was interesting to see. But yeah, like the sense of adventure and like this, like I remember the honest belief was like taught to me and I was like, I never thought of it this way. That like whenever the last unreached people group, one person from that group accepts Christ and boom, that's the end of the world. And that was preached to me like right before we went and like as this cool thing we get to be a part of, which I don't believe anymore.

But it was so interesting to get to see those types of things up on the screen. 


Yeah, it was perky jerky and some sandal company were the brands. But yeah, it was interesting seeing his... He does have friends in here that say they admire him, they wish they were that brave. And at the same time, they're like, yeah, my friend, maybe it wasn't that wise for him to go.

then you had these other people. But they definitely showed how he, this sense of adventure and The End of the Spear. I remember when that movie came out about Jim Elliot, we're going to talk about him more. But Robinson Caruso and going to the ends of the earth and how it's such an appealing concept for white adventurers. Probably many, not just white people, everybody.

were Americans, it's ingrained in us, this whole thing about exploring and yeah. Yeah. It's a powerful, powerful story. So were there any particular parts, you've already mentioned a few, but were there any moments that really spoke to you or had a big impact on you? 


Yeah, I think the one, the biggest one for me was when it's right at the end of the story and we're like getting up, I think it's right after they told the kind of the story of how he died.

which is actually not totally confirmed, but it was enough that it was in the news and all of that. So that's interesting. But, but then right at the way that's edited actually in that final sequence, I think is really well done because then they bring in that ex missionary and he talks about the North Sentinelese and like what this would be like from their perspective, you know, he could be bringing diseases that could wipe us out because that has happened to other tribes. He could be trying to give us

beliefs that we don't want to believe and we're very happy on our own. We don't have the resources for him and like having all of that in that moment, I thought was really uh a smart move on the filmmakers part and just really powerful to because I think we we didn't get much of we we had we had just bits and pieces of that enough but I think kind of withholding that and then like driving that home in that moment was really powerful. I thought so that makes it sound like it's not very balanced. I think because that is like the

that information in. But yeah, for me, that was one of the best parts. What about you? 


There were two quotes I wrote down. So the TN Pandit, the way you were describing it was reminding me of his thing too. But he said he was an anthropologist, had gone and had done years of friendly visit. And he said, "Violence is not only killing someone, violence is you are made to do things against your will.

Violence is using harsh words while describing them. I am shouting myself hoarse, protect them. Outsiders coming there with friendship in their hearts can do a lot of damage." 


I wrote down the exact same quote. That was my kind of other favorite moment. Yeah, go ahead.


Okay, yeah, I just, I don't know, mic drop. I was like. Yeah. It was, it was. Yeah. He was showing pictures for people who haven't seen it yet. He was showing pictures people had taken of the Sentinelese and how the

photographer took many pictures that day, but the ones that got published were the ones of them pointing arrows at the cameras if they're going to shoot it. So then the image were given is that these are just very violent people who are uncivilized, they just want to kill everybody. He shows himself interacting with them and talking with them and getting to hear from their perspective why they don't want people to come. There was a concept that

There's this thing that comes from the water and it takes people captive and like you said, diseases in different ways. I was looking at his words and he says, you were made to do things against your will. He might not want to, at first I thought, well, does he mean taking people captive? But I think he was actually talking about, hey, I don't want to hurt you, but if you keep coming closer, I will hurt you to protect myself.

But then where it makes them look like they're violent. And I just liked how he says violence is using harsh words while describing them. 


Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, that such a powerful segment as well. And yeah, just coming with that part down again that you had said, but coming with friendship in your heart, where exactly was it? See, outsiders coming with friendship in their hearts can be very damaging. And I think that's just not.

widely enough understood. And yeah, so I appreciated that that was included in this because that's a really important context for this story. 


Did you have any others? 


Those were the two that I had written down to bring up. Yeah. 


Well, I thought you were done. Otherwise, I would never have put that one before. 


No, I thought I was too. I'd forgotten. 


Oh, yeah, that's the other thing that I had put in my notes. So yes, yeah. The only other one I had was

Adam Goodhart's last speech where he says, "There's no evidence that the Sentinelese engaged in cannibalism." This is when they were showing videos of people that are like, oh, these people are cannibals. And he's like, there's no evidence of that. "The idea, this idea that people who exist out of time, that also erases their humanity. They are just as modern as we are. There's no reason that hunting for turtles with spears

is any less modern than writing a book on a laptop. So why do we deny them their modernity and that it's part of a narrative that we find seductive? I really liked that part because it wasn't something I had thought about that explicitly that yes, like I knew the idea that like people romanticize this notion of the people at a time. But when he said it erases their humanity, I was like, yeah, yeah, okay.


Yeah, I think it's in that same sequence at the end too, that he, he's kind of sort of putting a pin in the whole film in a way. And he's like, what are the conclusions we can come to from this? And basically the one, the line that I wrote down was like, we're telling a story about us, not about them. It's like, this really is all about, um, John Chau being killed has so much more than to do with John Chau, that it has anything to do with the people group he was trying to reach. Um, and I thought that was a nice way to-kind of end things. 


Yeah, yeah, because he had, he had this plan, this grand plan, but it was all about like what I'm going to do as if the other person doesn't have a say in it. Step one will be this, step two will be that. 


I just remembered a really pertinent quote from that play, The Book of Mormon. I don't know if you've ever seen or heard anything, but there's a moment where they're going as missionaries and it's a very comedic moment, but they're like going to bed for the night after

I'm here for you. I'm here for you too." And then he says, that's right, we're here for us. That's kind of the idea being put through here as well. 


Yeah. Like one more thing I wanted to mention about that last speech is that they had, while he was talking about the turtles and hunting for turtles and all that, they showed footage of this. It was a...

an older movie, the man is like petting the people and feeding them morsels as if they're animals at a zoo. And I thought that was also very disturbing seeing how he was coming up to them. They're talking about the narrative that's seductive and white seductive of a white man coming as a conqueror and imbuing this knowledge and spreading my knowledge and my technology to you. And he's doing it while

basically petting the people and feeding them bites out of his hand like they're children. And it was visually very arresting. So my next question isn't really a question. It's all about me. But it's, I guess I have an answer, but I wanted to give, find out what you thought too. Are you surprised that a film like this is being made? 


Yeah, a little bit. I think in this, I keep mentioning voice aid again and again, but in the same way that I was surprised that film was made about

that sort of subculture here is a felt like I think the issue around this film is a pretty vital one that there's not enough understanding around. And I think it's important that that a movie like this exists. I am surprised. I think it's how do you if someone told me, Oh, we're gonna make a film about missions and colonization, I would like how what how what what story could you possibly put?

on screen that would kind of encapsulate that, but I think they've done a really good job building those thematic things out naturally from this story. So yeah, I am surprised, but pleasantly. 


So yeah, I feel the same way. I'm just like, really? What? I guess I just didn't, you know, it's not like this is being shown at a Christian film festival. It's being shown at regular film festivals all over the country and a lot of people seem very interested in it. There's already 17 reviews on IMDb and it's not available really to the public yet unless you go to a festival. I just didn't realize people were that interested in modern missions. But I mean, I guess that's the power of a good documentary. It can draw interest to something that you don't think you're interested in. Yeah.


It's it's really fascinating because I was sitting watching it like thinking, okay, there's people from my past that would think this movie might think this movie is evil that it's you know, talking about missions in a way that is Making it out to be a bad thing when we really you know, we know we got to start the gospel all that But then on the other side thinking there's people who would watch this and be like do people really believe this are there really Christians That are believing this kind of thing and like here I am kind of sitting in the middle be like, yeah, that's real and Yeah, just again the familiarity of it all

But I do think it might be polarizing for that reason. But again, I feel like they've gone pretty good down the middle of presenting the different sides of it. 


Yeah. So this is a little bit outside of the movie itself, but I'm thinking about how John Chau's view versus Jim Elliot or Nate Saint who we see depicted in the film. In fact, we see footage of them. They were also killed doing missionary work. The Jim Elliot, Nate Saint crew.

They're still lauded as Christian heroes today that I think people who are in the homeschool curriculum get taught about. These are some of our great American Christian heroes. But very little praise was given to John Chau, even in the faith community. What do you think is causing these differences in how the death is being recognized? Yeah, it's a really good question. And I don't really know the answer. But I think it's interesting that because I also didn't know. I mean, I certainly knew he was not.

you know, esteemed in the way Jim Elliot was or is. Um, but I, I didn't know, like, are there faith groups that are, you know, taking him on as a, a story that they're using as sort of inspiration because you kind of see in the film that his friend who was a pastor who refused to be in the film kind of was hoping that would happen. Like we see like basically the, I don't know if it wasn't his funeral, but it was like this pastor speaking shortly after John's death and kind of trying to inspire the people are listening to, you know, have a faith like John and, you know, be,

firebrand or be like this much on fire for God. Um, which is absolutely how the Jim Elliot story was used for me. And and like that was that's part of the story right is that he was killed and then his wife goes and it's not only this act of forgiveness to the people who killed her husband, but then she is able to continue the work. 


Um, and yeah, I don't know. It's it is interesting. It's like in this modern time, they were like, like, as you mentioned all the memes about it, which is fascinating to see. 


They show a few of those things in the film, which are cruel, honestly, like so callous about his death. But so I don't know if just like something about the modern media firestorm wouldn't allow for that kind of thing as much. I almost wondered if the film was going to show, I don't know, this person's going to try because they're inspired by him or something like carry the torch forward or something like that. But it doesn't really give us that. And yeah, so I don't really know. But I do think it's really fascinating. And I think maybe just maybe the modern

the modernists of it, like I mentioned, but also it could be how misguided his actions were, maybe, because I think even people that thought, oh, his faith is really strong and that's a good thing, were saying, of course he was going to get killed doing this. It was such a misguided action that maybe it's hard to be too inspired by it for that reason. I don't know. 


Yeah. I think there's just a lot more interest these days on...

or knowledge or whatever about the harmful effects of colonization. And I feel like that's a big part of it. But also, once again, he definitely seemed to be working a little more in isolation. Even though he had supposedly a sending organization, he came up with this plan himself. And we hear him try to drum up. He has journal entries or letters that he reads that are obviously looking for support, looking for partners.

But it's not clear how many people they don't say like, I got 30 people on my team or now I have 100 supporters. There's nothing like that where you're hearing really that there were all these people supporting him and his work. And in fact, when he goes to the sending organization, which is called All Nations, she's like, we're gonna have to ask her some more conversations about this because you're talking about a place that's illegal. So his, he was.

going out there by himself whereas the men with Jim Elliot, they went as a group and is a little more organized. They spent, from what I could tell, they also spent a lot of time before they even landed. If I remember from the movie, they did a lot more things like just flying overhead to sort of make friendly contact from a distance, waving and things like that. They had a little bit more of a plan that they put into place. Not saying...

that it's still necessarily any better. But there could also be some lack of knowledge about how, my assumption is that this is all, that it's all universally lauded. But today when I got on to look at Rachel Saint, she's the person that went over with Elizabeth Elliot after to connect with the Hurorani people that

killed her brother. Apparently she's in a book by Joe Kane called Savages where she's criticized for her negative effects her proselytizing had on the people who when she came to live in their village, he criticized her. So there probably were people critiquing and are still these individuals, but I just don't hear about them. But maybe it's because they're older too.


In this world, everyone's a critic, maybe. But also I think the other more of a cultural understanding of, of, uh, yeah. I mean, I mean, just look at the, the charts of people that are have no religious affiliation. Like there's not the assumption of Christianity for Americans as there was, uh, back when Jim Elliot was working. But anyway,


I did like the part where they said a lot of people go to movies and they go to the Avengers and everybody's doing this and that and wanting to be these heroes. The John Chau was like end of the spear. That was his big movie. Thinking about how, you know, things can shape us so much and inform the decisions we make in life and I think the movie definitely shows that too. So we're coming to the end of our talk. We've already both said we really like the movie. You mentioned...

some critiques. Do you want to go ahead and put those in now? 


Yeah, they're just minor things. And it's kind of like, I wish we had a little more of this topic in a couple of different places. And one is maybe just like history of colonialism and missions could have been interesting. I also see how that could have detracted from the story they're telling. But I think that context could have been, it's also a huge topic. So how do you boil that down into just a few minutes? But I thought that could have been an interesting thing. And like how like...

Roman or like the British Empire and you know the way Christianity was very much wrapped up in what they were doing and how they were subjugating everyone. Some of that could have been interesting context to bring in but the other thing is if they mention it a little bit and this probably would have been almost like prying too much into the family dynamics in a way that might have felt ethically gray but the father mentions in his letter that he thinks his son was influenced or

professional sort of crisis. And he just kind of briefly mentions that he had lost his, his license. And I think, you know, pulling extrapolating from that a little bit more, it would totally make sense. And also, this is just like, maybe too much speculation, but that John might have had some disillusionment towards his father. And I think in those kind of circumstances, organized religion can be really attractive. And so I think that's something I've become interested in is like, often you see like,

prison ministries or like people who are like sort of at quote unquote rock bottom, it's almost seems predatory sometimes the way churches try to evangelize and, uh, and radicalize people in those kinds of situations. So I think it could have been interesting to see, you know, what was it about John Chau's psyche that, uh, they use the word radicalized and his father uses the word radicalized that, that made it, uh, so attractive to him that, that he would be so all in and sort of like the people that are, that have that sort of radical faith, quote unquote.

what is it about? How does that happen? I guess is the question that that probably, including something like that probably would have tipped this too far into not being a balanced portrayal. But that was something that I felt could have been interesting context to bring in as well. But yeah, so really very minor things. But yeah, I guess I wanted more, which is a good in a way a good thing. 


Yeah, the things I was expecting you to say is like what perspectives were missing and that is an interesting question. The only thing I can really think of is the movie does, I feel like it is highly complimentary of John, not necessarily of his actions. Many people that are in the movie don't agree with what he did and find mission work troubling, but there isn't really anybody who's strongly like this was wrong, this was bad. Maybe his dad is the closest to that.

And maybe the filmmakers chose to make sure that it was a positive, you know, in order to maybe use him, there might have been some things, but they could have included some of the negative press he got. They really didn't include anything like that that was scathing critiques of John's actions. It stayed pretty either neutral or positive towards him. And that was a choice.

So that, but we could have maybe heard from somebody that out now wanted to say that how much they disagree of with his actions to be a little, if we want to be truly balanced. 


Yeah. It's interesting. Cause I do have, you know, people are saying like, here's why this kind of mission work is a problem, but they aren't saying like, John's a bad person for doing this. And in fact, the person, like the ex missionary guy.

He seems to have some compassion for like, he's reading John's journals, like this is how I would have been. His is exactly, this feels so familiar to what I felt back in the day, which was, yeah, such an interesting, like compassionate view. And then also another moment that I really liked was it's also at near the end, sort of conclusion section of the film, that same person. I don't have the names in front of me. I'm so sorry. The guy who was a missionary in Brazil for 30 years. He, I think it's when he's talking about, he's lost his faith and talking about like, okay, these kinds of actions are a problem.

There's not billions of people who believe what I believe. There are billions of very religious people. Um, and, and I guess that's the closest they, the film gets to like calling out organized religion in any kind of real way. Uh, but I thought that was really interesting. And, and just thinking about like the people that are, um, gonna stand up and say, like, like the Indian anthropologists that we see, like how many people are, are in a position to say, we shouldn't be doing this, not that many. But there's lots and lots of people who are like, Oh yes, we need to go.

reach all the nations. Um, and so just seeing like, I guess, the one sidedness of the whole issue was fascinating to me as well. 


We're getting into FYC season where we're gonna have to choose some award winners in different categories coming up. It does make me curious if the mission will be part of that conversation for documentaries. Any thoughts about that? 


I know it's up there for me. Um, again, I think so you talked about like how figuring out how to do best of the year things earlier for yourself.

For me, it's like the journey has been, I can, realizing it's always gonna be subjective. And so like this movie spoke to me personally. I think it's important to include it in some of my, at least discussions and stuff, you know, top 10 list, I don't know, whatever. But I certainly thought this was really well-made and really powerful and important enough, like as I mentioned, like a kind of a vital issue that more people need to know about, that I feel really strongly about. I also feel like I'm so biased.

that I can't maybe be like, I don't know. I'm like, oh yeah, this totally win the Oscar. Actually, I have no idea if anyone else will connect with it at all. But I certainly did. And I hope that it does well. I hope that more people see it. 


I think this might be one out of two or three documentaries I've seen in here. So it's already on my shortlist as well. 


Yeah, same for me. But yeah, I'm also, I prioritize seeing it when I'm not sure that everybody have. But


Hey, since critics in general don't see a lot of documentaries, if you and I both nominated, it's probably got a pretty good chance of being on the list. 


Yeah, I hope so. And I feel like Boy State had a lot of buzz and I can't remember. It might have been Oscar nominated. I'm trying to remember. But yeah, so maybe. 

LINDSEY: Okay. So any final thoughts before we close and give ourselves kudos and potential new followers?


I think I would just say, you know, if you're someone listening to this who has listened to all this and hasn't seen the film, I really encourage you to seek it out and make time for it because I think it's enough. You're also like I was for a long time and it's still am to some degree. Like what do I think about missions in general? Like I think this is a really powerful, you know, addition to that whole conversation because yeah, again, I literally was a missionary and now I am at least very dubious of mission work. I think.

kind of what you're saying, like when it's service projects like that can be done well, I think. But the proselytizing and all of that, like I'm pretty, pretty firmly against, you know, anything that can lead to that sort of colonization and all of that, just proselytizing in general. So all that to say, I think this movie can be really informative for a lot of people and I hope people will watch it when it will be available to the general public and where it will be showing, I don't see any. 


It says it was released October 13th of 2023 in the US, but it doesn't say if it was in any theaters. I don't see that you can get it on VOD or anything just yet, but definitely look for it sometime. 


Yeah. I think the National Geographic stuff goes to Disney Plus I think, at least in a long time. So I would imagine this will probably be on Disney Plus in some way. They have like a National Geographic section where you can watch like Fire of Love and like some of those really great Nat Geo docs from the last few years. So I bet it'll be there before too long. All right. 


Well, you heard it here first. You can look for it on Disney Plus. Coming soon. Maybe. So let us know, Andrew, where the best place is to find you and follow you if my listeners want to keep up with what you're doing. 

ANDREW: Yeah, absolutely @ArthouseGarage on any social media things, letterbox as well, and then the podcast is art house garage, you can find it on any podcast app. If you are particularly interested in the faith in film stuff, it's, I did a series explicitly about that last year, so you can kind of look back in the podcast feed or on the website, arthousegarage.com and find that. But yeah, hopefully bringing interesting stuff all the time is the goal. So I would like to have anyone join us and also reach out to me on social media if you have thoughts or questions


Anything special coming up that you know you're going to be reviewing soon or talking about?


Let's see. I just did Killers of the Flower Moon and I was really happy with how that one turned out. We talked kind of a lot about the controversy of it. I don't know exactly. We've been doing the films of Darren Aronofsky, which has been really fascinating. We just have one more episode left in that that I'm trying to get scheduled. Award season coming up. It's the busy, busy time of year.

generally speaking, planning to do some of the big awards contenders in the next, you know, months, weeks and months. So it's an exciting time for any film critic, I think. And so hopefully the podcast will reflect that and have lots of interesting big name movies coming up soon. 


Okay. Well, thank you so much for being here, Andrew, and for giving this movie your attention and sharing your thoughts with me. I really, truly appreciate it.


Absolutely. Thank you so much. And you know, I was planning to watch this anyway, but I'm so glad you reached out because that prompted me to watch it sooner. I'm so glad I did and needed a place to talk about it too. So I really appreciate you having me on. I would love to come back anytime you want me. 

LINDSEY: Yeah, I just was I was like, okay. Um, I saw that this my one of my distributors sent this with three movies. And I was like, you know, you should watch this, you should watch this. I didn't necessarily want to.

just because there's so many movies and you never know. I had no idea if it was gonna be interesting or not or well done or if it was just gonna be like, we hate missions work. So I'm glad it wasn't, but yeah. I definitely need the right person to process and I've been waiting for the right opportunity, something that would fit you and me together so we could have a good episode and we did. So thank you so much. Perfect, thank you. All right, well, I will see everybody next time on 1 of my Stories. Goodbye.