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January 27, 2006
Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music? is an insightful and non-judgmental documentary focusing on the Christian circles inside the genres of indie rock and punk music. Shot mostly at the highly popular Cornerstone Music Festival a few years back, filmmakers Heather Whinna and Vickie Hunter interview all those connected in the scene of the believers, which includes an astounding number of bands from the Tooth and Nail Records roster, as well as those connected through more secular (to say the least) channels, like the Pansy Division and Punk Planet magazine's Daniel Sinker.

Even before watching the film, I found myself fascinated with its concepts and its subjects. Here exists a subculture of people just like myself, and probably you as well, who are really into music, really interested in sharing their love of music with others, going to shows, and just being part of a social collective. A superficial scan of an intermingled group of us and them would suggest homogeny, one scene of two groups without difference. But inherently there is a difference, a dude called Jesus.

And the fascination simply elevates - not entirely, I should point out, because of the fact that group prayer at a rock concert makes me uneasy. It is deeper than that; it is fascinating for the questions and contradictions that immediately arise. For instance, how could a punk band - a band presuming to operate within a genre that stands against everything established and traditional - be hog tied by the epitome of establishment and tradition? Is a punk representing for the holiest of Holies any less blasphemous than a punk representing for a corporate conglomerate? MXPX claims to be of both. How can a death metal band be Christian and be death metal?

These questions are deep and in need of being asked, but Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music? leaves them for you to answer. Whinna and Hunter's documentary is a respectful overview of a scene that truly documents, avoiding the trap of presenting a subject that many documentaries fall into. Apparently both filmmakers are non-Christian, and they manage to present a thoughtful and objective film, although the overt resistance to probe subjects and interviewees becomes frustrating at times. But Whinna and Hunter didn't set out to produce an exposé. Exploiting the obvious shortcomings of the subject or taking a negative slant could be seen as too easy, and so the filmmakers resist. The only jabs that the Christian rockers take are delivered by those on the outside, and even then the attacks are hardly scathing, leaning instead more towards being mystified by the whole thing, rather than angry at it.

The bulk of this film is full to the studded belt with clans of tattooed and alternative-looking kids that, if taken out of context, would appear like rebels or menaces to society. But instead of spraying graffiti or breaking into dentist offices, they are devoutly rocking out to songs about Jesus. They might fit right in at any local club show, but instead of discussing what label some band is on, they're more likely talking about God, and giving up heaping spoonfuls of praise to him. In brief the film sounds trite and two-dimensional, but it is entertaining in that it gives some depth to a scene that most music fans know exists, but have never seen profiled or explored.

At any given time it is possible to feel squeamish, confused, and fascinated by Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?. The most poignant moment in the film comes when the drummer/singer from the emo band Cool Hand Luke delivers a tearful and impassioned mid-set sermon, bearing his battered heart to the kids at the festival who he says have forgotten about Jesus. After all, Jesus is who the members of Cool Hand Luke live their lives for. It's discomforting, raw, sincere, and unfiltered, and delivered with such conviction and passion as to be captivating, even if it is crazy. Such surreal moments are interspersed throughout Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?, which ultimately succeeds on the strength of the reactions it provokes. It make you uneasy, but regardless of your own convictions, you'll certainly be entertained by this special film.

SEE ALSO: www.rightrightright.com
SEE ALSO: www.blankstarefilms.com

--
Dan Williams
A staff writer based in Brooklyn, New York, Dan Williams is a frequent contributor to LAS magazine. He once lived in Köln, Germany for a semester, is currently persuing his MBA in New York, and recently switched sides and began working as a publicist for Special Ops Media in New York.

See other articles by Dan Williams.

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