By Sara Stewart, May 25, 2008
Last Christmas, the anti-shopping indie “What Would Jesus Buy?” made this reporter’s day. Entire season, really. So a DVD packed with more manic “Shopocalypse” goodness is a welcome release.
The documentary follows local performer Reverend Billy (Bill Talen) and his Church of Stop Shopping gospel choir as they travel around the country in the weeks before Christmas, putting on faux-evangelical shows to – as Rev. Billy puts it – “cast out the demons” at the cash register.
Big-box stores, malls and even Disneyland are fair game for the blond-coiffed Rev, who rails against the idea that December 25 has to equal massive credit-card debt or else, as one newscaster says in a clip, “it just wouldn’t be Christmas.”
“There were several hundred hours of stuff we felt was essential viewing,” says “WWJB?” director Rob VanAlkemade, who says one of his favorite deleted scenes was too heavy to make the final cut.
“We talked to a former prisoner in a Chinese labor camp who had made Christmas lights in prison,” he says. “She was also tortured, interrogated and she lost at least a couple of her friends. We couldn’t find a way to include something that dire. So we’re very glad to get that in [on the DVD].”
VanAlkemade also included footage from a public-access show in Southern California that (perhaps unintentionally?) featured a sponta-neous performance: “It was the countdown to Christmas, and we found this public-access channel [filming] just outside of LA. Billy prepared for just a few minutes, and the choir was completely exhausted at that point.
“But,” he adds, “many spiritual experiences will happen under acute exhaustion. It was a resurrection and a celebration, and definitely a casting out of the devil.”