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Fall from Grace
Fall from Grace
Actor: Fall from Grace
Director: K. Ryan Jones
Genres: Documentary
NR     2008     1hr 27min

Studio: New Video Group Release Date: 09/23/2008 Run time: 87 minutes


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Movie Details

Actor: Fall from Grace
Director: K. Ryan Jones
Genres: Documentary
Sub-Genres: Crime & Conspiracy
Studio: Docurama
Format: DVD - Color
DVD Release Date: 09/23/2008
Release Year: 2008
Run Time: 1hr 27min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 2
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

A fair and balanced look at an extreme group
Gordon Lamb | Louisville, Kentucky | 09/24/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Produced as a school assignment at the University of Kansas, this documentary does an exemplary job of being entirely neutral about a group that causes strong passions.

Westboro Baptist Church and Fred Phelps, under the protection of the First Amendment, travel the country to celebrate the deaths of American soldiers in Iraq, the 9/11 murders, the deaths of Tsunami victims, and various other horrors. They believe that they are justified in this by America 'turning its back on God' by allowing homosexuality.

The documentary has interviews not only with Phelps, but also interviews with the young children who are on the picket lines with the rest of the family. Other interviews are with a cross section of society, including other ministers, the widow of a dead U.S. soldier whose funeral was picketed by the church, students at KU, some of Phelps' children that had broken with the family because if its extremism, and counter protesters. One of the most interesting is a brief shot of foreign tourists commenting about the protest that they had witnessed; they were courteous, yet seemed hilarious and horrified at the same time, as if they had been given a dead rat to eat, and weren't sure if it was a joke of unbelievably bad taste, or if it was serious.

My only criticisms are first, that Phelps' disbarment as an attorney was mentioned, but the circumstances were not explored in any great depth. Second, an expert in scripture was interviewed regarding Phelps' use of verse justifying his actions, but I found myself wishing for more. Third, Phelps had acted as a Civil Rights attorney, and actually received an award from the NAACP, and I thought that including that might be appropriate.

The interview with the director on the bonus section of the DVD, who is as previously mentioned, a then-student at University of Kansas, is almost the best part of the package. It is terrifically interesting to try to reconcile this professional, polished production with someone so young and relatively inexperienced. I very much look forward to what he will accomplish in the future.

I have attempted to be as fair and unbiased during the review as Mr. Jones was during his documentary. I feel it was incumbent upon me to be impartial and....oh, the hell with it. Phelps and his congregation are chimps. They make one ashamed of the human race. What they are teaching to their children to me qualifies as child molestation. As a proud veteran, seeing them protesting at a military funeral and dragging the American flag in the dirt appalls me.

But in a perverse way, the only positive is that this country's greatness is framed by the fact that these bizarre people are protected by the same Bill of Rights that covers us all. Phelps' whoring of the protections afforded by our system of laws simply makes those protections stand out in sharper relief.

Intead , it's just necessary to put Westboro Baptist Church in its proper context; they are aberrations, freaks, and probably not dangerous. Instead of greeting their spewing, smug, sanctimonious hatred with anger, it is MUCH more effective to laugh at them, and then dismiss them as irrelevant."
A Dispassionate Portrait of Vicious Insanity
Gary F. Taylor | Biloxi, MS USA | 09/19/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Born in 1929, Fred Phelps attended Bob Jones University, the Prairie Bible Institute, and John Muir College and subsequently earned a law degree from Washburn University in 1962 and opened his own law firm in Topeka, Kansas in 1964. Three years later Phelps incorporated Westboro Baptist Church in the same city and established himself as its pastor. As the 1960s progressed he became well known as a civil rights attorney, frequently bringing suit on behalf of minorities; indeed, he became so well known in this field that he ultimately received an award for his work from the NAACP. But something was going astray, and it became increasingly obvious as the 1960s drifted into the 1970s.

In 1977 Phelps filed a seemingly spurious lawsuit against court reporter Carolene Brady, and by most accounts his treatment of Brady while she was on the witness stand was utterly appalling. When Phelps lost the case he appealed, but on this occasion he completely over-reached himself: he prepared a number of affidavits that Brady was able to demonstrate were fraudlent, and in 1979 Phelps was disbarred from the practice of Kansas law. He continued to practice before the federal court, however, until no fewer than nine federal judges began to find him as disasteful as the Kansas bar association had and in 1985 filed formal complaint against him. The complaint was settled in 1989 when Phelps agreed to cease practice of the law before the federal court as well.

Now focused entirely upon his church, which consisted almost exclusively of his own large family, Phelps found a new venue: homosexuality. Various accounts have been given of how Phelps and Westboro Baptist Church came to focus on this subject, but most seem to stem from a Phelps family member's allegation of homosexual activity in a public park near the church. Whatever the case, Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church began to picket and protest against homosexuals, and in 1998 they attained the national spotlight when they picketed and protested in Laramie, Wyoming following the murder of Matthew Shepard. Since that time they have never looked back. It is difficult to know how factual the statement is, but in 2009 they claimed to have staged 41,000 protests in 650 cities since 1991.

Although Phelps and Westboro typically focus on homosexuality, they also picket and protest anything and any one they can even remotely construe as connected with homosexuality. Condemned people range from Diana, Princess of Wales to Rev. Billy Graham; condemned religious institutions include The Roman Catholic Church, The Church of Latter Day Saints, and indeed virtually every Christian and non-Christian denomination; and entire nations, including the United States, Canada, The United Kingdom, Ireland, Sweden, and a host of others. A number of respected organizations have defined Westboro Baptist Church as a hate group, and both Phelps and the church are monitored by such groups as Southern Poverty Law Center, which track hate groups and hate crimes.

Released in 2007, FALL FROM GRACE includes one of the last interviews granted by Fred Phelps himself, who is now more commonly represented by son Timothy Phelps and daughter Shirley Phelps Roper. The weakness in the documentary, which at 71 minutes has little time for such, is that it offers little background; although it does touch on Phelp's legal career and disbarment, and even more so on the accusations of child abuse leveled against him, there is little in the way of Phelp's personal history. Even so, what has made it to the screen is utterly astonishing, and while the documentary contains interesting and frequently moving interviews with those who oppose Phelps, the most astonishing moments come from Phelps and his own family. Although son Timothy seems to have a truly nasty disposition, both Phelps and daughter Shirley seem quite calm, perhaps even likeable--at least until you seriously listen to their comments and see them in actual action, at which point they suddenly seem more akin to demons from the pit than human beings, much less Christians. Perhaps most shocking of all are interviews with the family's children, who respond with venom on a subject they are very clearly too young to know anything about.

It is particularly to director K. Ryan Jones' credit (and astonishingly, he began work on this documentary while still a college student) that he does not slant his own point of view into the proceedings. He simply allows Phelps and his minions to behave as they normally do without making editorial comment, and the result is more powerful than a number of other documentaries that have included Phelps and family. Words like "evil" may seem old fashioned, but they apply here, and FALL FROM GRACE allows it to show itself with maximum visibility. A great many commentators have found reason to laugh at Phelps and to make fun of his followers, but this film puts across a truth that is far more uncomfortable: there is nothing funny about poison. Nothing funny at all. The DVD includes two bonuses, one an interview with director Jones, one a brief display of the way Phelps and Westboro Baptist Church received the film when it was released.

Powerful and recommended.

GFT, Amazon Reviewer"
New Perspectives - Always Good!
Robert D. Shull | Fairfield, OH | 01/14/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Fall from Grace gives you tremendous perspective into the Westboro Baptist Church. The film uses interviews with members of the WBC, other community leaders and footage from news reports to tell its story. The film explores the conflict between the WBC's First Amendment rights and the feelings of those targeted by the WBC. The film is well put together, emotional and thought-provoking. There isn't much more one could want in a good documentary, especially on such a controversial subject."