Synopsis by Nathan Southern
With her straightforward documentary The Tailenders, filmmaker Adele Horne probes the concept of American Protestantism as a nexus of Christianity and transcontinental capitalism. To illustrate this principle, she hones in on Gospel Recordings - a U.S. company devoted to recording the Bible into 5,500 languages, and distributing those recordings to nearly every known cultural group on Earth. Horne journeys with her cameras to exotic locations where Gospel Recording missionaries are deployed, such as The Solomon Islands, India and Mexico, for an investigation that places equal footing on open-eyed sociopolitical dissection and blithe, witty revelations of trans-cultural ironies. The filmmaker then reveals, systematically, how American Protestants have used contempo technology to assist with mass-evangelization, placing concentrated emphasis on those indigenous people groups removed by circumstance from their homes and languages (to whom recordings of their own tongues feel warm, familiar, and welcoming, regardless of the subject matter). Horne points out that while the missionaries are, on the one hand, doing potentially invaluable preservation work by establishing some of the only recorded evidence of "disappearing" languages, the efforts may not be as beneficial as they initially seem, for few missionaries actually speak the native tongues, and the language(s) can be distorted rather easily via the presence of an intervening interpreter. Horne also questions the attitudes of the various missionaries about ecology - revealing that many feel content to "compromise," economically with global corporations that wipe out villages and territories in exchange for only about 5% of profits that go to the indigenes. Above all else, the director uses the documentary to investigate meaning and how it can be altered when it journeys over the linguistic bridge from one culture to another.
Bible, capitalism, displaced-persons, evangelism, foreign-language, globalization, isolation, missionary, recording