Alright, alright. This post really isn’t about a literary event—it’s about a film screening, the New Orleans premiere of Good People Go To Hell, Saved People Go To Heaven at 7 p.m. on Sunday, March 1 at Indywood (628 Elysian Fields). But since the Room 220 editors had a hand in organizing the event, it will also include some bookish elements: namely, the inclusion of a couple celebrated authors as part of a panel discussion following the film.
Good People Go To Hell, Saved People Go To Heaven (87 min.) is an intimate exploration of the world of Evangelical Christians in post-Katrina Louisiana who believe destructive hurricanes are “birth pangs” foreshadowing the coming End Times and Rapture. Director Holly Hardman spent five years conducting research and interviews with fundamentalist believers around the state, illuminating the ways in which their faith strengthens and strains their familial relations, compels them to live extraordinary lives, and—unsurprisingly—leads them to say and believe quite a bit of offensive shit (one young woman early in the film notes that it’s “neat” that “Katrina” means “cleansing” in Latin because the hurricane was God’s way of cleaning out New Orleans). But the documentary is no hatchet job—Hardman gives each of her subjects time and space to describe in detail and context what s/he believes, leaving the viewer to be the judge.
The panel discussion following the film will feature Hardman; author and activist John M. Barry; and Fari Nzinga, a policy officer at NOMA who appears in the film. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Jed Horne will moderate.
Visit Indywood’s website for more information about the film and to purchase advance tickets ($10).
Holly Hardman’s long career in film and media includes researching for Rolling Stone, PBS, and Twentieth Century Fox while writing and performing in the underground art worlds of 1980s and 90s New York and Los Angeles. She founded Holy Sins Productions as an outlet for her early short films, including Seaschell Beach, which was awarded Best of Filmcore at the 1998 New York Underground Film Festival. Her first feature film, Besotted, was released in 2002. Good People Go To Hell, Saved People Go To Heaven is her first documentary.
Author John M. Barry is an expert on natural disasters and Evangelical Christianity. His numerous books include Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America and Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul: Church, State, and the Birth of Liberty. He has become more prominently known recently as the primary instigator of the (still ongoing!) most ambitious environmental lawsuit ever, for which he was named Gambit‘s 2013 “New Orleanian of the Year.”
Fari Nzinga is a public policy officer at the New Orleans Museum of Art, a position she executes as part of the American Council of Learned Societies Public Fellows program, which places distinguished Ph.D.s in institutional positions around the nation to advance excellence in the humanities. Nzinga appears in the documentary (spoiler: not as a born-again).
Jed Horne is a former longtime editor of the Times-Picayune—he was part of the team that received two Pulitzer Prizes in 2006—and author of Breach of Faith: Hurricane Katrina and the Near Death of A Great American City and Desire Street: A True Story of Death and Deliverance in New Orleans. He was featured as a “disasterologist” in a 2013 Japan Public Television documentary about the Fukushima tsunami and reactor meltdown. He is the op-ed editor at The Lens.