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Wednesday, Sep 4 2013

Riled opponents may enjoy finding it ironic that at the fifth Atheist Film Festival, even the non-documentary fare makes bold claims on big truths — be it 2002's The Magdalene Sisters, about Irish teenagers deemed "fallen" and sent to a very hellish asylum run by a sadistic nun, or 2009's Creation, about the personal demons with which Charles Darwin did battle before apparently quite reluctantly roiling the Christian establishment with On the Origin of Species in 1859. Perhaps the fest's most disarming film, then, is Vikram Gandhi's 2011 documentary Kumaré, which bills itself as "the true story of a false prophet." That would be the filmmaker himself, a sort of practical medley of some Sacha Baron Cohen character, Peter Sellers in Being There, and the accidental-mystic protagonist of R.K. Narayan's 1958 novel The Guide. Gandhi films himself growing out his beard, posing as a wise man from the east, gradually accumulating disciples, then nervously revealing that he's really just a guru-skeptical guy from New Jersey who made it all up. To which, reactions are mixed, but very moving and illuminating. The true revelation here is how human credulousness can seem like both a virtue and a vice. Filmmakers appearing at the fest in person include Sylvia Broeckx of Hug an Atheist, a down-to-earth doc full of talking-head tales of regular people coming out as non-believers, and Scott Thurman of The Revisionaries, which chronicles an outspoken Creationist's bid for re-election as chairman of the Texas Board of Education.

Sat., Sept. 14, noon, 2013

About The Author

Jonathan Kiefer

SF Weekly movie critic Jonathan Kiefer is on Twitter: @kieferama and of course @sfweeklyfilm.

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