Wednesday, February 19, 2014

‘Little Hope’ Documentary Not Up to Snuff


A terrible thing happened in East Texas in January 2010 – ten churches were burnt to the ground. When the first one burned, a small church called Little Hope, it was ruled an accident due to faulty wiring or something. But suspicions began to rise as one by one; neighboring churches went up in smoke. Who would do such a thing and why? This is the story that has been brought to film in a new documentary, LittleHope Was Arson.

Executively produced by Bryan Storkel (Holy Rollers: The True Story of Card Counting Christians) and produced by Treton Waterson and Theo Love, Little Hope should have been a compelling documentary. The story is compelling enough, and Nate Larson’s photography is beautiful, but the end result leaves you with a “is that it?” feeling.

It is established early on in the documentary that Jason R. Bourque and Daniel G. McAllister, two young men who grew up in church, were responsible for the fires, but it is not until the film’s last few minutes that we actually meet the two, and when we do, what they have to say isn’t all that remarkable. One claims that he was he was under the influence of drugs so that he doesn’t remember setting the fires and the other acts as if he should have been thanked for his actions. That by setting the fires, they were making a statement on how inclusive the churches were…or something. The two talk about how they should be forgiven for making mistakes as we have all made them, but setting multiple buildings on fire is hardly a mistake.


The documentary focuses a lot on the family members of the two men, the police investigating the crimes and the pastors who were the victims of these crimes. The crew was able to catch some revealing footage as one mother scolds them for asking her is she would have turned in her child if she would have known he had done it. She proudly states that she would not as she would have been considered a snitch as if that was somehow worse than the arson. Most of the pastors said that they forgive the men and would welcome them in their church, but at least one pastor’s wife said that she would not. Forgiveness takes time. One former youth pastor is so caught up in guilt seeing how he could have made a difference if he was more aware of how distraught the two men were years earlier.


Still, in the end, besides the main storyline, it’s difficult to tell what Waterson and Love were trying to pull from the story. The trailer for the film portrays the film as a riveting thriller, but film itself follows a very slow and steady pace with music to match. As mentioned above, it is pretty obvious who the arsonists are, but the film tries to hold off on confirmation into late into the story with little pay off. No real emotions are stirred in the original version of this film. Perhaps if it was re-edited and told at a quicker pace, that the story would be more compelling.

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