Directed by Sophie Fiennes.
'Hoover Street Revival', a documentary about Bishop Noel Jones and his community of Greater Bethany Church in South Central LA, was a labour of love for director/producer/cinematographer Sophie Fiennes. Initially funded through her credit card, Fiennes shot on digital video, always with the intention that that the footage should be transferred to 35mm. Despite the lack of resources, Fiennes, often working on her own, has managed to capture the wonderfully vivid images and sounds of Hoover Street - and achieve her dream of releasing the film on the big screen.
Fiennes tellingly juxtaposes what Jones calls "the splash and the splendour" of the church with the grim reality of life outside - gang warfare, drive-by shootings, a single father with his little girl - leaving the viewer to interpret the images for themselves. For a documentary maker it's a brave and subtle approach, done without any voiceover or subtitles, which allows a gradual and seemingly random discovery of the troubled Hoover Street community. Footage of the crime and the crack addicts on the streets is set against the brisk business that the church does selling tapes and videos of Noel Jones' sermons to the faithful.
The main weakness of the documentary is the elusive Noel Jones. That he is a mesmerising preacher is not in doubt. A true showman (it's in the blood - his sister is the singer Grace Jones) he whips his congregation into a frenzy on a weekly basis and many interviewees testify to the positive impact that his sermons have had on their lives. But Jones remains an unknown quantity, only appearing on camera when he's on stage (apart from the one time he's observed en route there) and Fiennes never probes beyond the public face that he shows his followers.
Fiennes has a fine ear for sound, whether it's the justly famed Voices of Judah gospel choir, the r&b and rap played everywhere else or the simple click-clack of Sunday best shoes hitting the sidewalk on the way to church. She captures the pre-service babble of the congregation, contrasting their whoopin' and hollerin' with the surface calm of the world outside.
Flawed, but in the main fascinating, 'Hoover Street Revival' marks Sophie Fiennes as a filmmaker with enormous potential.