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CRITIC'S CHOICE Add to ...

  • Country USA
  • Language English

HARD AS NAILS

TMN, 9 p.m.

Unordained Catholic youth minister Justin Fatica faces the young man standing in front of him and takes both of the youth's hands in his own. "I want you to know that Jesus loves you," he tells him. As Fatica says the words, he is hit hard, flat across the back, with a collapsed metal folding chair. He is not being accosted by another kid; this is a routine part of his ministry. "He loves you." Another whack from behind. "He loves you." And another. Fatica barely flinches each time a blow lands. What kind of religion is this? It looks more like a hazing. But Fatica can't resist the theatrical. He is known for dragging a large wooden cross uphill, its crossbar hooked over his shoulder, his followers tagging along. The kids who flock around him lap up the grand dramatic gesture. Watching Fatica at youth rallies - "We don't got time for good people. God wants to raise up great people tonight" - is like stepping back into an old-time revivalist tent. Fatica ministers with Baptist furor, not measured, dignified Roman Catholicism. His penchant for self-flagellation and zealotry makes church elders uneasy even as his unorthodox crusade is bringing youth back into the fold. Director David Holbrooke explores the divine dichotomy.

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