Sunday, July 29, 2012

Original Press Release for Ivy League Exorcist: The Bobby Jindal Story



The members of the film collective CultJam Productions released the short film, Ivy League Exorcist: The Bobby Jindal Story, on its website ( on July 17, 2012.

The film’s writer and producer Troy Davis explained the reasons for the online release: “Initially, I and other members of CultJam Productions wanted to do a more traditional release of the film, taking Ivy League Exorcist to the film festival circuit.   However, in recent months, with all the buzz about whether presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney would pick Jindal as his running mate, we decided to make the film accessible to everyone.”

The film is a dramatization of the bizarre events that took place in a Brown University classroom in 1990.  Jindal and members of a student Christian group were holding a prayer vigil for a fellow member who had been diagnosed with skin cancer when the afflicted woman suddenly collapsed on the floor, convulsed, and showed sudden and drastic personality changes that Jindal and the other students interpreted as demonic possession.  The group performed a makeshift exorcism on the woman. 

Jindal wrote about the incident in a conservative Catholic journal The New Oxford Review in 1994; the title of the article was “Beating a Demon: Physical Dimensions of Spiritual Warfare.”  Davis got the idea of doing a short film about the incident after he read the New Oxford Review piece in the summer of 2011: “After I finished reading the article,” recounted Davis, “my first thought was, ‘Wow, this is totally surreal!’ My second thought was that of a filmmaker, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to do a reenactment of the exorcism in the form of a mumblecore-style film?’”

Eventually Davis saw the subversive media potential of the film: “On the one hand,”  Davis quipped, “using a cinema vérité or mumblecore cinematography style, the film would have a documentary feel to it. I was convinced that some people viewing the film would be convinced that it was a documentary of the actual events—I’m reminded of a recent survey indicating that many people didn’t realize that Stephen Colbert’s TV show persona is satirical in nature.  We decided to introduce some over-the-top elements into the film, not just for shock value or cheap laughs, but to test the naïveté of the audience—were they in on the gag?”

Davis noted that the members of CultJam Productions, a film collective, were uniquely suited for the odd nature of the film: “In the nineties, I discovered postmodernism, media hacking, and cyberpunk culture; these aren’t just theories, they were and continue to be a way of life.  Mario Glaviano, the director, and Francesca Stonum, the co-DP and editor, are graduates of the film program at San Diego State University when they were protégés of postmodernist and cyberpunk theorist Larry McCaffery. Our approaches are complementary. It also helped that our assistant director, Mark Schwab, is a veteran of the mumblecore film movement and whose experiments in improvisation and the do-it-yourself ethic have been landing him accolades in underground film festivals.  The result was praxis, a merging of theory and practice.  The finished product is the essence of outsider art.”

CultJam Productions did a guerilla-style promotion of the film at Comic-Con in San Diego last week.  Davis noted, “We created a mini-comic book promoting the film that mimicked the style of the inflammatory fundamentalist Jack Chick comic book tracts (it can be seen here: .   We handed them out to the conventioneers and most thought we were crazy religionists but some of the more discerning people appreciated the irony and the fact that they were in on the joke. The film and the media campaign are intended to have a deconditioning effect, that is, it is intended to jolt people out of ordinary modes of thinking.  This film is very postmodern in that it employs pastiche, intertextuality, and blends highbrow and lowbrow elements.  I wouldn’t even call this film a satire because, except for a few gags, we pretty much played the events straight.  What is absurd is the actual event from 1990.”

Members of CultJam Productions are concerned that people will think the film is an attempt to influence politics.  “People who think this is a hit job on Jindal don’t get the point,” Davis said, “The college years are a time for people to do stupid things. If anything, I think that with Jindal, unlike Barack Obama who was doing coke in college, at least his heart was in the right place. He meant well. I think there are some deeper issues, nonpolitical ones, that the film addresses.  We will deal with them in the near future”

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