Seen 21st November
One of the most interesting things about recent years was how often people have proclaimed that the end of the world was upon us. In 2011 this idea was one of the silliest things you could imagine someone saying… in 2017? Some might see the positives of such an idea.
Right Between Your Ears follows the Chrisitan radio station Family Radio and it’s founder Harold Camping after Camping makes a prediction that the world will end on May 21st 2011. This documentary uses this event as a catalyst to discuss the notion of belief and how it’s possible to believe in something that is so obviously wrong, even when presented with evidence that counters what you believe.
Throughout the film, we get to see several members of the church who are absolutely convinced that May 21st will be the last day they spend on this planet. They quit their jobs, they don’t bother paying bills due at the start of June, one barely even bothers to pay attention for his tests. They are completely committed to seeing the end of the world and warning everyone about it. Possibly the high point is seeing a group of them on May 21st slowly realising that they were wrong. That realisation is the point where the film flips and really kicks into high gear.
While this film is, on the surface, telling us about this one little group of people who believe this one little thing it’s actually describing the universal idea of belief and how we hold our views, including what happens to our views when we get undeniable evidence that we were wrong. While you or I might laugh when Camping comes out on May 23rd and says something to the effect of “Actually, the end already started, we’re getting raptured in October”, what he’s doing is something any of us would do in that situation.
It’s really impressive what this film pulls off, the filmmakers got in deep with this little group of people and don’t make them look like idiots. That’s the bit that impresses me the most, a lesser filmmaker might just play this up for laughs but this film treats these people with dignity and lets us see ourselves in this situation. We could all be a member of the Family Radio flock, believing something despite what evidence says.
The running theme throughout the movie is the idea of Cognitive Dissonance, these people all state repeatedly that they don’t fall for silly things and when they finally experience doubt on the night of May 21st, it’s shocking to them and witnessing that is so stunning. There’s some mild humour to be had in their rationalisations that they’re still right, trying to account for time zones and such but in the end, it’s a tale of people who believed something innocently and ended up hurting themselves in the process.
The only thing I can say negative about the film is that it’s an hour long and I wanted more, I thought the film was so well made and the story was so interesting that I would’ve gleefully watched a film twice the length. It’s easily the best film I saw at the Lift Off festival and I can’t recommend it higher. If you want to see it, they have the entire film up on Vimeo for sale and it’s worth the purchase, go buy it godammn it before May 21st 2018 when, who knows, maybe the world will end.