Director: Theo Love
MPAA Rating: NR
Film Pulse Score: 7/10
In January of 2010, three counties in East Texas were held in the grip of fear when ten local churches are burnt to the ground for no apparent reason. In a little over a month, these communities looked for answers and understanding while the largest criminal investigation in East Texas history ensued. No stone was left unturned and many communities refused to stand idly by and began arming themselves as they stood their ground to protect their houses of worship. When the authorities made their arrests families were torn apart and parishioners struggled with forgiveness.
Little Hope Was Arson is more than just a collection of the facts that lead to the arrests and a look at the aftermath. It could have followed a simple police procedural structure and it could have gotten by as such. However director Theo Love examines the pulse of the families and communities as they deal with faith, anger, fear, confusion and their ultimate struggle with forgiveness and justice.
The film proves fascinating thanks to the way Love counterpoints the views and events as seen through the eyes of those affected by the case. When the authorities are closing in the Texas Rangers want swift justice due to “probable cause” while the ATF wants to take it slowly and get it right to prove “without a reasonable doubt.” The families of the suspects are clearly divided as one family is willing to turn one over while the mother of the other says if she had the opportunity she would have told him to run. A minister says he is willing to forgive and welcome them back into the church while his wife says no. It’s quite interesting and it does unfortunately vilify some people thanks to their opinions. However, Love establishes why they felt that way so you can’t really blame them for what they were thinking or how they were feeling.
At its core this solid documentary is an examination of how violence can affect a community and how one’s circumstances can have a lasting impact on their upbringing. When left without any sound answers a community is up in arms literally when they begin armed night watches to protect their churches. The hypocrisy of how one is willing to forgive is overshadowed when they are wronged. It’s a poignant look at how one suspect’s upbringing influenced his actions while another has no answers except that he was likely under the influence of drugs. It’s also about faith as we see members of the community are shaken by the knowledge that it was members of their flock that committed these crimes. Interestingly enough, their stories prove to be just as powerful as those of the criminals.
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