United Film Fest 2013: BIBLE STORYLAND Review


Film Pulse Score

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Release Date: TBD
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Film Pulse Score: 6/10

The sayings go “every picture tells a story” or “a picture is worth a thousand words.”  For some a painting may be just that but for others it may be an explosion of ideas or subtle expression.  You either take it at face value or appreciate the aesthetics, composition or value of the work.  People collect art for a variety of reasons.  The intrinsic value, the artistry, personal connection, what have you.  When art dealer Harvey Jordan comes across some truly fascinating pieces of artwork he starts a journey into discovery about a piece of California lore and an obsession that begins to take over his life.

Jordan is told about and sees some artwork that looks like concept designs for a theme park he is immediately intrigued as are we.   Bible Storyland was a theme park that was planned to be built in the 1950s.  It’s a park with rides that are based upon events in the Bible.  Take a ride down the River Styx.  Have lunch at the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.  Take a ride to the pearly gates on Journey to Heaven.  This is no joke.  There was a sincere attempt to build this park in Southern California.  Land was bought and everything.  However, it just never happened and slowly began to fade into lore.   Jordan wants to know where these designs came from, what happened to the park and why wasn’t it built. 

When Stephanie Hubbard started this documentary her goal was very likely to be to get to the bottom of the story behind a failed theme park that was never built.   She follows Jordan as he gradually gathers clues and information to help him find the originators of the idea.  The origins have connections that go fairly deep into Hollywood with ties to the creative forces behind The Wizard of Oz and Disneyland itself.  Discussions are had with clergymen, doors closed by people who don’t wish to talk about it and sometimes those who do really have no bearing on the research at hand.  Some interesting stuff is going on here, why was this park shot down?  However, while that question continues to intrigue, it’s the human drama that surrounds it must have been an unexpected byproduct that she was able to capture.   A domestic drama begins to unfold.  Jordan’s obsession is putting a strain his marriage and Hubbard is able to capture it on film.   Not only is the audience wondering what happened to the park, they are now curious to see if Jordan’s marriage is going to fall apart.   Is the art so valuable that it takes precedence over one’s life itself?

The subject of Bible Storyland, the park not the film, while fascinating does lose steam rather quickly.  There are plenty of talking heads and opinions thrown about regarding why the park failed and once the reasons come out there really isn’t much more to say about it.  However Jordan pushes forward because he wants to know who thought of it.  It’s the domestic drama that is the best part of the film.  The strain is so strong that they end up in couple’s therapy.   Who would have seen that coming?    It’s an interesting documentary and curiosity piece about the search for answers that morphs into the disintegration of a marriage due to one’s obsession.

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