Tonight in Baton Rouge, “God’s Architects” is being screened at the Manship Theatre, Shaw Center for the Arts at 7:30p. It’s also been screened at the New Orleans, Indie Memphis, Sidewalk, Lone Star, and Southern Circuit film festivals, and the director received the Louisiana filmmaker of the year award.
God’s Architects is a documentary that tells the stories of five divinely inspired artist-architects and their enigmatic creations.The film details how and why these oft-marginalized creators, with neither funding nor blueprints, construct their self-made environments.
Leonard Knight works on Salvation Mountain in the desert of southern California. In 1984, Leonard Knight’s homemade hot air balloon crashed in the desert. When he couldn’t repair it, he resolved to fulfill his promise to God to spread the message ‘God is Love’ by painting the side of a nearby mountain. Since then, Leonard has painted and constructed a mountainside ‘environment’ depicting his vision of God’s love, which includes a three-story igloo-like structure made of adobe covered hay bales and peaceful visions of birds, waterfalls, and wheels within wheels.
In the Ozark Mountains, Shelby Ravellette builds the Lacey Michele Castle to honor the memory of his deceased daughter. Six months after the death of his daughter, Lacey Michele, the girl visited him in a dream to remind him of his promise to build a castle for her. Shelby, who is a master stonemason, a Freemason, and Templar Knight, has been at it for nearly twenty years, and he says he’s got twenty more years of work before he’s finished.
Floyd Banks Jr, (aka Junior) builds his castle in the hill country of east Tennessee. Junior has been building the castle out of found, donated, and homemade brick since 1992 when his brother passed away. For ten years Junior worked on the perimeter wall of a castle without knowing why. Then in 2002, it was revealed to him that his work was of a divine importance.
Kenny Hill built a sculpture garden and lighthouse overlooking a bayou in south Louisiana. Hill spent nearly a decade building what some know as “the story of salvation”, an environment of more than a hundred concrete angels, statues, and structures, including a forty-five foot lighthouse. In the late nineties, Hill left the property and disappeared, not to be heard from again. While the property is owned and maintained by Nicholls State University, Hill’s former neighbor and confident Julius Neil serves as the local expert regarding the sculptures and their enigmatic symbols.
Reverend H.D. Dennis built additions to Margaret’s Grocery along historic Highway 61 in rural Mississippi. Reverend Dennis, a 92-year old veteran of WWII who was raised by his grandmother, herself a former slave, promised his wife Margaret that he would make a castle out of her grocery store if she married him. She agreed, and so Dennis spent the consequent 23 years creating towers, archways, and signs to distract people off the highway so he could preach the gospel to whomever stopped. The highlight of his creations is a small school bust that the’s converted to a chapel.
Can’t recommend this movie highly enough – it’s really, really wonderful. If you can’t make it to a screening, the dvd for “God’s Architects” has been released and is available here at their website.