The Jesus Guy
  • Print
Written by Sean Tracey

The Jesus Guy, a film by Sean Tracey
NH FILM

Some call him The Walker. He calls himself What’s-Your-Name. His Christian name is Carl Joseph and he comes from Ohio. But he’s best known by his long robe, long beard and bare feet as "The Jesus Guy". Now Portsmouth’s Sean Tracey tells his story in a compelling film by the same name.

 

 

 

It’s hard, very hard, to write about this documentary. It floats from scene to scene. It comes to no conclusions. It reveals no great truths, and yet it holds more humanity in its brief time onscreen than all the "big" films running at the Megaplex.

What's Your NameSean Tracey’s documentary camera hovers around a man dressed only in a white robe, as he wanders from town to town preaching about Jesus. This guy, who refuses to give his name, looks like the imagined white Christian "son of God" – a young white male with long auburn hair and a peaceful smile. He’s out there somewhere now.

But this guy isn’t Jesus. He’s a middle-class American kid who preaches his own version of the gospel to whomever will listen. He owns nothing but a bible. He does not take money. He accepts food and shelter only when asked. And boy, does he love cameras.

The media, according to What’s-Your-Name, is a great aid to his ministry. So is his costume. The two work together to draw crowds. The Jesus Guy was on the TV show 20-20, twice. He mentions that to people often. It is his badge of authority. And like any character in a reality show, he is always aware of the camera looming over his shoulder.

But the Jesus Guy is also real. He has been wandering out there in the cold and the rain without shoes or a backpack for 16 years. He has been studying his scripture. He has been paying his dues. He has been, more than a great many preachers, walking in the path of Christ. He has gone 10 days without food. He has wandered into dangerous places on dark nights alone.

In a world awash in violence, sleaze and dirty politics, The Jesus Guy is tamer than a Disney film. But Disney films don’t make you think, and this one does. The viewer wonders why. What is this guy after? Is this guy for real? The viewer asks the same questions one would ask if the historical Jesus wandered by. His very presence and appearance makes people take pause and think. That is his gift and his for being.

What's Playing in the Seacoast? 

Sean Tracey makes commercials, so he knows how to make a camera sing. The filmmakers skill is a blessing here. Without his solid cinematography this documentary might have drifted off into the clouds. But Tracey holds us up close and personal with the Jesus Guy for more than an hour. It is just enough time to admire this character and to grow weary of him too. Tracey’s subject is revealed, and yet remains a mystery. It is a delicate balancing act performed to perfection.

In the end the Jesus Guy walks off, but leaves us wondering, as much about ourselves as about the nut in the robe. Are we taking life too seriously, not seriously enough? Who is making the world a better place – the Jesus Guy or us? Sean Tracey doesn’t know the answers, but he sure knows how to ask the questions. -- JDR

Visit the Official JESUS GUY web site and view the trailer now

Walking in the path of Jesus in the film

FILM SYNOPSIS

He looks like Jesus Christ. And preaches like St. Francis of Assisi. Some say he’s "a kook." Others, "a blessing from God." Barefoot, and clad in a white robe, he’s walked through 47 states and 13 countries on a 16- year mission that’s captured media attention from 20/20, Time and the Wall Street Journal. Yet who is this solitary figure who inspires faith – and attracts controversy?

"The Jesus Guy" covers the mystical journey of America’s "Barefoot Evangelist." In a nation that worships money, he’s penniless. In a culture that idolizes celebrities, he’s forsaken his identity. Now, on a spiritual quest even he doesn’t fully understand, his faith – and your own – will be tested every step of the way. With the intimacy of single-camera filmmaking, Director Sean Tracey allows us to

walk in "The Jesus Guy’s" steps as he encounters both skeptics and believers, changing them…for better, for worse, forever.

NOTES FROM THE DIRECTOR

I first learned about him in an article in TIME, dated February 2000. The article was titled, "Appalachian Apostle." People who had heard of him or met him called him everything from Jesus, to the Jesus guy, to the anti-Christ. He called himself, "What's Your Name?" He said it referred to the mystery and the meaning of our names, how they often are too important, and to our relationship with God. He talked of the story in the Old Testament where Moses stood in front of the Burning Bush and asked God, "What's Your Name?" TIME said his name had been Carl Joseph.

Many months went by as I tried to salvage what was left of my once thriving commercial production business. Ever since I worked with Albert Maysles at Maysles Films' penthouse offices at 54th and Broadway in NYC, I always wanted to make a documentary film, or so I thought. I also always used the excuse that I didn't have the time, I was making too much money and had too much career momentum in commercials, and that I hadn't found the right subject. None of these excuses worked any more.

It seemed the further I buried the little one-page article about the "Appalachian Apostle," the more it reappeared at the top of my pile of "things to do." Finally, I set an intern to finding the man. He started by trying to contact the writer of the TIME article. That proved to be a task unto itself. The magazine, it seems, didn't know where to find its own correspondent, or they weren't fond of giving out info about their writers.

Three months later, I had an email address for the writer, Fred Mogul. A month after that, we spoke on the phone. He gave me the names of a couple of people who knew "What's Your Name?" better, Father Angelo and a guy named Sam Lesante. The writer didn't say much when asked point blank whether he thought What's Your Name? was a charlatan. He did say he felt badly about besmirching him with what he called "journalistic distancing" when he said toward the conclusion of his article that "an air of

disingenuineness hung about him." He apologized to me for this comment (why me?) and said he really didn't feel that way, but that it's what his editors would like to read to prove that he (the writer) was objective and not a religious fanatic himself. -- Sean Tracey