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The Tailenders

by Adele Horne

Missionaries evangelize indigenous communities using low-tech media

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The Tailenders is a captivating look at a missionary group's use of ultra-low-tech audio devices to evangelize indigenous communities facing crises caused by global economic forces. Global Recordings Network, founded in Los Angeles in 1939, has produced audio versions of Bible stories in over 5,500 languages, and aims to record in every language on earth. The film traces their journeys in the Solomon Islands, Mexico, India and the United States, where they distribute the recordings, along with hand-wind audio players, to "the Tailenders": the last people to be reached by worldwide evangelism.

quoteThis gorgeous, inspired and gutsy film...opens up new ideological vistas on religion, technology and globalization. It dares viewers not to be surprised by it.
Virginia Heffernan
The New York Times

quoteA fascinating film that uses a good story as a springboard to raise larger issues, this is highly recommended.
F. Swietek
Video Librarian
full review

quoteA haunting documentary about Christian missionaries who have been traveling the world since 1939 to record and spread Bible stories in every language.
Nancy Dewolf Smith
The Wall Street Journal

quoteWith a visual clarity equal to her intellectual discourse, Horne explores the myriad contrasts offered by her subject, alive to many epiphanies and ironies along the way.
Ronnie Scheib

quoteA movie about no less than sound and our world...a bewitchingly artful connect-the-dots achievement.
Robert Abele
Los Angeles Times
full review

More Reviews


  • Winner, Film Independent's 2007 Spirit Awards, "Axium Truer Than Fiction Award"
  • National PBS Broadcast on POV
  • Documentary Fortnight, Museum of Modern Art
  • Nashville Film Festival
  • Morelia International Film Festival, Mexico
  • Portland Documentary and Experimental Film Festival (PDX)
  • The Robert Flaherty Film Seminar
  • Chicago Underground Film Festival
  • Pacific Film Archive
  • San Francisco Cinematheque
  • Film Arts Foundation

Resource Web Sites

appleDiscussion Guide produced by POV for PBS broadcast

An excellent resource for college or highschool classrooms. Contains questions designed to provoke in-depth discussions, along with suggestions for additional reading.

appleFilmmaker's website for the film

Contains a list of upcoming and recent screenings.

Resources to Download

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The Tailenders

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Appropriate for: High School College/University

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