Missionaries evangelize indigenous communities using low-tech media

"This 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
Synopsis: 

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.

Reviews

"A fascinating film that uses a good story as a springboard to raise larger issues, this is highly recommended."

F. Swietek, Video Librarian


"A 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

"With 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, Variety

"A movie about no less than sound and our world...a bewitchingly artful connect-the-dots achievement."

Robert Abele, Los Angeles Times

This Week's Recommendations: The Tailenders, by the filmmaker Adele Horne, gets into the nuts and bolts of far-flung proselytizing with hand-crank technology. ...I thought of the Global Recordings Network, an evangelical organization in Los Angeles with 70 years of experience introducing technology to underserved populations. In the process of recording Bible stories in every known language, Global Recordings has created a variety of hand-cranked machines, which it delivers to remote places, where Christian parables can be played without a power source. In The Tailenders, a 2005 documentary about the organization, the alien-looking contraptions can be seen making converts. But not necessarily to Christianity. Rather, people who hear the recordings come to desire, somehow, simply to share in the supernaturalism of disembodied audio. Whoever controls these animistic effects, it seems, must be worth listening to. When missionaries approach, these people are vulnerable, having just witnessed a small miracle.

Virginia Heffernan, The New York Times Magazine

"A fascinating documentary."

Diane Werts, Newsday

"This clear-eyed PBS documentary contemplates lo-fi systems that deliver the Gospel, in more than 5,000 languages, to remote communities..."
4 stars

Jason Silverman, Wired Magazine

"The more specific the focus, the more interesting the documentary. "The Tailenders" on "P.O.V." looks at a phenomenon few of us have ever heard of, yet raises questions that are profound, spiritual and truly global in scope."

Kevin McDonough, United Features Syndicate

"Engaging ethnography"

Steven G. Kellman, San Antonio Current

"...shows the power of mass media and marketing to reach even the world's most remote outposts."

Preetom Bhattacharya, Religion News Service