The Tailenders

Missionaries evangelize indigenous communities using low-tech media
Year Released
Film Length(s)
72 mins
Remote video URL


Missionaries evangelize indigenous communities using low-tech media

Featured review

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


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.


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
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
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

Awards and Screenings

Independent Spirit Award: "Truer than Fiction", 2007
P.O.V. National Broadcast on PBS, 2006
New York University Center for Media and Culture, 2006
Museum of Modern Art, Documentary Fortnight, 2006
Morelia Film Festival, Mexico, 2006
Flaherty Film Seminar, 2006

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