Hardcore jams for Jesus

Justin Ludwig’s illuminating documentary ChristCORE screening at Pouzza Fest along with a short run at Cinéma du Parc, explores the Christian hardcore music subculture.

Justin Ludwig, director of ChristCORE

I won’t fib to you — my knowledge of hardcore music is limited, largely to a few mad conversations with the lead singer of Skullkrusher as he generously shared his music store break room with me in a small-town Ontario mall. But I do think it’s fair to say that I have the right idea: anti-establishment, not particularly keen on politics, organized religion … organized anything really. This is why Saskatchewan hardcore vet and filmmaker Justin Ludwig’s documentary ChristCORE immediately piqued my interest. Religious faith + hardcore is not an expected equation.

Ludwig’s story begins with an introduction to his own history and devotion to the hardcore music scene. A self-proclaimed agnostic, he has written songs for his own band Kleins96, enforcing his own ideas regarding the fallibility of faith.

As he notices contradictions presenting themselves in the hardcore community that he loves so dearly, he starts to ask questions which lead him to embark on a journey across America to discover how two things that didn’t seem synonymous in any way could function so well in this growing subculture.

Ludwig follows newcomers Messengers and genre superstars Sleeping Giant as they tour, immersing himself in their environment and remaining impressively open-minded and willing to understand their community. His ability to limit his own perspective, to avoid it managing the content of the film, allows the viewer to get a genuine look at this movement.

I did however start to wonder if the combination of faith and hardcore is really as startling as I’d initially thought. All things considered, hardcore seems to be all about extremes — it’s not the kind of genre that goes halfway. Considering the straight-edge hardcore punk subculture, which refrains from tobacco, alcohol and drugs, was that extra leap to include religious faith really that far off?

I have to admit there are several cringeworthy moments when the bands take it upon themselves to heal and baptize their fans, where I also had to try and be more open-minded and hush the gurglings of a few choice words making it to my lips. This movement is based on principles of love and respect after all.

ChristCORE is really well-executed, and Ludwig’s difference of opinion never results in a mockery of the content. More importantly, it never infringes on everyone’s ability to simply enjoy the music, which of course allows the audience to receive a privileged peek at the Christian hardcore world. ■

ChristCORE screens at Pouzza Fest (Théâtre Ste-Catherine 264 Ste-Catherine E.) on Saturday, May 18, 4 p.m., including a Q&A with Justin Ludwig, free with a VIP, three-day or Saturday pass. The film also screens at Cinéma du Parc (3575 Parc) May 24–27, $11.25

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