Let the Church Say Amen, a documentary released by indie kings Film Movement, falls squarely into the latter category. It does not argue any point at all or make any statement. Rather, filmmaker David Petersen seems perfectly content to turn on the camera and get out of the way; it is a style that is beneficial to the audience's understanding, but certainly means there is not a tidy ending – or even a feeling of ending – to be found.
World Missions for Christ Church is the homefront for an entire community of Washington, DC residents. These are not senators or Capital Hill staffers. These are natives – mostly poor, mostly African-American – and all looking for the intervention of God in their lives.
But time and time again, the best and most helpful intervention comes from each other. A collection is taken to help a woman with her car trouble. They volunteer to be references for each other. And when a family member is violently struck down, the church members are there to comfort and console.
Some of the best shots are the views of the streets outside the church. Small, rundown corner stores, boarded up buildings, trash on the streets – all seemingly with the imposing Capital Dome visible in the distance. This is one of the few ways Petersen makes a statement; in the seat of government of the free world, how can we allow such poverty?
As the film draws to a conclusion, though, we get an ending based more on running time than on anything on screen. There is no real resolution to anything here. One or two of the parishioners see a sort of closure to their trials, but for the most part it is back to church, back to praying for help, back to their lives. Maybe that's a good thing, that the ending felt so rushed. It's so rare to get an honest portrayal of both faith and poverty in America that maybe that rushed feeling comes from not wanting it to end.