Review

'Little Hope Was Arson' explores fallout from church fires

'Little Hope Was Arson,' about a series of church arsons, prompts soul-searching

In 2010, a series of 10 churches set ablaze rudely awakened sleepy Bible Belt enclaves in East Texas. The documentary "Little Hope Was Arson" follows the investigation, trial and aftermath.

Fifteen agencies deployed at least 100 investigators, and leads pointed to Jason Bourque and Daniel McAllister. Bourque, raised by his grandparents, became dependent on Prozac and Chantix. McAllister's mother died of a stroke, and his father attempted suicide soon afterward.

After arrest, the two did not exercise their right to remain silent and admitted guilt in plea-bargaining deals. They could attribute their actions only to being under the influence of drugs. The film observes that because the boys had lost people whom they held dear, they wanted everyone else to experience the same.

Although some couldn't forgive or forget, others recognized that the tightknit religious communities had essentially failed the arsonists. James Ellis, formerly Sunday-school teacher at First Baptist Church of Ben Wheeler, took it especially personally and resigned to become a truck driver.

Making his feature debut, filmmaker Theo Love has style to burn, using editing and sound to dramatic effect. Above all, he exhibits the discipline to remain objective and evenhanded on the highly contentious subject of religion. The film's exploration of the tenuous bonds within a community will surely prompt serious soul-searching.

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"Little Hope Was Arson"

MPAA rating: None.

Running time: 1 hour, 14 minutes.

Playing: Laemmle's NoHo 7, North Hollywood. Also on VOD.

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