Bible Quiz is a documentary film following Mikayla, a Christian teenager who competes in Bible Quiz competitions. Bible Quiz rewards competitors for memorizing facts and obscure details from the Bible and then remembering them under intense pressure. The coaches and organizers claim that Bible Quiz encourages a better understanding of the Bible and its teachings, though the participants often rattle off these facts and figures in a dispassionate manner and seem more interested in strategy and winning than theology.
The focus of the documentary, however, is less on religious indoctrination of America’s youth like Jesus Camp and more on teenage crushes and first love. Mikayla is falling for her teammate JP, a celebrity of sorts in the Bible Quiz community. Her family situation is unstable, and she is drawn to JP’s confidence, his normal family, and his faith. The fact that he is a good-looking young guy doesn’t hurt either.
The Bible Quiz competitions are an odd American subculture, and the novelty of it is a great starting point for a documentary film. What I really appreciate about Bible Quiz is the decision to put the spotlight on Mikayla instead of JP. It would have made a lot of sense to follow JP and make it his story. He is a top quizzer, and this is his last chance to win the national championship. Instead, director Nicole Teeny chose to follow Mikayla, a girl who doesn’t fit neatly into this conservative Christian world. She is feeling the ups and downs of adolescence, and watching her elation over JP’s attention and her disappointment when he lets her down took me back to my high school days. In the quieter moments, like Mikayla dressing up for the senior’s recognition ceremony, Bible Quiz shines as a portrait of the uneasy Christian evangelical youth.
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"Bible Quiz" is on sale June 10, 2014 and is not rated. christian, Documentary. Directed by Nicole Teeny. Starring Jp O’connor, Mikayla Irle.