‘Til Kingdom Come,’ a shrewd and straightforward documentary featured in this year’s official selection of Sydney’s Jewish International Film Festival, opens in what remains of the community of Binghamtown, a former coal town in Eastern Kentucky ravaged by abject poverty and substance abuse, with little to keep the people together but the Bingham dynasty of pastors that have run the Binghamtown Baptist Church for over forty years. One of the causes the Church is most devoted to is in donating what seems like a shocking amount of the town’s financial resources to the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ), which has grown over time to become Israel’s most significant philanthropic organization because of evangelical communities like Binghamtown’s strong belief in the need for a Jewish Israel before Jesus can return to initiate the end times as foreseen in the Book of Revelations. 

‘Til Kingdom Come‘ explores the deep ties between American evangelical christian philanthropy to pro-Zionist organizations through a skeptical Israeli perspective from director Maya Zinshtein. Zinshtein traces back through the history of this symbiotic relationship between Christian charities and Israeli-nationalist nonprofit organizations, and the ways in which conservative foreign policy hawks in both the United States and Israel have exploited the deeply-held beliefs in the biblical prophecies that Israel represents to vulnerable rural communities like Binghamtown in order to push their own respective agenda and power. 

While many Israeli and American Jews alike have decidedly mixed views regarding the treatment of Palestinian settlers and unilateral actions like relocating the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, hardliners in the Israeli government have found strong allies in the neoconservative American foreign policy establishment, whose base of evangelical voters provide a key ingredient in their holding power. Many of these religious voters consider their loyalties rewarded with the appointment of evangelical figures to top spots like the Vice Presidency and Secretary of State, who all work to push for a vast expansion of military Israeli influence to the detriment of Palestinian civilian lives, including Palestinian Christians featured only briefly in the film.

Zinshtein dwells on the Binghams’ story for much of the film’s 76-minute running time, as they provide a poignant example of the kind of Americans who have so merged their domestic political devotion to Trump, international political devotion to the State of Israel, and their dogmatic devotion to the words of the Old and New Testaments into one ideology that they cling to in the dire circumstances they see around them. But just as interesting is the father/daughter team running the IFCJ — whose decades-long Faustian bargain with these Evangelical groups (who plainly believe that they, as Jews, will ultimately wind up in hell) has also brought them access to the highest levels of American philanthropic wealth and proximity to the inner circles of leaders as powerful as Prime Minister Netanyahu and (now former) President Trump. 

There could have been more time afforded to some of these more peripheral perspectives to paint a deeper portrait of the precise power dynamics at play in the deranged intersection of religion, politics, and military neoconservatism, but ‘‘Til Kingdom Comes‘ is a sharply observed and watchable documentary that highlights the far-reaching consequences of these intertwining religious and political networks. 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

‘TIL KINGDOM COME will screen as part of the 2021 Jewish International Film Festival’s program. Tickets for screenings from February 18 to March 17 are available HERE

JIFF 2021 Review – ”Til Kingdom Come’

Reviewed online (screening at JIFF 2021), February 12, 2021. Rating: TBC. Running time: 76 min.

PRODUCTION: An Metfilm Sales release of a Ventureland, Passion Pictures, ‘Til Kingdom Come 2019 (Film) production. Producers: John Battsek, Abraham Troen, Maya Zinshtein. Executive producers: Maxyne Franklin, Sarah Thomson.

CREW: Director: Maya Zinshtein. Screenplay: Mark Monroe. Cinematography: Abraham Troen. Editing: Keith Fraase, Elan Golod, Tamar Kay, Joseph Krings, Geoffrey Richman. Music: Miriam Cutler.

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