Oh My God Documentary Review Essays

Michael Moore's "Roger and Me" started a trend of advocacy movies starring One Man Looking for Answers, and the trend never really ended. Unfortunately, most of these documentaries are made by people who lack Moore's knack for troublemaking humanist inquiry, and "GMO OMG" is another such misfire: a film by Jeremy Seifert, a concerned father who wants to protect his children from genetically modified food's potentially dangerous side-effects. 

At first, Seifert's quest for answers seems reasonable: he wants Monsanto, and other big corporations that promote genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) to be more accountable to their customers. But Seifert's arguments are dependent on unconvincing testimony and leaps in logic. 

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"GMO OMG" is supposed to be an educational tool, a film designed to make viewers curious about what goes into their food. But Seifert is usually torn between preaching to a choir of already-committed activists and educating uninformed viewers. His explanations are consequently both loaded and vague. His most reasonable argument is: Monsanto and other megalithic companies should be more transparent about studies they've conducted on their genetically modified seeds. This is a crucial point, and it's a good one. But it's rarely convincingly argued in "GMO OMG."

For starters, Seifert is apparently mistrustful of scientific terms, studies, and concepts. Like Moore before him, he prefers talking to salt-of-the-earth types to using data or statistics. One of the only scientific studies Seifert refers to in "GMO OMG" was conducted by Gilles-Eric Seralini, and Seifert even admits that Seralini's work has come under heavy criticism by his peers. It's telling that Seifert jokes about how confusing the science behind GMOs is. He first relates the World Health Organization's definition of "GMO": "organisms in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur in nature." Then he pokes fun of how impenetrable scientific jargon can be: terms like "Agrobacterium tumefasciens," "vectors," and "TI plasmids" are mentioned, but one on top of the other, and without explanation.

So it's not surprising when Seifert later glosses over the scientific basis for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)'s 1992 "Generally Recognized as Safe" (GRAS) ruling on genetically engineered food. He explains that the FDA's GRAS ruling is only given after a product is "proven safe by overwhelming consensus of experts." But right after this explanation, Senator Dennis Kucinich complains that the FDA, "didn't have any scientific basis, [and] there was no peer reviews…" If that claim is true, why is this discussion framed as Dennis-Kucinich-v.-the-FDA, and not a-gang-of-skeptical-scientists-vs.-the-FDA argument? What exactly did the FDA rule was GRAS, and why? More to the point: why is this discussion lacking the basic data I need to understand Seifert's argument before I can raise my pitchfork and torch and join the ideal audience/anti-GMO mob he's trying to rally?

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The short answer: Seifert's asking perfectly valid and worthwhile question for the worst reasons. Both his sermon-like voice-over narration and his Mooresian working-man interviews—farmers are addressed in the fields where they work, and are therefore never just talking heads—are essentially polemical. "GMO OMG" is do-gooder propaganda. After a farmer admits that, yes, some pesticides get into his crops, Seifert does not ask, "Should I be afraid?" or, "Are the amounts of pesticide that get into your crops dangerous to consumers?" Instead, he makes his case with fiery rhetoric, showcasing a song that Haitians farmers sing about Monsanto's "poisonous" seeds, and Creationist-friendly arguments, like when he speculates that GMOs aren't good because they interrupt a plant's natural cycle of growth and adaptation.

As a result, Seifert's testament to his mistrust of GMOs is only slightly more informative than the silence of what he calls the "corporate-run industrial monoculture." "GMO OMG" is a jeremiad, not a lesson for the masses, and you can see it in the way he talks about his two grade-school-aged sons. He laments that Breyer's Ice Cream's isn't really "All-Natural" anymore before he wonders aloud, "I wish I could take back the land for my children." Seifert's disembodied hand waves over a series of fields from the safety of his family car. It's dusk, and you can hear Bobby McFerrin-esque vocalizing, accented by xylophone plinking. You could get mad at Seifert for being so bad at being so nakedly manipulative. Or you could just give up all hope, and counter-intuitively root for Monsanto. This is a David-vs.-Goliath movie, but David's aim is so spotty that Goliath has nothing to fear.

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OH MY GOD is a documentary that asks experts and regular people the question, “What is God?” While it appears to be an unbiased chronicle of what people think about God, Rodger’s own anti-religious worldview of humanism shines through the most.

OH MY GOD is a documentary by filmmaker Peter Rodger who travels the world asking experts and regular people the question, “What is God?” Rodger provides voiceover and on camera commentary throughout. Thus, while this movie appears to be an unbiased chronicle of what people think about God, Rodger’s own worldview of humanism ultimately shines through.

Tim LaHaye, Walid Shoebot, a gun store owner, children in a cancer ward, a priest, and victims of the Katrina hurricane all give a strong witness for Jesus and the need for salvation as well as Jesus being the only way to heaven.

However, through editing and commentary, many of these people come off as being unreliable or angry or deluded. The Katrina victims and the children in the cancer ward invoke sympathy, but in commentary Rodger says that a belief in God can simply be a way to feel better when times are tough. The gunstore owner appears to be a bit crazy talking about guns and then talking about accepting Jesus in your heart. Tim LaHaye’s wise and truthful comments about Jesus being the only way of salvation are intercut with an imam saying nearly the same thing but talking about Allah as revealed by Mohammad. The “take away” is that these two religions each claim exclusivity and neither could be right because others are saying they can find God in so many other ways.

Aboriginal tribes perform rituals, and Native Americans chant and dance in the movie. Viewers hear from Jewish scholars who do seem to make the point that Islam is wanting to kill all Jews. They also see Shinto ceremonies, hear from the Pope, and hear from celebrities.

Seal, Ringo Starr, and Hugh Jackman all express some aspect of humanism. Some comments are that God is seen in our children and the love we have for them, God is in ourselves, and the like. At one point, Jackman says that this world is all there is but at other times he speaks of God.

The anti-Christian voice is from Bob Geldof, a musician most well known for organizing Live Aid in the 1980s. Through bleeped profanity, Geldof delivers the sentiments of a mocker who says there is no God, yet seems oddly angry at someone who, according to him, doesn’t exist.

Filmmaker Peter Rodger sums the whole movie up by answering the question that there is some kind of God and all forms lead there – whether it’s pantheism, Christianity, Islam or any other religion. He states that man needs to create religion and that we all have different names for God. Peter sees that religion has led to wars as being evidence that religion is not the answer.

At one point, a man on the street says that religion is simply man reaching up to find God. We would agree, but add that salvation is God reaching down through Jesus Christ, offering salvation and being the only way to the true and living God.

The movie is well made and the music and photography are truly beautiful. It is great to see all the cultures and the beauty of humanity. It is a shame that most people in the movie do not hold to the truth that each beautiful person is created by God and filled with love because He himself is love.

OH MY GOD is a movie that can serve with discernment as a “98 minute comparative religion class” for some. It is a movie that clearly will start conversations. However, much, much discernment must be exercised to separate the truth in the movie from the beautifully shot, well expressed lies.

(HHH, AbAbAb, PCPCPC, Co, CC, BB, FRFR, PaPa, Ev, L, VVV, N, MMM) Very strong humanist, anti-religious, and anti-Christian worldview overall, with a very strong politically correct view with light Communist overtone promoting multiculturalism, but many other worldviews expressed, including overt elements of Biblical Christianity and Catholicism, and false religious, pagan elements such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Shintoism, Islam, pagan and folk religions, pantheism, nihilism, and some evolutionary thinking; no foul language, but three instances of foul language being bleeped; graphic shots of goats being sacrificed with blood and breaking neck shown; no sexual content; upper male nudity, people wearing only loincloth; no alcohol; no drugs; and, mockery of religion by one celebrity, empty-headed liberal pluralism promoted, and editing is used to unfairly discredit people with whom the filmmaker apparently disagrees.

OH MY GOD is a documentary by Peter Rodger who travels the world asking experts and regular people the question, “What is God?” Rodger provides commentary throughout. Thus, while the movie appears to be an unbiased chronicle of what people think about God, Rodger’s own worldview of humanism dominates. Christianity, Catholicism, Buddhism, pagan and folk religions, Islam, Hinduism, atheism, pantheism, and nihilism are explored with on camera interviews and visuals of ceremonies. A strong witness for Jesus is given by a few people, but, through biased editing, most are discredited.

The movie is well made and the music and photography are beautiful. It is great to see all the cultures and the beauty of humanity. It is a shame that most people in the movie do not believe that each beautiful person is created by God and filled with love because He himself is love. OH MY GOD is a movie that may serve with discernment as a “98 minute comparative religion class.” It is a movie that clearly will start conversations. However, much, much discernment must be exercised to separate the truth in the movie from the beautifully shot, well expressed lies.

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