– by David Morgan-Brown
Since first seeing him on SBS, Father Bob MacGuire has been one of my favourite religious figures. The Pope is old-hat compared to him and religious celebrities like Mel Gibson just come across as crazy. Bob’s main philosophy as a Catholic is old fashioned yet admirable, simply to help the poor and treat all others with respect. But this ethos is uniquely characterised through Bob’s cranky old man persona: dry, no-nonsense, witty, scathing, opinionated, unapologetic, Bob is seriously hilarious and hilariously serious. This doco echoes his personality, switching between drama and comedy effectively as it documents Bob’s troublesome disagreements with the Roman Catholic Church and the forced resignation he was given.
The opening scene is one of the highlights of the film, as Bob’s own uniquely told rambling of the story of how the Roman Catholic Church came to be, told over a kaleidoscope of quickly edited pieces of various religious iconography such as films, paintings, and historical documents. It’s a bravaro piece of cinema and an excellent way to tell the origins of the Roman Catholic Church and how it’s affected their politics, as well as introduce us to Bob’s own peculiar dialect and loveably cranky demeanour.
One might think a doco like this has not much to cover, being that it’s so specifically focused on a particular situation, yet this film is absolutely packed with an exhaustive wealth of information on the politics of Catholicism, told not just through the many impressive and informative montages, but through this comprehensively portrayed story of Bob versus the Church. This makes first viewing seem overwhelming, with this unveiling of the mechanics of modern day Catholicism shooting past at its own speed, and although this can be confusing or alienating to those unfamiliar with the workings of religion, one may think this gives an incentive for a second, or multiple, viewing.
I could’ve done with a little bit more rambling from Bob – if the doco had just been Bob sitting in front of a blank wall ranting about whatever he felt like, I would’ve payed the same amount of money for the DVD. If you’re familiar with the shows of John Safran, you might be familiar with Father Bob MacGuire. He first made an appearance in one of the segments on John Safran vs. God and immediately showcased his characteristics as a grumpy, cranky old man who was a riot to hear talk. Safran’s next show Speaking in Tongues extended Bob’s appearance to every episode of this talk show. Afterwards, Safran and MacGuire held a weekly radio programme every Sunday on Triple J that continues to this day.
MacGuire has garnered more and more fans and supporters, from some of whom this documentary was partially funded by, whether they appreciate Bob in the Catholic community or in the entertainment industry – like so many other fan-funded projects, this wouldn’t even exist without those helpful money contributions. Without them, we wouldn’t have this great filmic tribute to him, where you can get a real behind-the-scenes insight on the man and the inane struggles he’s put up with and the charitable community work he has brought to Melbourne. This is one fine Australian documentary to watch on a hell of an Australian character.